The piers which protect Whitby are at risk of a “catastrophic” failure, which could put the entire town in danger, say local councillors.
Budget cuts have meant funding which was given to the town to allow urgent repair work on the piers can not take place.
“This isn’t scare mongering,” said borough councillor Joe Plant. “The piers could fail at any moment.”
One year ago Cllr Plant was celebrating after the Environment Agency awarded £4.8million for restoration work to take place on the piers.
Independent reports had stated that Whitby’s piers had a maximum remaining life span of just 10 years, and the funding, to be matched by the borough council, would allow urgent work to take place.
The borough council had hoped to generate the funds to repair the piers through the sale of land on Dean Road in Scarborough - where a new Tesco supermarket was to be built. But when this deal collapsed, Whitby lost the funding and the project stalled.
Harbour board chairman Cllr Mike Cockerill said: “The failure of the piers would be catastrophic, that’s no exaggeration.”
The West pier was completely rebuilt and finished in 1814, with the East pier following 40 years later.
The estimated 10 years that remain of a 200-year life span show just how critical the situation has become.
The pier restoration forms part of the Whitby Coastal Defence Strategy 2, which has been seven years in the making.
However, budget constraints at the borough council mean that only schemes deemed to be “essential” have been granted capital funding.
Among these have been the £6.5m redevelopment of Scarborough Spa, the £3.5m spent on the Open Air Theatre, and £3.5m pledged to develop Whitby Business Park.
But councillors say this is not about boosting the economy, it is about saving Whitby as we know it. If the piers were to fail, the town would be exposed to the North Sea and would cease to exist in its current form as storms and waves battered low-lying areas of the town.
“Without the piers, there is no Whitby,” added Cllr Plant.
MP Robert Goodwill is to ask for a meeting with the Secretary of the State for the Environment, Elizabeth Truss, to discuss the issue. He said: “Since last year’s coastal surge, coastal defences have moved up the agenda and I would like to see what DEFRA’s position is.”