Whitby Town Council has withdrawn its support for a £105,000 scheme that proposes to build a footpath through Larpool Woods.
Councillors voted almost unanimously to pass a motion proproposed by Cllr Ian Havelock opposing the Gateway Whitby project on the grounds that it is not of great benefit to local residents.
The motion, which stated that the construction of the footpath would threaten wildlife in the area and would use up money that could be spent elsewhere to directly benefit Whitby people, was passed by a majority of 13 votes to one.
The project proposes to build a footpath through Larpool Woods on the east side of the River Esk to connect with the viaduct and the Cinder Track.
Gateway Whitby’s Sandra Smith said that the footpath would be “low key” and would benefit both the natural habitat and local people.
Addressing Tuesday’s town council meeting during the public participation session, she added that “probably no trees will be lost” if the path were to be built and stated that easier access to Larpool Woods would help address the problem of Whitby having “less open green space per head than most places in the borough.”
A number of local residents opposing the plans were also in attendance.
Bidi Iredale said that as Larpool Woods are one of Whitby’s only ancient, natural woodlands it is important that they are preserved in their current state.
“The woods are a natural, unmanaged habitat supporting a great variety of wildlife and plants including deer, badger, fox, bats and many birds, all of which will not settle if their environment is disturbed,” she added.
“At present the woods are an unspoilt, untampered with place, important not only to wildlife but also to locals and the occasional visitor who benefit physically, mentally and emotionally from the woods.
“It is a peaceful haven, a gem to discover, a place to escape for some peace away from the crowds of Whitby.”
Cllr Niall Carson told his fellow concillors that Gateway Whitby’s plans propose the re-opening of an “old existing footpath”, not the construction of a new one.
He added that building the path would provide an “ideal opportunity” to create a safe off-road alternative for pedestrians in Whitby and spoke of his concerns that dog walkers in the area are at great risk from traffic.
Cllr Carson’s views were countered by Cllr Havelock who described the project as a “vehicle for getting hold of grant money”.
He added: “Wild places should be left intact. This money could be spent on much more worthwhile projects.”
Cllr John Freeman proposed that a footpath be built elsewhere.
“It is possible to construct a footpath without going into the woods,” he said.
Adding that he felt that the project “needs more thought”, Cllr Freeman went on to say that he felt the amount of money required to build the footpath seemed “phenomenally high”.
It was revealed by Cllr Amanda Smith that Action Eastside had shelved plans to support the footpath project for the time being and will not be considering the proposal until September.
Cllr Mrs Smith was speaking on behalf of Cllr Steve Smith, chairman of Action Eastside, who was not present at the meeting.