AN ICONIC symbol of Ilkley is under threat because of a proposed rent rise, it is being claimed.

Historic White Wells could fall into disrepair if the suggestion of doubling the rent goes ahead, according to town councillors.

White Wells traces its history back more than 200 years and was instrumental in establishing Ilkley as a spa town. Charles Darwin is believed to have taken the waters at the attraction on the moor.

Today visitors can still use the plunge bath and enjoy the cafe - but the building's future could be put at risk if the current tenants are forced out by a rent increase of thousands of pounds, it is being claimed.

Ward councillor Anne Hawkesworth has contacted Bradford Council on behalf of the couple who have been tenants there for nearly 20 years.

She pointed out the building's recent history before the current tenants took over.

"At that time the cottage was empty because a tenant could not be found The security costs were exorbitant and a solution had to be found," she said.

"It was decided that the answer was probably to find a tenant who would act as a caretaker on a nominal peppercorn rent- in reality who else would live up there - I certainly wouldn't."

She said the arrangement also included a requirement to open the cafe at specific times.

She told a meeting of Ilkley Town Council White Wells was an important icon of Ilkley's spa town history

Councillors pledged their support for the couple who currently rent the property and they stressed it would be difficult to find other tenants to take on the task of acting as caretakers at the property.

Cllr Brian Mann said: "The proposal from Bradford is to double the rent and to increase opening hours - really this is just not viable."

Cllr Susan Cuthbertson said she would strongly object to the rent being increased, arguing:"I cannot see any justification whatsoever for Bradford increasing the rent and increasing the hours."

She added: "I think we should all stand behind them and support them."

A note of caution was struck by Cllr Henri Murison who stressed the need for caution in interfering in Bradford's commercial arrangement as a landlord. But he said it was appropriate to put forward concerns about whether the building would fall into disrepair.

Cllr Sandy MacPherson argued that a decent landlord would look at reducing the rent for extremely good tenants.

Bradford Council should take into account the way the building has been looked after when it could have been a ruin by now, according to Cllr Mike Gibbons. He offered to act as an intermediary between the council and the tenants in the negotiations.