Tourism centre: the storm grows

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Confusion still surrounds the fate of the tourist information service in Whitby.

But two eleventh hour proposals were put forward, one of which was ruled out without even being discussed in public.

The other, put forward by Cllr Sandra Turner, was to consider converting a disused storage room within the current building into a tourist 
information service.

It was agreed to by councillors on the Cabinet that it be looked into.

However, the leasehold for the site is still to be marketed for a venture on a contract of less than 25 years. with the possibility of part of the site being retained for tourism services.

Or, if it is leased for exclusive use then the tourism information centre will go to the harbour office.

In any case, the Customer First council services are being re-located in Whitby’s Job Centre on Bobbies Bank.

The proposal, dismissed without public airtime, was for tourism services to be retained in the current location along with a venture incorporating the iconic Sutcliffe collection of photographs.

Colin Pyrah OBE of Beck Hole had created a business plan, along with Mike Shaw from the Gallery, for a £400,000 visitor and heritage centre.

It would feature a slide show of the 1500 strong collection, half of which is previously unseen, in the 100 seater auditorium, a visual tour of Whitby, and a 3D map of the town with information and direction to points of interest such as the whalebones, Captain Cook statue or jet works.

But Cllr Mike Cockerill said: “We have been made aware of the idea but the council cannot afford it.

“The proposals from Whitby were rather late in coming forward when the issue of the TIC has been on the plan for months. Cllr Turner has what I consider to be an excellent idea. If taken forward this allows us to look at other commercial uses and provides the potential to generate additional income.”

Cabinet member for Tourism and Culture, Cllr Andrew Backhouse added: “I support the recommendation and put on record that local knowledge is a wonderful thing and we have to thank Sandra Turner for having the time to put it in.”

Mr Pyrah, is a specialist project director for Paragon Creative, a design and build company which has completed 1000 projects in 26 countries from museums, heritage centres, theme parks, stately homes and theatres to visitor attractions.

After the meeting Mr Pyrah and Mr Shaw told the Gazette: “We were very disappointed with various decisions which were taken, and some of the comments which were made.

“There was a new idea which had been tabled but which was not explained in detail at the meeting but we understand involves moving the TIC into a currently disused store which faces onto Dock End.

“It would be expensive to undertake this conversion of the store into a TIC.”

Cllr Alf Abbott had appealed for a decision to be delayed for ideas to be explored further and John Freeman, chair of Whitby and District Tourism Authority expressed cynicism over the reasons behind the recommendations passed.

He said: “I think it will fail there and it will get shifted into the harbour office. They can then say no-one uses it and it will close.

“It is difficult to know what they have in mind for the TIC and it is difficult to pin them down. Whether there is something in line like a fast food restaurant I don’t know.”