Closure For Whitby West Pier Extension

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A recent inspection of the footbridge between the West Pier and the West Pier extension in Whitby has highlighted health and safety concerns. As a precautionary measure in the interest of public safety, Scarborough Borough Council has closed the bridge today to public access until further notice.

The structure is significantly corroded and delaminated, which has resulted in a major reduction in its structural capacity. The fact that the footbridge is in an extremely exposed and aggressive corrosive environment, which is frequently subjected to high wind forces and wave action, has meant its deterioration over the years has been extremely difficult to prevent.

The council has undertaken regular maintenance of the accessible parts of the bridge like the decking and the handrails, but not the inaccessible underside areas of the bridge. The material used to build the bridge, which the council believes took place some time between 50 and 98 years ago wouldn’t nowadays be recommended for bridge construction, which adds even more weight to not repairing it but replacing it at the end if its natural life with a new bridge made of materials that are far more likely to stand up to the rigours of the marine environment and can be more easily maintained.

The council will now be liaising with Whitby Harbour Board and other stakeholders with a view to replacing the bridge as soon as possible.

Brian Bennett, the council’s Head of Tourism and Culture said:

“When we receive this kind of report, public safety is our number one priority and for that reason, we have had no choice but to close the bridge. We fully understand that this will impact on the enjoyment of both local people and visitors and for that we offer our apologies.

“The footbridge is in such a position that its lifespan has been severely affected by the aggressive nature of the environment around it and the inaccessibility in terms of maintenance. Even during the recent inspection, our own engineers were only able to access the first lower level of the pier and had to conduct the vast majority of their visual inspection via a long lens camera to ensure they could get an accurate assessment of the these parts of the structure.

“We are fully committed to developing proposals for a fit for purpose replacement as soon as we possibly can and as part of those plans we will be looking for solutions that will provide a far more effective way of being able to maintain all aspects of the bridge structure in the future.”

14 Responses to "Closure For Whitby West Pier Extension"

  1. rhajibuhga  September 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

    “As soon as we possibly can”, If the East Pier is any indication of “getting things started” then we are in for a long wait. The Whitby Sea Anglers article of 1 april 2009 is starting to look prophetic .
    When Mr Bennett ,or whoever does these things, puts out to tender, maybe he/they could include the bridge to the East Pier to be done at the same time, maybe some economies could be made.
    It’s so damned depressing watching the Harbour we love crumbling away every where we look.
    Who’s arse needs kicking? I’m sure there’s no shortage of volunteers to do the kicking, I’m up for it.

  2. peter anderson  September 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    lets see just how the harbour board now intend to spend the £300 000 that they are alledged to have at there disposal.i will lay odds that not a penney will be spent on either east or west peir.(i hope i am very wrong).

  3. pete budd  September 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Scarborough has no pride in Whitby and why should they? They have a town of their own to cherish.

  4. Al Roberts  September 10, 2011 at 8:52 am

    From The Harbour Users Group of Scarborough, (THUGS) meeting with SBC officers dated April 2010.

    RW questioned whether a servicing contract for Whitby and Scarborough harbour bridges wasever taken out.
    Martin Willis replied that it hadn’t.

    Mr Willis, a well known fan of the Bothams Pork Pie, was of course ths Harbourmaster at that time

  5. Nigel Ward  September 10, 2011 at 9:09 am

    So let’s find out how diligent the Council has been in its Duty of Care, shall we? The HSE should know . . .

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Nigel
    Cc: ; John Freeman ; W JONES ; Terry Jennison ; Tom Brown ; ; Nial Carson ; SEAN RIXHAM- SMITH ; ; Ken Graham ; ; PHIL TRUMPER ; ; AMANDA SMITH ; ; ; IAN HAVELOCK ; GLENN KILPATRICK ;
    Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 6:14 PM
    Subject: Freedom of Information request [1] Whitby West Pier > WP Extension bridge

    Mr Geoffrey PODGER – Health & Safety Executive


    I write to lodge a request for information under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

    By way of preamble, allow me to direct you to the following news story on the Whitby Gazette web-site:

    You will note that the story concerns the closure, due to ‘significant corrosion’, of the bridge linking Whitby’s West Pier to the West Pier Extension. You may be aware that the bridge linking Whitby’s East Pier to the East Pier Extension has been closed for the past nine years.

    There is, as you may well imagine, the most conspicuous public interest in Whitby in regard to the advanced state of decay of much of the town’s maritime infrastructure.

    This latest development is fraught with extraordinary anxiety because of the knowledge that tens or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people have passed over the West Pier bridge throughout the summer season. The waters over which it passes experience fierce ‘rip’ currents at flood tide, as I am sure you are aware. The prospect of twenty or thirty people being flung simultaneously into that cauldron is horrendous. Yet it is clearly self evident that ‘significant corrosion’ does not take place from one day to the next. It is my contention that

    With all that in mind, I proceed now to my request for information:

    1) Please provide me with a detailed description of HSE’s remit in respect of public safety as it concerns (i) Whitby Piers, (ii) Extensions, (iii) bridges, (iv) Lighthouses, (v) railings, (vi) ramps, (vii)ladders, (viii) cleats ,(ix) capstans and (x) life-belts; specifically;

    a) At what intervals are inspections of each of the foregoing made? By whom, and in what degree of detail?

    b) When was the most recent inspection of each of the foregoing made? By whom, and in what degree of detail?

    c) Please provide the reports for all inspections since 1st January 2005 until the date of your response to this FOIA request.

    2) Please explain the chain of responsibility in respect of the H&E aspects of the aforementioned structures. (For example: Whitby Harbour Master, SBC Borough Engineer, SBC Head of Tourism & Culture, Chairman of the Whitby Harbour Board, Whitby Town (Parish) Council, CEO of Scarborough Borough Council, the Health & Safety Executive).

    Thank you.

    In layman’s terms, I would like to know where the buck stops, and through whose hands it passes on its inexorable route to that destination.

    For clarity, I am trying to establish on whose watch (so to speak) the lives and well-being of countless people have been subjected to great peril, when the example of the East Pier bridge, nine whole years before, should have sufficed to alert ‘the powers that be’ to the eminent likelihood that the West Pier bridge may, too, be approaching the end of its useful (and safe) life.

    I want to know how it is that a structure for which I, and other civic-minded members of the Whitby public, have campaigned in vain for many years has not long ago been identified as being a danger to the public and a proper subject for urgent temporary closure, repair and indeed restoration – given the part it plays in one of the most iconic and historic harbours in the world.

    If you find my tone acerbic, be assured that it is not my attention to cause distress; you may wish to place it within the perspective of the depths of my frustration and concern.

    I would be obliged if you would furnish me, by return, with an acknowledgement of this request and a designated FOIA number. Thank you.

    For your information, it is my preference to be addressed by my given name – ‘Nigel’ – and I find it deeply offensive to be addressed as ‘Mr Ward’ or ‘Mr Nigel Ward’; I am a human being, and most definitely not a legal personality. I would be obliged, therefore, if you would kindly address me as ‘Nigel’ in any future correspondence. Thank you.

    It is accepted ‘best practice’, in the interests of transparency, to include all preceding emails of a given ‘thread’ within the textual body of all subsequent emails on that topic, thereby giving all parties a convenient overview of the correspondence thus far. I would be obliged if you would adhere to that ‘best practice’ in future correspondence. Thank you.

    For clarity, and in the interests of transparency, I reserve the right to include members of the press and public as undisclosed recipients in my correspondence, and to publish that correspondence in the media and on the world wide web.

    Yours, with very kind regards,


    Cc: Whitby Town (Parish) Council, the Press
    Bc: Undisclosed Recipients

    “For too long those in power made decisions behind closed doors, released information behind a veil of jargon and denied people the power to hold them to account. This coalition is driving a wrecking ball through that culture – and it’s called transparency.” – [David Cameron]

    “If councillors and council officers are to be held to account, the press and public need access to the information that will enable them to do it. If town halls want to reduce the amount they spend on responding to freedom of information requests they should consider making the information freely available in the first place. The simple act of throwing open the books, rather than waiting for them to be prised apart by the force of an FOI, might even save a few pounds in the process.” – [Eric Pickles]

  6. Jon Risdon  September 13, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Negligence and avoidance of responsibility for maintenance is so easy, yet insidious, because by the time the damage is apparent it is usually cheaper to remove rather than repair.
    How reprehensible if this were a policy decision; is that possible? Whitby has always been the quainter, more characterful harbour town than the more down-market Scarborough with its ‘kiss-me-quick’ populist appeal, so it would not be surprising if an edge were sought.
    Shame there’s no accountability, let alone transparency, for all the politicians’ pontificating. Still; that’s what politicians appear to be best at: hope for a wind farm yet, eh?

  7. Nigel Ward  September 13, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Not enough people attempting to hold them to account, Jon. You would think that Whitby Town (parish) Council might make an effort, wouldn’t you?

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Nigel
    To: Ian Anderson
    Cc: SEAN RIXHAM- SMITH ; ; Cllr.Janet Jefferson ; ; ; Cllr.Helen Mallory ; AMANDA SMITH ; DENNIS COLLINS ; IAN HAVELOCK ; Ken Graham ; ; Tom Brown ;
    Sent: Sunday, September 11, 2011 11:07 PM
    Subject: TREE COSTS + APPEAL

    Mr Ian ANDERSON – Head of Legal Services – Scarborough Borough Council


    I trust you are well.

    I trust, too, that you will not display such rank effrontery as to attempt to deem this FOIA information request ‘vexatious’.

    Referring to the following story in the SEN:

    in particular:
    Cllr Colin Challen, who also sits on the committee, branded the £250,000 fee a “waste of money”.

    He added: “On top of the money spent by the county council on legal fees, we will face another bill for the borough council’s costs.

    1) Under the FOIA, please provide me with a complete breakdown of the Borough Council’s gross costs to which Councillor Colin Challen refers in the article. Thank you.

    In the light of the closure, due to “significant corrosion”, of the West Pier to West Pier Extension bridge – as blatant a demonstration of the rampant negligence by SBC of Whitby’s maritime infrastructure as I can recall – I believe that the public has a consuming interest in how much of the public purse has been squandered to no measurable avail on this astonishing tree affair, described by Colin Challen as “a waste of money”.

    2) Also under the terms of the FOIA, please provide a detailed description of the Council’s procedures for appointing external legal representation and the extent to which ‘retrospective rebate’ is applicable to external legal service providers. You will recall that ‘retrospective rebate’ is the process by which 1% of settled invoices is repaid to the Council by external service contractors and vired to the Procurement Unit – from whence it could no doubt finance a maintenance contract for the bridge, though – as the ex-Harbour Master has confirmed – no such contract was finalized by the Council. (Please refer to the copied correspondence between a member of the public and SBC’s David Gomersall, reproduced at the foot of this email).

    On another matter: you will also oblige me by responding, please, to my lawful appeal (28/08/11) for review of the Senior Solicitor’s spurious ‘vexatious’ allegations and arranging to meet me, in Whitby, with a view to resolving the outstanding issues without further delay I suggest you invite Councillor Challen to join us. Thank you.

    Please acknowledge, providing a designated FOIA number. Thank you.

    Kindest regards,

    Scarborough Harbour Users’ Group Meeting (Minutes) [excerpt]

    RW questioned whether a servicing contract for Whitby and Scarborough harbour bridges was ever taken out.

    MW replied that it hadn’t.

    • Jon Risdon  September 13, 2011 at 10:07 am

      If Whitby Town (Parish) Council doesn’t fight for [and achieve, not just emit endless hot air] the needs of Whitby & its people, then of what actual use is it?

  8. Maggie Hall  September 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    The Yorkshire Post published this letter, from me, Sept 13th:

    The poor piers of Whitby! Now, through total lack of maintenance, care and attention, it’s not possible to access either end of the iconic twin piers.

    And Scarborough is to blame. Whitby’s governing town is only 22 miles down the road. It might as well be a million. The needs of the jewel of the Yorkshire coast are constantly ignored. While the coffers are dug into to fix, renew and enhance, the infrastructure, facilities and attractions of Scarborough.

    Years ago, a storm put an end to the narrow bridge leading onto the East Pier. The understanding is that around £40,000 would see it replaced. But even that meagre amount of money is not forthcoming.

    Now the end of the West Pier is out of bounds. Apparently the girders, holding the access bridge in place, are so severely corroded it’s not deemed safe to have people walking on it. A notice declares that this shocking damage was spotted during “a routine” inspection. And access was banned within hours. I – along with most residents – suspect there was nothing “routine” about this inspection, on the basis there has neither been regular checks, or maintenance work (ie repainting of the girders with marine paint) to keep this severe corrosion at bay.

    So yet again historic, quaint, charming, Whitby, is swiped with a bully-punch from Scarborough.

    A symbolic act of abuse, several years ago, signaled the beginning of the poor-cousin era. Whitby lost its “town hall”. Scarborough sold the magnificent Georgian property (deeded to Whitby for the use of it residents), that housed it, to a property developer – and shoved the town’s business into an empty shop-front.

    Whitby is forever being cited in tourism top-ten lists, for all the best reasons. But the huge fear now is that it will soon make the top-ten for “most neglected”.

  9. rhajibuhga  September 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Very well put Maggie.

  10. Nigel Ward  September 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I now have it from TWO sources (one inside the St Nicholas Strasse Town Hall; the other, an elected member) that discussions have apparently been taking place with a ‘preferred contractor’ regarding the possible DEMOLITION of the top decks of BOTH Pier Extensions – on the basis that there is no money available to repair (much less restore) them, and the risk to shipping of pieces of timber etc falling off poses too big a liability.

    And I can confirm that a Whitby Town (Parish) Councillor has heard exactly the same from a separate, independent source.

    Extensions, Bridges, Lighthouses, Piers, Swing-Bridge, Harbour Wall, Lighting & Seating – ALL rotten – ALL neglected for the last 37 years (in fact, since SBC took over from Whitby Urban & Rural District Councils on 1st April 1974).

    Now we know why they did it on April Fool’s Day!

    Meanwhile, umpteen million OVER BUDGET on the North Bay Sea Defences in Scarborough (the infamous HighPoint-Rendel scam); the lavish bottomless pit revamp of Scarborough Spa; the black hole known as The Sands project; the white elephant Open Air Theatre; on and on and on it goes.

    And SBC’s David Kitson (the ‘SS’ – the Senior Solicitor) has the nerve to accuse ME of ‘alleging’ (yes, ‘alleging’) that there has been, as a matter of practice and policy, a BIAS against investment in Whitby! I’m not ‘alleging’, David. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. The Harbour is in ruin!

    Not just any old harbour, mindst – WHITBY HARBOUR. Cook’s Harbour. One of a handful of the world’s truly historic launch pads to global discovery. And these upstarts have plunged it into ruin!

    Shall I tell him? Or will we ALL tell him together?

  11. Tony Morris  September 16, 2011 at 9:40 am

    The Bridge, together with that to the East Pier Extension, was blown up at the beginning of WW2 on the instructions of a nervous subaltern, so the tale goes, who was concerned that it might assist the Germans in any attempt at invasion, which was expected at that time. Both Bridges were replaced after WW2, in the late 1940′s.
    Is there no one else in Whitby or Scarborough that remembers these things. Ancient Bards have their uses!

  12. rhajibuhga  September 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Was the subaltern from Scarborough?

  13. Richard Foleher  October 26, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Now, whilst I realise that this thread is a couple of years old, I am really interested to find out what has been done since the above letters, Info requests etc.

    I’ve recently taken to fishing from the West Peir and thoroughly enjoy it, even climbing down to the lower level and crossing the barrier in the hunt for those elusive fish (safely of course).

    So, what is the latest news? Nigel, did you get your answers? Have the SBC still got control? Are their any plans afoot to repair the East Bridge?

    How any of you thought about taking control of the piers upkeep and fund raising to get them repaired?

    I look forward to any updates?



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whitby photography by glenn kilpatrick