WHITBY Abbey, along with virtually all other English Heritage sites, will no longer open on winter weekdays as a result of huge cutbacks in funding.
The announcement will come as a huge blow to local business who rely on tourists attracted by the Abbey to bring in the majority of their trade.
An English Heritage spokesperson said: “As a tiny proportion of all our visitors come during the winter weekdays and bearing in mind the 32% reduction to our government grant in future years, English Heritage is proposing to adjust its winter opening times, with effect from 1 November.”
The abbey will continue to open at weekends, but for the thousands of employees around the country, who are currently employed full-time all year round by English Heritage, the decision is effectively a notice of redundancy.
Harry Collett, chairman of Whitby and District Tourism Association, is not surprised by the announcement.
“There is not the number of people about to sustain a viable market,” he said,
“I can see English Heritage looking at all their sites and you have got to make a special journey to get to Whitby.
“If you think you are going to get stuck on the moors you are not going to make the trip.
“Whitby is isolated and that’s what makes it very special, so that is just something you have to accept.
The announcement is made more disappointing by the fact that so much work has been done to make Whitby an all-year-round destination for holidaymakers.
On a sunny day this week, tourists were out in large numbers and many were disappointed by English Heritage’s decision.
Rebecca Jones, from Sheffield, said: “We spend a lot of time going places during the week when we are off work, so if we were going anywhere it would not be very good.
“We tend to avoid weekends because it’s too busy.”
Aaron Hindmarsh, from Sheffield, shared a similar view and said: “We went up there today and it was closed so it was a bit frustrating to say the least after walking up all those steps.
“It’s not very good either if kids and school trips can’t go because it’s closed.”
Mr Collett, who now runs a hotel in the town, said the winter break may actually allow the abbey to provide a better service when it reopens.
“After Christmas and New Year openings you have got that dead period until Valentines and those six weeks are really all the time you have to put your house back in order before people start arriving when the weather improves.
“It’s the traditional close season in terms of holidaymakers and people have got to recharge their own batteries.”
Sixty-two English Heritage properties across the country which currently open on weekdays through winter will now only open at weekends from November 1 until March 31, with only Stonehenge and Kenwood house in London unaffected.