A MULTI-MILLION pound transport scheme to alleviate notorious tailbacks in one of the North of England’s most popular coastal destinations is due to be given the go-ahead amid claims the project is vital for the seaside town’s economic prosperity.
Blueprints for the 450-space park-and-ride facility on the outskirts of Whitby have been drawn up by North Yorkshire County Council in a bid to curb traffic congestion as hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the historic port every year.
A planning application for the transport project is expected to be approved by members of the North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee on Wednesday next week.
The county council’s executive member for highways, Coun Gareth Dadd, told the Yorkshire Post yesterday that the proposed park-and-ride site will provide the foundation for a strategy to free up the North Yorkshire coast’s creaking transport infrastructure.
Whitby’s tourism industry is worth about £40m a year to the local economy, and provides an estimated 2,000 jobs – almost 30 per cent of the town’s overall workforce.
The coast, beach and harbour are the focal point of the port’s tourism, with around half of all visitors to Whitby heading to the beach.
Coun Dadd said: “This scheme is vital to ensuring the future prosperity of not only Whitby, but the wider region as well. Whitby itself is hugely reliant on tourism, but this also places the town’s roads under immense pressure.
“The park-and-ride facility has been talked about for a long time, and now we are coming to a critical time. I am hopeful that it will be approved by the planning committee next week, which will mean a big step towards helping alleviating traffic congestion on the Yorkshire coast.”
The park-and-ride scheme is part of a £4m package of improvements earmarked for Whitby, which includes a £250,000 revamp of the town’s famous swing bridge which has been plagued by mechanical problems in recent years.
The park-and-ride facility has been earmarked for a site off the A171, and it is planned it will operate between 7am and 9pm during the peak tourism period of May to September, reducing to 8.30am to 6pm during the winter months.
While planning officers on the North York Moors National Park Authority have recommended the scheme should be given the go-ahead, North Yorkshire Police officers have voiced fears that the park-and-ride site could become a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour.
In submissions to the national park authority, police officers have claimed the car park’s remote location will attract offenders and divert crime-fighting resources away from the town centre.
Concerns have also been raised that youths could be tempted to break into a shelter building and use it for drug-taking and binge-drinking while the park-and-ride site is closed.
Police also claimed that “inadequate crime prevention information” has been submitted with the planning application, although Coun Dadd maintained every effort will be made to ensure that vehicles left at the site are safe.
The Whitby scheme is being financed through a package of funding which is also boosting the roads network in Harrogate, another of North Yorkshire’s traffic blackspots. North Yorkshire County Council’s executive met in July to rubber-stamp £5.3m in funding from Westminster to provide vital improvements to the infrastructure in both of the Whitby and Harrogate areas.
The Department for Transport announced in June that the funding had been made available under a national scheme which will see more than a quarter of a billion pounds of improvements to reduce congestion, cut carbon emissions and boost economic growth. But the funding for North Yorkshire fell significantly short of outline proposals which the council submitted in the summer of 2011 to try to secure £10m under the Local Sustainable Transport Plan.