VICTORIAN sea defences around Scarborough’s Spa could be bolstered by controversial concrete steps after councillors chose the scheme as their preferred option.
It had been expected that they would opt for rock armour, as a way of defending against high tides which regularly batter the Yorkshire coast, but it was felt that the steps would be visually pleasing and complement the recently refurbished Spa building.
In December members of Scarborough Council’s Cabinet had asked for more detailed information about two options – rock armour and the concrete steps – and Stewart Rowe, the council’s principal coastal officer, yesterday recommended rock armour because it would cost less and need less long-term maintenance.
His proposal also included cliff stabilisation for the land behind the Spa as well as raising the level of the existing sea wall to prevent “overtopping” – where waves crash over the top of sea defences.
But Cllr Penny Marsden disagreed and said she preferred the concrete step option. She added: “This is a building that we’ve spent millions of pounds on. We should propose steps and go the whole hog.”
Cllr Mike Cockerill said there had been a great deal of misinformation, comment and scare mongering surrounding the scheme. He added: “We do need some further information.”
Last month the Cabinet decision was called in for scrutiny but committee members upheld the decision.
Cllr Godfrey Allanson, the chairman of the Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee, said there had been a thorough debate and added: “We’ve got to look very carefully at it. We need to get the right design there.”
Council leader Cllr Tom Fox said: “It’s a fun beach, it’s a playing beach and a beautiful beach. It’d be protecting an asset. It would be a facility and not just for defence. The concrete stepped revetment is something I’d like to see explored further.”
Once detailed proposals are prepared for the scheme it is expected that they will be brought back to Cabinet next February with a planning application in 2014 and it could be built by 2016.
However the two proposals have attracted criticism from The Sons of Neptune – who have objected to a loss of sand and favour other options including artificial reefs and breakwaters.
A brief history of Scarborough’s Spa
Natural mineral waters were first discovered in Scarborough in the early seventeenth century.
A lady by the name of Mrs Thomasin Farrer, the wife of a notable Scarborough gentleman James Farrer, is said to have recognised the water’s medicinal properties.
Within decades of the discovery Scarborough was well established as a pleasant destination to come and ‘take the waters’.
People flocked to Scarborough to enjoy the healing powers of the spring and a spa house was built in the early 1700s to sell the bitter tasting water to visitors.
The town grew with this influx of people, leading to the claim of it being the first true seaside resort.
A number of different buildings were erected on the site over the years to accommodate the tourists, however the areas proximity to the unforgiving sea and unstable cliffs led to a number of them being damaged or destroyed.
In the 1820s a new company leased the Spa from the local council and set about building a new ‘gothic’ style saloon. To improve access and increase profitability they also erected the Spa Bridge.
By the time the new buildings were opened they were deemed too small for the number of people visiting the town and they were redesigned by Sir Joseph Plaxton. Plaxton had previously worked on the grounds of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and the famous Crystal Palace.
The new building opened in 1858 complete with a large central hall, double promenade and carriage road, a colonnade with shops and an open air bandstand. Over the years there were many alterations including the introduction of the Cliff Lift in 1875. The current building owes much to the architecture of the 1880s.
Eventually the Spa became known more as an entertainment venue rather than an elegant establishment to ‘take the Scarborough water’, and in the 1960s public consumption of the waters ceased altogether.