Strategy drawn up to protect scenic coastline

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A PIONEERING new strategy has been drawn up by coastal chiefs which maps out how a stretch of the famous Whitby coastline will be preserved for the next century.

The scheme covers an area of just over three miles – from Sandsend in the north to the cliff boasting Whitby’s ancient Abbey in the south – and also includes just over a mile of the River Esk estuary.

It follows on from a previous blueprint drawn up in 2002 and features a number of changes following a consultation, including scrapping plans for heavy rock armouring around the historic West and East Piers.

Preferred options put forward for different parts of the coastline range from maintaining existing sea defences to making improvements which will protect the area from erosion, flooding and landslips.

Now a second consultation has been launched to gauge opinions on the new strategy, which has been developed by Scarborough Council, Whitby Town Council, Whitby Harbour Board, the Environment Agency and Natural England.

Scarborough Council’s Cabinet portfolio holder for coastal and flood defences, Coun Andrew Backhouse, said: “We are focusing our attention on issues that Whitby people have told the council are important, such as improving the condition of the piers, maintaining the visual appearance of the harbour, ensuring the beaches can continue to be used for recreation and leisure, enhancing the tourism value of the area and respecting the heritage and environmental features that are so valued in Whitby.”

Meanwhile, Coun Backhouse is bracing himself for a wave of opposition from environmental groups when he stands by his decision to back a major scheme which will see a huge sea defence built in Scarborough.

Scarborough Borough Council’s Cabinet agreed to launch a detailed investigation into plans for a new sea wall around a stretch of the resort’s South Bay in December to protect the area from the ravages of the North Sea and increasing risk from climate change.

Councillors asked officials for more details on two of the proposals, including the construction of a new wave wall with rock armour in front of the existing sea wall, which they were set to consider next month. However, the decision on which option to back is now expected to be delayed until at least March after the proposal was called in by Independent councillor Peter Popple amid fears key concerns, such as the protection of the Spa, had not been properly addressed.

Coun Backhouse is preparing to defend the move at an environmental scrutiny meeting on Monday. While confident he will be able to justify the scheme, which will play a key part in stabilising the cliff behind the Scarborough Spa complex, he is preparing to come under fire from conservation groups.

He said: “The only reason I can think of for the call-in is it gives an opportunity for groups like The Sons of Neptune to speak. It will be a robust debate on Monday and I’m looking forward to it.”

Marine conservation group The Sons of Neptune, which strongly objects to the scheme, has consulted leading coastal experts and is planning to reveal their findings at the meeting. Campaigners want the original sea wall – which has stood for around 150 years – to be restored as they claim the new defence will result in vast swathes of the beach being lost when sand is pushed towards the harbour.

Charles White, a founder member of the group, which was launched in 1982, said: “The council has already spent millions on refurbishing the Spa, which has completely stripped it of its original features, and now it is going to build a huge concrete monstrosity. Anything like that would take away sand from the right-hand side of the Spa and push it towards the harbour, causing millions of tons of sand to block it. The best thing to do is leave the Victorian wall.”