Councils at odds over whether Whitby's Swing Bridge trial closure is working

A Mayor has complained that Whitby was “left to go it alone again” over the first Bank Holiday of 2022 as thousands of visitors piled pressure on the town’s creaking infrastructure.

Whitby's Swing bridge which connects the east and west sides of the town Picture: Gary Longbottom
Whitby's Swing bridge which connects the east and west sides of the town Picture: Gary Longbottom

Councillor Linda Wild said the town has been packed with visitors over the festive period with traffic circling the town and cliffs in search of a parking spot, while bins have been left overflowing.

She said despite their pleas, North Yorkshire County Council and Scarborough Borough Council are “not keeping up with demand” over parking, highways and street cleanliness.

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There’s concern that the trial pedestrianisation of the Swing Bridge, currently operating at weekends and on Bank Holidays, is causing confusion, particularly for visitors trying to find somewhere to park.

Town clerk Michael King said while it seemed to help pedestrians get around, the signs didn’t give drivers enough information about alternative routes and how to access car parking.

Sometimes the signs were at odds with what was actually happening on the ground - for example that the bridge is closed, leaving them at a dead end.

Coun Wild said it was said to be a “shovel ready project” when it was “not shovel ready in any way”.

She said: “On the Eastside we have had the worst time with the volume of traffic and reduced car parking. Tin Ghaut car park has been turned into a turning circle.

“This has created a piece of land where anything and everything goes. The residents can be trapped because they struggle to access the A171 from Spital Bridge safely."

Coun Wild said the closure of the park and ride - it operates from April to October - “makes no sense when the demand for better infrastructure is no longer seasonal”.

And she said it seemed “another example of NYCC not watching carefully enough and not reacting to the new reality in Whitby”.

She said: “The highways authority, the parking authority and the authority with responsibility for street cleanliness are not keeping up with demand. We want people to come to Whitby and to enjoy it, but that cannot be at the expense of the people who live and work here.”

The actual implementation of the pedestrianisation scheme will cost £4.5m, and is one of nine projects in Whitby’s Town Deal, which secured £17.1m funding last March.

NYCC said Whitby was “incredibly popular” and it is their priority to balance residents’ parking needs along with those of visitors.

It regularly reviewed the experimental closure of the Swing Bridge and believes “the current arrangements are working”.

Whitby Town Deal Board secured £400,000 of Government funding to pay for the trial, which is being implemented by the council’s highways team.

NYCC said the trial’s findings “will be considered in more detail in the coming weeks when a decision will also be made on how the closures will be managed in the future.

"We will then be in a better position to review both on-street and off-street parking in the town in partnership with Scarborough Borough Council.”

It said keeping the park and ride open would not be a good use of taxpayers’ money, as there was not enough demand.

It added: “Whilst there may be the very occasional weekend of higher visitor numbers, overall the demand for its use during the winter months remains low.”

Scarborough councillor Tony Randerson said cleansing teams continued to go “above and beyond” during the Covid-19 pandemic to keep areas clean and welcoming.