Spa and buildings in danger as cliff work is ‘unaffordable’

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The future of Scarborough’s famous Spa Complex and 380 nearby properties are under threat from increasingly heavy seas and the risk of landslides which have the potential to cause over £100m damage, a report has warned.

Towns and villages battered by the winter storms and floods are among 50 areas across the UK getting a share of £27.7m of Government cash for coastal communities.

However, senior councillors at the seaside resort will be told tomorrow that the latest study looking at coastal conditions has found more extensive work needs to be done to stabilise the cliffs near the Spa Complex and the full cost of the project is now £24m - something which the authority says makes the project “unaffordable”.

The members of the council’s cabinet committee will be asked whether officers should be granted permission to enter into discussions with the Environment Agency and others to see if extra cash can be found for the scheme.

Coun Mike Cockerill, cabinet member for harbours, assets, coast and flood protection, said the latest study had highlighted the more immediate work needed doing on the cliffs as opposed to the sea defences. The current seawall around the spa dates back to the 1840s. However, he said the defences would be maintained.

Members will also be asked to draw up a plan to deal with the risks of over-topping of the defences from the sea in storms and high seas.

“Where you have got cliffs and sea, one is working against the other, so its an ongoing problem,” Cllr Cockerill said.

Jim Dillon, the council’s chief executive warns in a report prepared for committee members that with no maintenance of the cliff, frequent shallow slips and less-common serious landslides had the potential to overrun the seawall, displace it or destroy it completely.

“Once the seawall was breached, either due to landslips or damage by the sea, the promenade and spa complex would soon be lost to coastal erosion, within three years, ” he warns.

He warns that the total cost to the area could be £114m if nothing was done and the Spa Complex, the cliff lift and cliff top properties were lost. The figure also includes estimates for things such as the loss of tourists.

Mr Dillon adds: “Recession of the cliff top would result in the loss of assets, services and property in the South Bay, properties within a 100 metre band form the cliff top would be at risk, including 380 households. “It is estimated that the front row of properties including 138 households at the cliff top would be lost within five years of failure of the seawall.”

Proposals to put rock armour in place to protect the area have been met with a number of concerns because of fears the rocks would spoil the beauty of that part of the coast and fears it would restrict the use of the beach and bathing waters.

However, Mr Cockerill said: “At some time in the future its quite possible that rock armour would be part of the solution.”

The cost of restoring the cliffs and seawall have gone up, with council bosses now believing it would cost £24m, when factors such as inflation and other costs are considered. It is expected that the project would attract a maximum grant of £11.5m from the Environment Agency, meaning £12.7m will have to be found from other sources, predominantly the council. But it says it does not have this cash.