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Plans are being drawn up for Whitby’s East Pier lighthouse to be inspected by a specialist restoration company.
While initial inspections have indicated the lighthouse is structurally sound, Scarborough Borough Council and the Whitby Harbour Board are eager to get a full picture of the assets in Whitby Harbour.
At the same time as the lighthouse is looked at in more detail, stonework jointing will be repaired and the structure will be repainted. A new door will also be fitted.
Laurie Farmer, Vice Chairman of the Whitby Harbour Board, said: “The board is currently drawing up a detailed management plan for all its harbour assets and this will be included in it for overall consideration and prioritising in accordance with the asset status and available budget and having regards to any identified risks and opportunities.
“We must point out that like many port landlords we have limited revenue funding at our disposal and have to manage both significant and in some cases ageing infrastructure.”
The lighthouse, which along with East Pier itself is listed, was built in 1854, most probably from Aislaby sandstone and stands around 55ft tall. It is no longer used as an operating navigational beacon, having been replaced by a new lighthouse after the completion of the East Pier extension in around 1914, but is known to be used as a navigational reference point aid to approaching vessels.
The lighthouse is among the assets under the stewardship of the Whitby Harbour Board, which is part of Scarborough Borough Council. The East Pier is also part of that asset register and forms part of the town’s coastal defences.
The East Pier Lighthouse access has been boarded up for some time in reaction to anti-social behaviour which has from time to time occurred and in recent months, and some local interests have suggested the lighthouse has developed a sinister lean and may be at risk of collapse.
However, it has been examined by the council’s structural engineer and, because it is of historical importance, a joint inspection has also taken place with a representative of English Heritage.
The first inspection found that while there is evidence of some structural cracking to parts of the stonework and some obvious aeolian and marine weathering, this is not believed to be of recent origin and, on the face of it is not considered to be prejudicial to the structural integrity of the lighthouse or attributable to the recent coastal protection works started on the nearby East Pier extension.
Following the recent inspection, it is proposed that the borough council’s conservation officer considers the lighthouse as part of the Whitby Conservation Area appraisal and looks to include it in a register of “Buildings at Risk – category 3”. This is the lowest category of at risk structure designation and does not infer any immediate risk.
The shorter term action being suggested for the East Pier Lighthouse is that the structure be inspected by the specialist restoration company and, coincidental with that inspection, as a minimum the stonework jointing is raked out and reinstated with hydraulic lime mortar with high porosity.
During this inspection and work, Mr Farmer says consideration will also be given about the treatment or replacement of some stonework as necessary and to an agreed extent and specification, subject to funding availability.
The temporary sealed door will be replaced with a secure yet more befitting door that would seek to sympathetically replicate the original access door. This door will open outwards for the purposes of future access for maintenance. The door, windows and railings/tower will be repainted in white, weather resistant paint.
Whitby Civic Society is to be approached to provide suitable wording for a new public information board explaining the history of the pier and lighthouse, which will be secured to the lower part of the new door in print size that would allow easy reading from the level of the pier surface.
Mr Farmer added: “We hope this clarifies the situation and will assure people of our best endeavours now and in the future.”