'Wild eye' tourism scheme at heart of Whitby leaders' vision for town's future

A new nature tourism scheme for the Yorkshire coast designed to "bring nature into the community" could be set up after the seaside resort of Whitby was chosen to benefit from the Government's £3.6bn Towns Fund.

The North Yorkshire town is one of 101 across the country allowed to bid for money from the scheme, which Ministers say will "transform their town’s economic growth prospects with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture".

Local civic and business leaders are now working on their bid, which could bring in up to £25m investment, after setting up the Whitby Town Deal Board.

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Among the proposal likely to be submitted include a 'free Wifi' zone between Whitby town centre and the harbour, combined with an interactive wayfinding scheme live-streaming facts and interpretations for visitors about the area.

Officials plan to create modern workspaces for light industrial uses and flexible co-working space as well as a Whitby Walk Heritage sculpture trail with seven life-sized creations.

The proposals include more cycle ways around the town and plans to consult with local people around the options of pedestrianising the town's Swing Bridge at busier times of day.

Another key project is the Whitby Wild Eye idea, a collaboration between arts charity Invisible Dust and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust working with world class scientists and artists.

Pictured A view towards Whitby Abbey through the replica Whale's jaw bone which replaced the original archway that was erected in 1853. Camera Details: Nikon D5, Lens Nikon N VR 70-200mm, Shutter Speed 1/250s, Aperture f/5.6, ISO 80. Pic: James Hardisty

It aims to provide a new nature tourism opportunity for the Yorkshire coast but also to "bring nature into the community, enabling young people to experience their surroundings".

The first phase of the £1.8m project is to install a hide at a location within Whitby and locations are being explored with Scarborough Borough Council.

Gareth Edmunds, the external affairs director for Anglo American's Woodsmith mine project near Whitby, chairs the Whitby Town Deal Board.

He said: "We want to preserve the great assets and lure of Whitby but to also invest for the future - in skills and the wider economy and for the youth of the area.

"This means consideration of the changing patterns of the tourism sector and looking to the area's cultural and social well-being, with innovative projects.”

He said an example of this was the plan for a maritime training facility to celebrate Whitby's heritage and to develop skills.

The Town Deal Board received 100 public suggestions from organisations and individuals across themes that cover heritage, digital and transport connectivity, well-being, culture, skills and culture, and building a sustainable economic future.

Mr Edmunds added: “By 2035 we hope that Whitby will have undergone a modern maritime renaissance, with activity focussed around the harbour and connected to skills, arts and well-being."