CONTROVERSIAL plans to provide up to 500 extra berths for leisure craft in Whitby’s historic harbour and transform it into a marina attracting yachts from all over the world have been condemned by councillors for having a potentially “catastrophic” impact on the town.
The Whitby Harbour Board has agreed to push forward with the proposals, which could cost up to £4m in order to generate an extra £200,000 a year, in a bid to transform the heart of the town as its fishing industry continues to wane.
At a meeting last month, the board decided to enter into informal discussions with interested parties over the scheme, including Natural England and the North York Moors National Park Authority, despite a report from the Environment Agency warning of its initial concerns including the effect on migratory fish species such as salmon and sea trout.
Now Whitby Town Council has written to the chief executive of Scarborough Borough Council calling for the proposals to be “scrapped without delay” and instead focus on undertaking urgent repairs to the harbour which are estimated to require £800,000.
In the letter, seen by the Yorkshire Post, members describe themselves as, “astounded and dismayed that more public money is to be spent on considering this proposal further”.
It describes the environmental impact of the scheme – which would require the construction of a weir across the River Esk – as “catastrophic” for the surrounding area.
It adds, “Whitby Town Council considers this an ill-conceived idea and any further expenditure from the Whitby Harbour Board or Scarborough Borough Council to prove it to be an ill-conceived idea cannot be justified, especially when the harbour infrastructure requires major maintenance to preserve the existing construction”.
A public meeting is expected to be held over the plans in the coming weeks, with residents already highlighting concerns over the impact 500 extra boats would have upon the frequency of openings of the Whitby Swing Bridge.
Coun Phillip Trumper, the vice chair of Whitby Town Council’s committee, said: “The environmental issues are a big worry.
“There are a number of concerns about the flood risk from this.
“There are also concerns about the wildlife in this area, including otters, kingfishers and freshwater mussels.
“Whitby Town Council’s harbour committee wants to enter into constructive negotiations with the harbour board over this.
“The ball is in their court.”
The town council says it now plans to contact environmental experts at the University of Hull, Scarborough Campus, and Friends of the Earth to provide a detailed environmental and biodiversity assessment for the upper harbour area.
The Environment Agency’s initial report highlighted potential problems such as reduced biodiversity and increases in pollution, but did not discount entirely the possibility of the scheme.
Coun Mike Cockerill, chairman of Whitby Harbour Board, said the cost of entering into informal discussions over the plans was “negligible” and involved only a small amount of officer time.
“The town council is jumping the gun on this,” he said.
“At the April meeting we set about undertaking informal discussions with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the North York Moors National Park Authority.
“These discussions may end up killing off the idea very quickly, or we could go a step further and go out to a far wider public consultation.”
The result of the informal discussions over the proposals will be reported back to the next meeting of the Whitby Harbour Board on July 9.