Harbour board’s pledge for West Pier re-opening

A balustrade fixing before it was taken back to the bare metal
A balustrade fixing before it was taken back to the bare metal

WHITBY Harbour Board reassured residents at their meeting on Monday that the West Pier extension will be reopened as soon as possible – and even highlighted plans to create a temporary walkway that will provide access until a new link bridge is completed.

Local companies are also being urged to do their bit to preserve Whitby’s heritage by applying for the contract to design and install the new link bridge.

A vertical split in a timber bearer

A vertical split in a timber bearer

Whitby Harbour Board chairman Mike Cockerill said: “I would attempt to make it clear to all who understand English –there’s never been talk of not replacing the footbridge.”

Last month the link bridge, believed to have been constructed in the 1940s, was discovered to be in a perilous condition, having lost around 50% of its structural capacity.

A report presented to the Harbour Board by Scarborough Borough Council’s head of tourism and culture, Brian Bennett, highlighted that a £182,000 budget should be set aside for the construction of a completely new link bridge.

SBC projects manager Chris Bourne added: “We hope to see the bridge reinstated by the end of June 2012, but there’s work going on to shorten that length of time as much as possible.”

The heavily-corroded southern primary beam

The heavily-corroded southern primary beam

Proposals also recommended that a further £10,000 is earmarked for a temporary structure to ensure that “public access is reinstated to the West Pier extension arm as soon as is practically possible”.

The report added that an up-close detailed inspection on 19 September found that “the bridge is considered to be beyond economic repair” and that it should be removed in the near future.

Harbour Board member Coun Sandra Turner said: “I think in the view of the time we are looking at, I think we have got to look at putting across a temporary walkway, making sure it’s open to anglers and the public.”

The temporary walkway would pass above the link bridge and would be in place for around eight months, although Mr Cockerill pointed out that at just 90cm wide “this will not be sufficient to allow access to wheelchairs or prams, it’s for purely pedestrian access.”

“We are 100 per cent sure that it’s going to be a safe procedure,” added Mr Bourne, “and the temporary bridge wouldn’t delay new bridge works”.

The proposals for a replacement bridge highlight a commitment to making the bridge easy to maintain and therefore officers are investigating the possibility of installing a removable bridge, which can be lifted out by a crane for routine maintenance and inspection, overcoming previous accessibility problems.

Other methods of improving the lifespan have been proposed, such as constructing it from stainless steel.

Coun Cockerill also pointed out the bridge is a relatively simple structure to fabricate and install and so local companies who possess the necessary skills have been invited to submit quotations.

Funding for the link bridge can not be drawn from DEFRA or Environment Agency grants as the link bridges are not deemed to be vital for coastal protection, but are instead leisure amenities.

After considering the proposals Whitby Harbour Board voted unanimously to approve £182,000 towards reinstatement of the footbridge and for £10,000 to be allocated to building a temporary walkway.

A final decision on the funding is expected to be made at a council meeting on 7 November.