Will a century-old law save Whitby’s crumbling piers?

Whitby's historic piers. Picture: David Behrens
Whitby's historic piers. Picture: David Behrens
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A CAMPAIGN group is using a piece of 1905 legislation to take a council to court, to save Whitby’s historic piers.

The group, named Fight4Whitby, is raising money to fund the legal bid to save the crumbling piers in and to stop the closure of the Tourist Information Centre.

Whitby's historic piers. Picture: David Behrens

Whitby's historic piers. Picture: David Behrens

The case hinges on a Whitby Urban District Council Act of 1905 that states all revenue raised from the harbours should be used to make improvements to them.

But town councillor John Freeman, who is part of the group, claims the council has been using the excess income to “swell the coffers of its general fund.”

The group also say it fears the crumbling of the piers could cause catastrophic flooding in the town.

Now it hopes to secure more than £4 million to match a Defra grant to repair the piers, which a 2007 report said may not last another 10 years.

Whitby's historic piers. Picture: David Behrens

Whitby's historic piers. Picture: David Behrens

Cllr Freeman said: “The Whitby Urban District Council Act of 1905 said that all revenue raised from harbours should be used to make improvements to the harbour.

“However, Scarborough Council has been using the excess income to swell the coffers of its general fund.

“Our lawyers, who specialise in maritime law, say they can see nothing that has been passed since the 1970s when the borough council was formed that would supersede the 1905 Act.”

He said a letter of intent had already been sent to the council and the group was now looking to raise £50,000 to commence with the case.

“The important thing to remember is that we would not have been forced into this action if the borough council had just held a proper consultation and got round a table and come up with a way for the Tourist Information Centre to remain open,” he added.

“The council has had an offer from Defra sat on the table of just over £4 million to save the piers but it has so far not come up with the match funding.

“It did, however, find a £9 million loan to build a new water park in Scarborough.

“You have to ask yourself what is more important? A new water park for people in Scarborough or to save the piers of Whitby which, if they fail, would lead to catastrophic flooding in the town?

“That is why we are taking this action.”

Scarborough Council declined to comment on the specifics of the legal action.

Lisa Dixon, a Scarborough Council director, said: “We can confirm that we are in private correspondence with the legal representative of Whitby and District Tourism Association and the Fight4Whitby group about their claims.

“We remain committed to ensuring the best value for money for taxpayers across our borough through the services that we provide, but it would not be appropriate to comment further on these particular claims at this time.”