New visitor centre plans are unveiled

Mike Shaw & Colin Pyrah at Sutcliffe gallery.
Mike Shaw & Colin Pyrah at Sutcliffe gallery.

Two entrepreneurs who came up with a plan to save the tourist information centre say they are being thwarted by the borough council.

Creative specialist Colin Pyrah and the owner of the Sutcliffe Gallery, Mike Shaw, joined forces to put together a project which would have turned the TIC building at Dock End into a visitor experience.

Key features include a free-to-enter print and digital exhibition of the iconic Sutcliffe collection of historical Whitby images, many of which are previously unseen, a virtual tourist guide to the town and its various attractions and a 3D map of the town as well.

The Customer First facility and the North York Moors National Park concession would also have been retained along with traditional tourist services.

Colin and Mike were all set to present their plan to senior councillors at a Cabinet meeting in February where the future of the borough’s TICs was being debated following a cost-cutting proposal to market the leases.

But it was dismissed without debate while councillors supported the idea of a redundant storage area being used to promote the town’s tourism instead, or that the service be moved to the Harbour Office.

A further meeting gave hopes the project could remain on the drawing board when a scrutiny committee recommended a period of six months be granted for groups to come forward with alternative uses and business plans for the site. It also said the council should re-assess inaccurate tourism statistics, consult with tourism hotspots in the Esk Valley and re-consider the location changes.

However, a week later the Cabinet once again dismissed the issue.

Colin told the Gazette: “We were dismayed the council was not prepared to discuss any of the committee’s recommendations any further, was not prepared to re-consider the decisions, was not prepared to consult further and was not prepared to reconsider the erroneous statistics upon which the original decision was taken.”

Financial projections predict the visitor experience would provide the borough council with an annual gain of £90,000, compared to the current loss of £31,000 and save the one-off £50,000 
re-location cost.

The pair have been overwhelmed with public support for their project and with that in mind are going to consider alternative locations.

Colin said: “We suggest one of the main reasons why the existing TIC is supposedly losing money is partly due to the totally unimaginative use of the existing building.

“Unfortunately Mike and I now have to reconsider our position because SBC are not prepared to give us sufficient time to raise finance and proceed with the bid process.”

Mike added: “Year on year, people come to look at his work and buy gifts. I have been showing Sutcliffe’s work for 57 years and people expect to be able to see his work when they visit Whitby. They can see history in real detail and we want to retain that into the future.”