Scarborough artists angry at losing studios in council’s proposals for West Pier

Scarborough artists have told of their anger at the proposed redevelopment of West Pier, which would mean them having to move out of their current studios there.

By Louise Hollingsworth
Friday, 25th February 2022, 12:10 pm
Updated Friday, 25th February 2022, 12:39 pm
Anthony Springall, Nina Hughes and Sefton Freeman-Bahn have shared their anger about the redevelopment of the West Pier.
Anthony Springall, Nina Hughes and Sefton Freeman-Bahn have shared their anger about the redevelopment of the West Pier.

Plans have been proposed by Scarborough Borough Council to redevelop the West Pier to turn it into a “must-visit destination”.

Part of these plans could see the old fishermen’s office turned into a high-end restaurant.

The listed building, which is situated near the traffic lights at the entrance to the pier, was once used as office space for the fishing industry.

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It is now home to several artists, who use the space above the ground floor for art studios. There are eight units, half of which are used as artists’ studios.

It is believed the building is earmarked for a high-end restaurant.

A Scarborough Borough Council spokesperson said: “Redeveloping the harbour area and West Pier is central to our transformative plans for Scarborough, as outlined in the town’s blueprint document.

“We want to better integrate our fishing industry with the vibrant visitor economy and improve the way we showcase our seafood offer.

“In future, Scarborough harbour will be a key visitor and social destination.

“Artists’ studios will remain a valuable part of the regenerated West Pier.

“An alternative unit allocated for the artists’ studios will be created in the neighbouring building. It will give us greater scope to attract a second restaurant to West Pier within the current studio space and generate a higher level of footfall and interest in the destination as a whole. This will benefit all our tenants.

“We’ve been in discussions with tenants and stakeholders for many months about the proposed redevelopment and are committed to doing what we can to accommodate their needs during the project.

“Following our last round of engagement with them in December and January, we are holding face to face information sessions with them next week.

“Communications with the wider public will take place in due course, but we have always felt it is right that tenants and other operators on the West Pier hear about the proposed plans first.”

Sefton Freeman-Bahn, Nina Hughes and Anthony Springall are three of the artists who rent out space at the fishermen’s offices.

They have told The Scarborough News of their anger and disappointment about the possibility of being moved out of the building.

Mr Freeman-Bahn, of Badgers of Bohemia, said Scarborough Council had had a consultation with him about redevelopment of the West Pier. These plans included keeping the building as artist space.

He said: “The idea, really, in the redevelopment was that there would be different sized artists’ workshop retail environments which would then allow a different scope, but ultimately what it was about was making the building into a cultural jewel.

“So for locals, independent makers, professional artists and professional makers to come here and have a space which they can actively partake in the volume of customers that come, that then facilitates people to come back.”

The trio agree that the space should be fully adapted and used to enrich the arts community within Scarborough, as they say artists want the spaces but they are not there.

Mr Springall said: “There are artists who are begging for these spaces, they’re looking for them but until they’re there they can’t come and use them. There are lots of people over these Covid years who have realised this is what they want to do.”

The artists claim they were offered to relocate to the building next door, but that building isn’t suitable for them due to the smaller windows (meaning less light), and they would rather stay together.

The artists also claim that not all of the artists who use these spaces were consulted about the plans by the council.

Nina Hughes, one of the artists, said: “We are what Scarborough needs more of and the council knows that they need more of this and people want it. They’re trying to get rid of us or move us on without telling us what’s going on. It’s disheartening because no-one tells you the truth or refuses to meet.

“For us as artists, we’d like to stay here together. That would be the dream. The most important thing is that this building is not left to go to ruin, as the Futurist did.

“We’re a breath of fresh air along here and I just think it would be a shame for the council to not recognise that.”