They have been photographed by thousands of tourists and featured on calendars and chocolate box lids for generations.
But now it seems that Whitby’s historic piers which help to give the famous coastal town its distinctive character and also offer protection from the elements urgently need attention after warnings that up to 500 homes could be at risk of coastal erosion unless urgent repairs are made.
A major report to Scarborough Borough Council’s cabinet by chief executive, Jim Dillon, warns the piers could have only have a lifespan left of 10 years.
“The piers form an integral part of the costal defences for the Whitby frontage and are important in terms of significance in the development of the town and the role they play in the tourist appeal of the town,” Mr Dillon said.
When members of the council’s cabinet meet on Tuesday they will be asked to accept a £4.8m grant towards the estimated £8.5m cost of saving the piers.
Coun Joe Plant (Cons, Whitby West Cliff) said: “Whitby is very, very popular, its always going to be popular and its steeped in history.
“What we have to remember is that its not just about tourists its about the residents as well.
“We have to do all that we can.”
In his report Mr Dillon warns a study has revealed both the main piers had “a residual life of less than 10 years” and had been described as being in a poor or “very poor” structural condition.
He said: “Their condition will continue to deteriorate, ultimately leading to total failure if the Council was to do nothing. This would result in the loss of beaches and re-activation of recessional processes along the cliffs, and within the inner harbour area.
Mr Dillon adds in his report: “Higher waves would propagate upstream and increase flood risk in the (River Esk) estuary.”
If members decide to accept the Environment Agency grant, the balance of £3.7m would need to be found from other sources, including the council.
“The funding contributions have not yet been secured and cannot be until the amount required is known following the receipt of tenders,” Mr Dillon adds.
Of the 497 properties earmarked as being at potential risk if the piers fail, 362 are residential says Mr Dillon, who starkly warns: “The loss of the piers would result in a more severe wave climate within the harbour, increasing the risk from flooding to 148 properties.” He said that overtopping by the North Sea waves would “worsen over time due to sea level rise.”
Cabinet members are being urged to give the green light to the scheme which would see the work carried out in phases over a number of years, with work being carried out to the main piers in the first phase, to stop water ingress into the historic structures
Coun Mike Cockerill, cabinet member for property and assets, said consultations had been carried previously when there had been no objections to defend Whitby Harbour frontages and upgrade the existing sea defences.
Extensive additional talks will be held with such organisations as English Heritage, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Environment Agency, Natural England, Crown Estates Commissioners, the land owners, and property owners.
If councillors give the green light to the proposals at the meeting steps will be taken to secure a contractor to manage the important project.