WHITBY’S West Pier extension will reopen in the next few weeks, but local fishermen say the town’s reputation may have been damaged beyond repair.
Whitby Angling Supplies, which has shops in Haggersgate and Church Street, has been trading in the town for over 40 years, but with the West Pier extension closed, the owners claim it’s like “having a ski shop in the desert”.
Following the closure of the bridge linking the pier and the extension, sales have plummeted at the angling supplier’s two stores, to the extent that employees
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have been made redundant or had their hours slashed and their Haggersgate shop will soon close.
A healthy online store is keeping the business afloat, but owner Jackie Greaves said the whole of Whitby is suffering from the extension’s closure.
She said: “The footbridge was closed at the height of the mackerel fishing season.
“To give you an example, we went from selling a dozen mackerel kits a day to none at all, overnight.
“Young, fit lads can climb down the cliffs to fish, but visiting anglers and many locals just want to fish off the pier.
“For the first few weeks we received phone calls every morning from anglers asking if it was open yet, saying they would cancel their trip and phone again in a few weeks.
“Those phone calls have stopped now and these people have gone away and found somewhere else to fish.
“Fishing is the biggest participation sport in the north east but the tourism department at Scarborough Borough Council don’t know anything about it, they have no idea of the basics.”
SBC’s head of tourism and culture, Brian Bennett, told the Gazette that every endeavour is being made to have the temporary bridge in place by the end of this month, but it may be the first weekend in December when it is opened to the public.
However, angling festival organiser Paul Kilpatrick believes the three-month delay between the extension’s closure and projected reopening is an example of anti-Whitby bias from SBC.
“I used to be a scaffolder and any reputable company would have put a temporary bridge in there in three hours,” he said.
“The more you look at it, the more it makes sense that they are trying to do as much damage to Whitby as possible.”
The Sea Otter II skipper added that the “debacle” caused by SBC is “killing the town”.
He said: “I come home on my boat every day and it’s sad to see Whitby’s deserted ghost piers.
“It’s not just Martin and Jackie’s business, it’s people who now aren’t coming to stay in the town and so they aren’t spending money on accommodation, food and things like that.
“Once that bridge is back up and people start coming back they might recover, but the delay is killing them.
“Somebody needs to be made accountable here, they’re trying to ruin the town.”
The next major angling festival is the Whitby Open Shore competition on 28 December where anglers will battle for the Whitby Gazette trophy.
150 anglers are expected, but throughout the last few months the only fisherman seen on the pier is the Ray Lonsdale sculpture, the irony of which has not been missed by Mrs Greaves: “They’ve had to put that statue there because there aren’t any real anglers.
“We were saying they’ve put it there so people can remember what a fisherman looks like.”