Row over 'ugly' modern fountain in Yorkshire's 'Golden Triangle'

Row breaks out over ‘ugly’ modern fountain in Yorkshire’s sleepy ‘Golden Triangle’: ‘Appalled’ locals in favour of traditional design stage fightback against ‘eyesore’ set to be built in centre of affluent town

  • The town of Ilkley has been split by attempts to install a new fountain in its centre

A row has broken out in one of Britain’s wealthiest towns as ‘appalled’ locals fight back against attempts to install an ‘eyesore’ modernist fountain.

Ilkley, which lies in Yorkshire’s ‘Golden Triangle, has become a battleground between residents who want it to stay true to its traditionalist roots and those who want to inject a dose of modern life to the picture-perfect town.

Backed by charity Improving Ilkley, a fountain is set to be installed at the heart of the town which saw a boom in the Victorian era as the wealthiest in society flocked to dip in its waters.

But this has sparked outrage among some residents, after the winning design was revealed to be a modernist feature made from twisted metal, instead of a more traditional fountain, the Observer reports.

Now campaign against the new plans has seen them put on hold, with the charity decrying the effect of ‘a lot of negative noise coming from a small group of people’.

The modern design put forward for a new fountain in the heart of Ilkley in Yorkshire, which has divided opinion in the town. Pictured: An artist’s impression of what the fountain could look like under the chosen plans

Juliet and Jamie Gutch (pictured) designed the fountain to be a representation of sphagnum moss, a type of plant that grows on Ilkley Moor close to the town

Roger Yaxley (pictured) has led the campaign against the design for the new fountain in Ilkley

The fountain was chosen after Improving Ilkley asked for designs for a new fountain, with 17 entries eventually being reduced to three by a panel of locals, the Civic Society and Manor House museum.

These were then published in the local press to get people’s opinions on the designs, before the winning design was revealed.

Among those against the modernist fountain is Roger Yaxley, who said he was ‘appalled’ when it was chosen.

Mr Yaxley, who has lived in the town for seven years, 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.’

It’s not the first time he has had run-ins with town officials – in 2019 he was given an enforcement notice by the council after making unauthorised alterations to the slower bed outside Ilkley train station. 

The strength of Mr Yaxley’s campaign, along with the decision to submit a rival design that has a more historic look to it, has caused the plan to be put on hold by Improving Ilkley. 

However, the couple behind the winning design say it is only a ‘small number of people’ who have come out against the plans. 

Campaigners have submitted a counter-design which they think is more in keeping with the town’s aesthetic. Pictured: An artist’s impression of what the fountain could look like under Mr Yaxley’s plans

Juliet and Jamie Gutch designed it to be a representation of sphagnum moss, a type of plant that grows on Ilkley Moor close to the town.

Being fed by water running off the moors, and using only gravity to power it, Juliet said they wanted it to be ‘part of a shift in perspective’, adding: ‘We loved the idea of playing with scale and celebrating this tiny plant right at the centre of the town.’

She added: ‘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.’

The decision to pause the plans for the fountain might not be the end of the problem though, as it was chosen to fit in with a long-term plan with Bradford Council, which owns the area where it is set to be installed.

Louise Hepworth-Wood from the charity told the Observer: ‘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 through all the proper processes to get to this point but at this stage things have been derailed somewhat by a strong vocal minority.’

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