Private bidders wanted for resort's disused funicular

A COUNCIL is set to wash its hands of a much-loved seaside funicular that has been mothballed for four years.

Scarborough Council's Cabinet is expected to back plans next week to offer St Nicholas Lift up for tender to a commercial venture.

The lift operated under the shadow of the Grand Hotel for eighty years before it was shut by the council four years ago in a cost-cutting measure.

The authority says it cannot afford to restore it and attempts this year to secure heritage grants have failed.

Campaigners have cautiously welcomed the decision to put it up for tender for a commercial venture, saying it could ensure the building remains intact.

Adrian Perry, chairman of the Scarborough and District Civic Society, said: "We hope there is a possibility in the future it is restored as a funicular but I am aware the council have been trying for a long time.

"This could perhaps see a development at the top and bottom of the lift, like a cafe or ice cream shop, which would retain the original structure.

"It is an iconic structure in the town and it is very sad to see it looking the way it is at the moment."

The report says the lift has fallen into disrepair and is being used as a shelter for homeless people – adding that unless action is taken it will only deteriorate further.Coun Tom Fox, the leader of Scarborough Council, said: "It is a special building but at the end of the day it has become unaffordable.

"It is better that we try to do something."

The lift, which opened in 1929, was closed because Scarborough Council could not afford the 450,000 needed at the time to bring the lift in line with health and safety requirements.

As well as repair costs the lift had been running at a loss of 12,000 in its last year, and passenger numbers had fallen from 92,760 in 2002 to 71,523 in 2006.

In March 2009 council chiefs voted to get rid of the lift and it was planned to sell it to a buyer on the condition that the area would be re-landscaped and the lift removed, but councillors made a last-ditch attempt to find another solution and suspended the decision in May of that year.