WHITBY’S West Pier lighthouse will be closed for the forseeable future after it was deemed a risk to the general public.
A detailed inspection, carried out as part of a wider review of the condition of harbour assets, revealed structural faults to the 170-year-old structure.
Whitby Harbour Board chairman Coun Mike Cockerill said: “We do not consider it safe enough to allow public access at this time.
“We are currently seeking expert advice about the best way to address the situation, but public safety is our paramount concern and it’s not something we take chances with.”
Initial estimates suggest that the cost of repairing both the West Pier lighthouse and its East Pier sister would be around £200,000 and Coun Cockerill added: “Along with work we are carrying out on a new West Pier extension bridge, the condition of the harbour remains a high priority of the harbour board.
“The work to the West Pier lighthouse is a small, but very important part of a much wider regeneration picture.”
Whitby Harbour Board set out its intention to inspect all of the harbour assets soon after it was formed last year and in the past eight months, a number of reports have been compiled.
When all the reviews have been completed, a plan will be put in place that will set out a timetable of work in the harbour, with funding sought to see assets repaired or improved.
However, the news has come as a bitter disappointment to many who see a trip up the lighthouse as an essential part of a visit to the town.
No-one will feel the effects of the closure harder than Ray Randall who, for the past five years, has been responsible for opening the lighthouse to the public, but has now seen his business “closed down”.
“I was gutted and I think people are going to be particularly upset,” he said.
“I see a lot of people regularly, sometimes they come two or three times each year as it’s part of a visit to Whitby.
“They go up there with their cameras and take pictures as it’s something different, a different perspective of the town and coast.”
Mr Randall had been due to open the lighthouse for the first time this year on 1 March, but was called to a meeting on Monday 13 February, when he was told the lighthouse had failed safety checks.
The inspection revealed faults to the central column which supports the spiral staircase running through the centre of the sandstone lighthouse and some corrosion to metal straps which form part of the internal structure.
Mr Randall, who is a self-employed entertainer on an evening, added: “I was not allowed to do any maintenance with my lease, I was only allowed to sweep the stairs and clean the windows.
“The roof has been leaking for years and they’ve done nothing about it.
“I don’t know if that’s caused the deterioration but it won’t be open this season.
“They’ve not really given me an awful lot of notice, so I’m looking for a part time job.”
Mr Randall also pointed out that following visits from health and safety executives last year, a series of kickplates were installed at the top of the lighthouse, an investment that cost thousands of pounds and which he mistakenly believed meant that his business would be secure for a number of years.