THE plan for a new fountain in Ilkley town centre has been put on pause following controversy over the design.

Improving Ilkley, the charitable body of volunteers, had run a design competition for a new fountain at the junction of Brook Street and The Grove, with Ilkley Gazette readers helping to choose the winning entry.

Artists Juliet and Jamie Gutch’s modern design, inspired by the sphagnum moss that grows on Ilkley Moor, was chosen.

But a campaign led by Roger Yaxley calling for a more traditional fountain has led to Improving Ilkley announcing that the project is on pause.

Louise Hepworth-Wood of Improving Ilkley said: “We’ve taken the decision to pause everything while we just speak to everyone again about the proposals. There’s a lot of negative noise coming from a small group of people. We have already gone though all the proper processes to get to this point but at this stage things have been derailed somewhat by a strong vocal minority.”

She said that a full consultation with residents was carried out prior to the design being chosen, and Bradford Council, which owns the land, has been worked closely with on a long-term maintenance plan.

Ilkley Gazette: Roger YaxleyRoger Yaxley (Image: submitted)

Mr Yaxley, who retired to Ilkley seven years ago and is a familiar face at events such as the annual carnival, said he was now in no doubt that his alternative proposals will go ahead.

He said: “I know for a fact that the majority of Ilkley doesn’t want this modern creation. We’re all pretty old in Ilkley, and this is not what people want. I’ve no doubt now that the project has been paused that we’ll get our stone fountain.”

Ilkley Gazette: The proposed design for a stone fountainThe proposed design for a stone fountain (Image: submitted)

There have been pledges of more than £25,000 for the project, including £15,000 from the Ilkley Business Improvement District (BID). Others have come from individuals and organisations such as the Town Council and Civic Society. But it is understood some people and groups are now discussing again their financial commitment.

Louise said that the project does not just involve installing a fountain — there’s the long-term maintenance and upkeep of the fountain to consider.

She said: “There’s a lot to it — checking the water for pH levels, Legionnaire’s Disease, the water pressure. That has to be done regularly and properly.

“The design that was chosen is sustainable, cost-effective and cheap to maintain.

“We’re a small group of volunteers. If we ultimately have to walk away from this, it doesn’t mean another fountain design can be automatically installed.

“The whole process needs to be gone through again. Ilkley deserves something beautiful, and if it doesn’t get it, it’s Ilkley that loses.”

Improving Ilkley initially invited applications from professional artists and designers. The 17 entries were whittled down to a shortlist of three by local dignitaries, the Civic Society and the Manor House museum, and residents were given the chance to comment on their favourites when they were published in the Ilkley Gazette.

Ilkley Gazette: Jamie and Juliet GutchJamie and Juliet Gutch (Image: submitted)

Local artist Juliet Gutch who, with her teacher husband Jamie, won the competition, said: “The aim of our design is for it to be part of a shift in perspective, and we loved the idea of playing with scale and celebrating this tiny plant right at the centre of the town.

“I think most people in Ilkley have been assuming this was happening, because people did take part in the consultation and had a chance to talk about what they wanted.

“It seems like a small number of people are now in opposition to our design, and we don’t really want to get into a position of conflict where it’s a binary choice between us and a traditional stone fountain, so the project really does have to be paused while people find a way to resolve this.”

Professor Becky Malby leads the Ilkley Clean River Group said: “The fountain is symbolic of the junction we find ourselves in as a town. On the one hand we have achieved so much together, but we find ourselves caught in the competition between democracy where we solve our problems through discussion, consultation and representation; and the vocal minority wielding power through undermining and disrupting democracy.

“The many or the few. We have to hold our nerve, and not be diverted by the disruptive few masquerading as the voice of the people. While the fountain project is stalled, it can't be shelved. I hope Improving Ilkley hold their nerve on behalf of all of us that took the time to engage from the beginning.”