THE SANDSEND road could fall into the sea within three years and Whitby could be under water if emergency coastal repairs costing up to £30 million are not carried out.
The stark warning came from an expert who has been working on Whitby Coastal Strategy 2 with officers from Scarborough Borough Council.
In depth research has revealed 20 areas in the three miles between Sandsend and the cliffs beneath Whitby Abbey which are in need of attention.
But, the two areas where major problems have been found are Sandsend and both piers protecting the harbour entrance.
If those structures – which already have serious problems – were to fail completely, Henrietta Street could fall into the sea and flooding in the town centre would become much worse.
A series of solutions to stop the erosion and flooding have been drawn up and will be put to the public at consultation events on Tuesday at Whitby Pavilion.
The most critical one is repairs to sea defences below the road leading into Sandsend.
Dr Nick Cooper said they are collapsing as the tide washes material out from under them and it is planned to replace the concrete slopes and stabilise some of the cliffs in a scheme that will cost anywhere between £5 million and £10 million.
He said: “That scheme we believe to have a fairly urgent need because of the current state of these defences.
“If it didn’t go ahead, over time, the defence would fail and impact the road itself.
“You would no longer have continous access between Whitby and Sandsend.
When asked how long the road would last if North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) stopped making periodic repairs, he said: “It would be a matter of a few years, maybe even the first winter.
“If they keep repairing them the cost would go up.”
The other major project is protecting the east and west pier and both extensions for the future.
One of the main effective methods of protecting them and creating a sea defence is the introduction of rock armour but it was dismissed a few years ago because the public weren’t in favour because of how it would look.
Dr Cooper said it was an effective way of breaking down the waves and stopping them from crashing on to the piers, discouraging incidents like the one highlighted on the front page of a previous copy of the Whitby Gazette.
He added: “We had a public consultation and there was a mixed response with some people not favoured to the rock revetment approach.
“Some of the concern expressed was about the visual impact it would have on an amenity beach.”
Instead it is suggested that gates could be put up to restrict public access to the piers during stormy weathers and work will be done to fill in the voids and gaps to the pier structures.
It is also suggested rock armour be built around the east pier extension on the side facing Scarborough so it can’t be seen.
A flood gate across the Battery Parade slip has also been muted to prevent water coming on to Pier Road at the bottom of the Khyber Pass.
Dr Cooper said: “We have listened to those views but we still think some form of rock revetment along the east pier extension would be of value.
“This is a scheme we are looking to finance first because that is where the greatest problems are.
“If these structures were to fail and start to break up, we would get more wave energy from the sea coming in to the harbour, we would get more risk of flooding and erosion and of landslips.”
The piers alone will cost in the region of £20 million to put right and other schemes along the coastline feature a new rock armour and slipway at Sandsend car park, the refurbishment of walls at the beck in Sandsend Valley, monitoring of the cliffs at Whitby Golf course and repair the coastal slopes along the West Cliff.