Whitby Swing Bridge to be closed to traffic on weekends and Bank Holidays from April - and park and ride could be extended through winter
North Yorkshire County Council has voted to begin a trial period in which Whitby's Swing Bridge is closed to vehicles at busy times.
The trial starts in April and run for at least 18 months before it is reviewed. Traffic will be banned between 10.30am-4pm on weekends and Bank Holidays throughout the year.
Temporary closures have already had to be implemented in recent years due to Whitby's increasing popularity as a year-round visitor destination.
The initial proposal was that the ban would be imposed across all seven days of the week, but a public consultation on the issue revealed concerns over bus access which required further analysis.
In 2019, there were closures on busy weekends due to safety concerns over narrow footways, and in the summer of 2020 these were extended under Covid-19 regulations to ensure social distancing. Pier Road was also closed to all but essential access every day.
Coun Don Mackenzie, the county council's executive member for access, said: “With visitors to Whitby increasing each year and the prospect of a staycation boom this summer, we want to be on the front foot. In recent years, we have had to close the Swing Bridge to traffic at incredibly busy times. This trial strives to find a balance between allowing traffic over the bridge and the needs of pedestrians at peak times. However, I would stress that this is a trial and it will be reviewed before any decision about its permanence.”
Highways officers will monitor the trial until its first review in December 2021, and during the first six months it will be enforced by an experimental traffic order that allows members of the public to give feedback.
Whitby Streonshalh ward councillor Joe Plant added: “In recent years, the huge number of visitors to the town on summer weekends and events forced us to act, and the issue has been magnified due to social distancing.
“I support the trial, as I would like to test the effect of any restrictions in the winter months before making this permanent. I’m pleased that the bridge will remain open on weekdays as it is a vital link for buses and taxis.
“At the meeting, I asked officers to revisit whether it is practical and affordable to extend the Whitby park and ride service into the winter months, and if it can, that installing new low-level lighting on the site be looked into.
“Now that this decision has been taken, it is paramount for all of us to work together to find a permanent solution.”
Coun Plant’s recommendation concerning the park and ride was agreed.
Some members of the public attended the online meeting and were given the opportunity to make statements and ask questions, which were answered by officers.
The existing daily March to September restrictions on St Ann’s Staith, Pier Road, Haggersgate and Khyber Pass will be extended to year-round and all vehicles will be prohibited on Grape Lane between 10.30am and 4pm, year round.
Whitby Town Deal Board has secured £400,000 of fast-track Government funding to pay for the infrastructure needed to carry out the trial, which will be implemented by the county council’s highways team.
Signs will advise of the trial and redirect traffic approaching the town centre, replacing the temporary signage currently used for closures.