EMOTIONS ran high at the latest full meeting of Whitby Town Council, with members of the public staging a “public protest” against Scarborough Borough Council.
Members of the public directly addressed SBC’s head of legal services Ian Anderson, who was present to answer questions relating to the harbour, with the town council largely observers in the proceedings.
An observer stated that at one stage it seemed the meeting had been “hijacked”.
The confrontation centred around the collapse of sheet piling on the east side of Whitby Harbour and a perceived link between this and the shifting of ground beneath properties on Sandgate.
Mr Anderson had been invited by the town council to answer questions and Tom Brodrick, a member of the public, was also in attendance to give a presentation relating to the situation.
In Mr Brodrick’s opinion the movement of the properties was directly linked to the collapse of sheet pilings, caused by dredging too close to the harbour wall.
Cartoons parodying Mr Anderson were handed around by the members of the public, who are largely part of the Free Whitby pressure group.
In response Mr Anderson said: “It seems to me that this is a bit of a kangaroo court.
“I understand I’ve been invited here to answer some questions from the council.
“I didn’t realise I had been brought here so there could be a public protest.”
The full meeting of Whitby Town Council was taking place on Tuesday (1 Nov) at Pannett Park.
Meetings such as this are always opened with a public participation session of up to 15 minutes to allow members of the public to ask questions, make statements or give evidence about items on the agenda, with a three minute limit per person.
However, Whitby mayor Coun John Freeman said: “There’s a tight rope to run between members of the public being able to express themselves and we do take a pride in Whitby Town Council being open to the public, but I do feel to some extent that was abused.”
Free Whitby campaigner Nigel Ward said: “I feel for Ian at this moment.
“The issue isn’t specifically this little bit of harbour wall, it’s the fact that it falls within a large range of how the Borough has conducted its affairs without any sense of accountability.
“I would like to see, when mistakes are made, that the council is big enough to say ‘We screwed up, this was not clever and we should have talked to the local people with the local knowledge, we’re sorry’.
“We care about the town and we want the town to thrive and prosper, you just need to embrace what we have to talk about.”
Free Whitby claimed to represent the concerns of members of the public who were directly affected by the subsidence of the east side, but when asked by Mr Anderson to name any individuals they had actually talked to, neither they nor any Whitby councillor were able to speak up.
“One concern I have is that the information you have isn’t complete,” said Mr Anderson.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say that officers who’ve undertaken dredging are not professional and I have to refute the suggestion that there’s been a lack of professionalism.
“I don’t want to get into areas for potential litigation but I don’t think you’ll find any expert who’ll back this up, no person who’s in an expert role has suggested that the piling has any structural role.
“Yorkshire Water has taken the pragmatic approach and has opened dialogue with the people directly involved.
“I believe an amicable resolution will be achieved but that’s taking place outside the public gaze as you need to raise these matters in the proper manner.”