Scarborough Harbour 'could be owed millions of pounds in income going back half a century'

Scarborough Harbour could be owed millions of pounds in income going back half a century, a businessman has warned.

James Corrigan has had experts examine legislation dating back to 1843, which says money raised by the harbour should be ringfenced for its maintenance.

The potential bombshell for council finances came at a meeting of Scarborough Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, which also heard fishermen’s concerns about regeneration plans for West Pier.

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Bob Roberts, of The Well Dressed Crab Company, said he feared it would be “similar to Maggie Thatcher’s plans for the coal industry - it will be the end of it.”

Fishing boats moored in the harbour at Scarborough  Picture:  OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty ImagesFishing boats moored in the harbour at Scarborough  Picture:  OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
Fishing boats moored in the harbour at Scarborough Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Mr Corrigan’s challenge comes after the long-running battle by a group of residents, Fight 4 Whitby, over millions of pounds of income from Whitby harbour finally reached court.

For the past six years Scarborough Council’s accounts have not been signed off because of objections over how it classifies income and expenditure from harbour land, including its car parks.

Last year the council’s external auditors Mazars ruled that only a court can make a determination on the extent of harbour land.

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Mr Corrigan, who owns property on Sandside and has a commercial fishing boat berthed on West Pier, asked whether legislation governing Scarborough Harbour had been replaced or repealed in 1843, 1876 or 1964.

However council leader Steve Siddons said they disagreed with Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the legislation, and the council believed it complied with its legal obligations regarding the operation and maintenance of Scarborough Harbour.

Mr Corrigan told The Yorkshire Post he now intends engaging specialist legal advice. He said going back to 1974 when the borough was formed, the sums owed "could be potentially millions, as is the case with Whitby".

Mr Corrigan said Scarborough’s situation was more straightforward as there hadn’t been land reclamation, as there had been in Whitby.

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He said: “We can’t find any primary evidence that the laws of 1843, 1876 and 1964 have been repealed or replaced. If I’m right, this frees up money from the local authority to reinvest back into the harbour for long overdue maintenance and repairs.”

The meeting also heard objections to the redevelopment of West Pier, one of ten projects bidding for £35m funding of Government Towns Fund cash.

The council says it aims to “improve the area’s appeal for visitors, support the fishing fleet and enhance the built environment”. The plans include an open space for events and new restaurant, as well as bait sheds, net lofts, processing, storage and commercial units.

However fisherman Fred Normandale said they didn’t want to be “shoved right on the end of the pier out of the way”, and asked why “open space, retail and restaurants” were taking priority over fishing.

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Mr Roberts said the council should direct its regeneration plans to East Pier. “Leave West Pier to fishermen for which it was intended,” he said.

The Labour leader said the Thatcher barb had "hit him in the heart" but insisted the plans would "transform and maximise the existing harbour offer".

Coun Siddons said there had to be some commercialisation to pay for other work going on on the pier. He said: “The fishermen will get more facilities, which is what has been asked for.”

However Mr Roberts said afterwards: "I'd like to see what they are going to do other than put washbasins in warehouses and messing facilities. All they are doing is relocating us."

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He said the council's consultation so far had been "divisive" - having individual meetings with some businesses, but avoiding a general meeting of fishermen.

The meeting heard there would be further consultation on the business cases with sessions in March for the public.

Car parking would be retained on West Pier with some of the spaces used for occasional events.

Councillors voted unanimously to submit the ten projects to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for consideration.

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