One of Yorkshire’s most famous views will be obscured by heavy machinery this summer as long-awaited repairs to Whitby’s crumbling piers finally get underway.
The restoration project, the biggest to the harbour since the pier extensions were built a century ago, looks set to begin, possibly as soon as April, following the revelation that councillors are being asked to pre-approve funding for the work before the money, from a variety of external sources, arrives in the bank.
Their approval is expected to go through on the nod at Friday’s meeting of Scarborough Borough Council, which recommends that the work proceeds “as quickly as possible once the funding decisions are known”.
Financing the £9m project has been “like juggling half a dozen balls at once”, said Coun Mike Cockerill, who holds the harbours and flood protection portfolio on the council.
Permission to accept grants from the Environment Agency, the European Union and North Yorkshire County Council as soon as they have been signed off would be “a major step forward”, Coun Cockerill said.
“This is a case of speeding things up – it’s not a matter of principle. The council is totally committed to do the job as soon as sufficient funding has been identified,”he said.
Planning permission to repair Whitby’s flood defences was granted last December, but is dependant on the external grants, which are expected but not guaranteed.
“We are quietly confident but we can’t count our chickens before they have hatched,” Coun Cockerill said.
“We are totally in the hands of the external agencies. It only takes one organisation to defer a decision to their next meeting to hold things up.
“If we wait until we get the all the decisions through, it could be months before we get the formal go ahead. We want to preempt that and get on without any further delay.”
He said the contractor, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, was ready to move on to the site at short notice to start the work, which would continue through the warm months and resume next year.
The two piers are expected to remain open to walkers, with some restrictions possible.
“It might temporarily spoil the view for the summer, but even with large bits of plant on the piers it doesn’t detract too much,” Coun Cockerill said.
Scarborough Council, which has set aside £5m for coastal protection schemes across the district, was told when it approved the work at Whitby that its piers, a quarter of a mile long, were now in a “decrepit” state.
David Walker, the authority’s senior planning officer said in his report to councillors: “The piers are vital as coastal defences and as an integral part of safeguarding the harbour.”
A year ago, a tidal surge further damaged one of the piers and lifted an ice cream kiosk off the ground as it left a trail of debris, mud and driftwood – but the piers prevented widespread damage to businesses and homes.
The Government’s Environment Agency is expected to contribute £4.8m to their restoration, with up to £2.7m from the EU and £500,000 from the regional Enterprise Partnership.