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.”