Whitby piers repairs: what do we know?

Whitby's West Pier.
Whitby's West Pier.

It’s one of the biggest issues in Whitby, and one that could have catastrophic consequences – the condition of the piers.

In a special feature, the Gazette brings you the latest on what we know to date about the crumbling listed structures.

Whitby Pier

Whitby Pier

Planning permission to repair the flood defences, which date back to the 18th century. was granted in December, but fresh doubt lingers over whether the project will go ahead, with funding bids still up in the air.

When pressed by the Gazette over funding concerns, Scarborough Council Cabinet portfolio holder for harbours and flood protection, Cllr Mike Cockerill, said: “We don’t know if we have enough. We should know by the end of March if we have enough or not.

“Everything is designed but we are waiting on the decisions on a number of funding bodies and external agencies.

“We are totally in the hands of the external agencies.”

When asked if he could reassure the thousands of Whitby people who are concerned about the state of the structures, he added: “All I can say is mother nature has done its worst and they are still standing. I’m not saying that there isn’t any deterioration but there is nothing to suggest that they are going to fall down in the short term.

“Providing that we get all the funding, work will start this year. We are fully committed to starting the project this year.”

One group which has been highlighting the condition of the piers and calling for action for a number of years is Fight4Whitby.

Committee member, John Freeman, said: “If the council was using the harbour income to look after the harbour properly they would have all the funds they need to do the job and it would not have got to the stage it’s in now.

“They still can’t find funding for it, yet they can find funding to dredge the lake at Peasholm Park in Scarborough. It just rubs salt in the wounds.

“The granting of planning permission is smoke and mirrors from Scarborough Council to say ‘look, we’re doing something’.”

Steve Siddons, Leader of the Labour Group, said: “Up to 2010, all coastal protection work was paid for out of national taxation but now this Conservative Government has passed much of that cost on to local residents. It’s not our fault that we live by the sea so why should we have to pay to protect our coastline? We may be faced with a multi-million pound shortfall in funding to repair Whitby Piers but Robert Goodwill MP has passed the cost on to the residents of Whitby.”

The piers have protected the town from the sea’s wrath since the 18th century, but the Grade II listed structures have fallen into a state of disrepair.

Locals have been calling on the borough council to act before the flood defences fail, citing a report by Royal Haskoning back in 2009 which referred to a number of major defects on the structures.

We asked you for your views, here’s what you told us: Dean Clews: “Look forward to that... heard it so many times and it just never happens.”

Rob Paddock: “SBC needs to look outside of Scarborough for a change!” Lyn Goodsel: “Never put off til tomorrow what should be done today!”

Plans to bring back the East Pier’s missing bridge link were approved by councillors at the borough council’s Planning Committee meeting in January, but the council doesn’t have the money to carry out the work.

The footbridge was removed 17 years ago in 2001 and since that time the east pier extension has been inaccessible to pedestrians.

Construction to bring back the missing link is expected to cost in the region of £350,000 and the council is waiting to hear if a bid to the Marine Management Organisation to fund the project has been successful.

Cllr Joe Plant, cabinet member for transformation, said: “I welcome the granting of listed building consent and the continuing efforts of the officers involved in trying to make it happen.

However, I am also mindful that the plans are still subject to obtaining the necessary funding. Along with my fellow Cabinet Members, we will keep a close eye on the process and await the funding decision due later this year.” Currently, the only access to the extension for harbour staff is by boat, which was described by the council’s head of planning services, David Walker, as a “risky operation”.