HUNDREDS of Whitby residents are set to gather on the West Pier on Sunday in protest of Scarborough Borough Council’s treatment of the pier extensions and the town in general.
Protest organiser Kayleigh Smith, whose Save Whitby’s Piers !! Facebook group has almost 3,000 members, said the council’s neglect of the link bridge is symbolic of their treatment of the whole of Whitby.
She added: “It’s about the whole of Whitby in general, it’s all falling down.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful place and so many people come here from all over the world.
“I can’t believe they’re letting it fall down, you’d think they’d want to take pride in the place.
“I’ve asked everybody to come along to support us because the more people who are there, the more people that are going to show Scarborough Borough Council that people are passionate and we want the link bridge, the piers, and the rest of Whitby fixed.”
News of the protest, which starts at midday on the west pier and bandstand area, has been spread all over the world on Facebook and Twitter.
The online petition at www.realwhitby.co.uk has gathered nearly 1,500 signatures and
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thousands more have signed the Whitby Gazette Protect Our Piers petitions located in our offices in Bridge Street and in dozens of businesses throughout Whitby and district.
However, Whitby Harbour Board chairman Mike Cockerill has moved to allay residents’ concerns in advance of the protest.
“Borough officers contacted me with their concerns,” he said, “and I fully supported the closure of the bridge.
“I am pleased to be able to confirm that there is a strong willingness to see a replacement bridge designed, manufactured and installed as soon as possible.
“Some initial work is currently under way and the final authorisation will be sought at the SBC meeting on 7 November this will not cause any delay in the ongoing work.
“Although we are experiencing hard times, during all of my discussions there has never been any hint mentioned of not replacing the west bridge.”
While many Whitby residents have signed up in protest, many anglers are simply choosing to ignore the bridge closure and are jumping the barrier and continuing to fish off the extensions.
Whitby angling festival organiser Paul Kilpatrick said: “It’s diabolical, the whole scenario, but as far as angling is concerned, who can blame them?
“If the fishermen thought there was a serious problem they wouldn’t go down there.
“I can’t see why they don’t put a quid on everyone’s council rate to pay for it, who’s going to miss a quid?”
He added that Whitby businesses are already beginning to see the knock-on effect of the closure.
“Whitby Angling Supplies are suffering terribly because of the closure of the extension.
“People are coming here, seeing the extension is closed, and just going home, and who knows if they’ll ever come back?
“They (SBC) are just letting everything go to rot.”
While borough councillor Joe Plant understands that emotions are running high, he would like to assure Whitby residents that work is progressing with the repairs to the piers themselves.
“It’s caused uproar and it’s not surprising because I feel the same,” he said.
However, because the link bridge is not vital for coastal defence, this means that aid can not be received to pay for their maintenance and replacement.
Coun Plant added: “The piers are a structure which protects the town.
“I’ve been fighting for this East link for years, but you can only fight so much.
“It isn’t just about the piers, because if the piers go the whole town goes.
“But the links at the bridges are not part of the coastal protection scheme.
“If we put in a bid, what they are saying is ‘how is the bridge protecting the town?’
“It isn’t there for protection, it’s just an add-on.
“The Environment Agency have turned us down two or three times so that money has to come out of the harbour board or the SBC pot.”