Fears over plans to transform historic harbour

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Conservation chiefs have raised concerns over multi-million pound plans to create over 200 extra berths at Whitby’s historic harbour, claiming it could have an adverse effect on marine wildlife.

The town’s harbour board is hoping to push forward with the proposals, which could generate an extra £200,000 a year, in a bid to keep the harbour an “active part of the community” as the fishing industry continues to wane.

But after examining the proposals, the Environment Agency has listed a number of measures that would need to be taken in order to avoid putting wildlife at risk.

In a report, which is due to go before the harbour board next week, the organisation said it had “significant concerns” over the effect on migratory fish species, such as salmon and sea trout, which would need to be addressed.

It also said fish contained within the new development will have to be managed at an additional cost.

And fears have also been raised over marine life suffering due to the loss of mudflats, as well as increases in pollution due to more motor boats using the river and flooding risks.

However, despite the concerns the Environment Agency has said that it does not object to the proposal entirely and has suggested a wider consultation be carried out with other organisations, including Natural England and the North York Moors National Park Authority.

Coun Mike Cockerill, chairman of Whitby Harbour Board, said: “The proposal has a lot going for it. We have a waiting list of over 100 for berths and it would certainly enable us to make more people happy.

“The next step is to talk to these other bodies and get their opinion as to whether they have any serious concerns about it. That will give us some guidance as to how to take it further and at some stage it needs to go out to public consultation.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed plans to transform the harbour into a bustling marina attracting yachts from all over the world last September.

A report, which explored the feasibility of the project, revealed there was space for an additional 500 berths. However, only 200 could be accessed from council land.

It also examined ways in which access to the harbour could be improved, including making it “wet” by introducing a loch mechanism.

The scheme is expected to cost between £2m and £4m.

Coun Cockerill said: “It will be a significant investment so if nobody has got any major objections to it, we will put a business case together and if that stacks up we will have to look at where to get the money from. It may be that it will be self-financing over a period of time.

“I have heard indirect comments and so far there has been nobody against it but at the moment we specifically haven’t gone out asking people’s opinion. It might be a total non-starter.”

It is hoped the project, which would be carefully planned by industry experts, will breathe new life into the harbour following the decline of the fishing industry.

Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill has backed the proposals and believes the move will provide a boost for the town’s economy, as visitors from across the globe choose to moor their boats in the harbour and head onto shore.

When the plans were unveiled in autumn, Mr Goodwill said: “If you can get more berths without affecting charter fleets it seems a good idea.

“I think it sounds very positive and I will certainly be keen to see how it goes forward as long as it doesn’t affect the traditional uses of the harbour, as there are still lobster and crab fishermen.”

The harbour board will decide whether to push ahead with a formal consultation with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the North York Moors National Park Authority on Monday.