It ignores safety advice from experts. It puts lives and hundreds of homes at risk. You probably think of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council and the absolute horror of the Grenfell Tower fire.
But much closer to home, Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) has been doing exactly that for years. It has ignored the worries of Whitby residents and the Fight4Whitby campaigners. It has ignored safety advice and warnings from its own engineers and marine consultants about the urgent need to repair Whitby’s crumbling piers.
World-renowned consulting engineers Royal Haskoning warned in 2009 and again in 2012 that lives were at risk because of the lack of maintenance. They warned that major structural repairs to the piers should be carried out as soon as possible and that a breach or failure of the piers would put some 500 properties at greater risk of flooding.
SBC has taken no action beyond commissioning the preliminary survey now being carried out by Balfour Beatty. That survey is totally funded by the Environment Agency – from a grant which SBC accepted in 2013. SBC first said that repair work would start in 2011… then 2015… then 2017… and the latest delay has now pushed it back to 2019/2020 – but only if they can find the money!
Meanwhile SBC has found £millions to fund the Scarborough Water Park, Open Air Theatre, Sports Village and the £4million demolition of the Futurist Theatre. Despite finding the money for all those projects, SBC still say it cannot afford the £3.8m that it promised to find in 2012, to match the £4.8m grant from the Environment Agency for the urgent repairs to Whitby Piers.
In the stinging and bitter words of one Grenfell Fire campaigner: ‘It was not that we stayed silent, it was that they never responded. It was not that they ignored us, but that they viewed us with contempt’.
So let us all hope that SBC now stops its contemptuous attitude towards us, listens to us, responds to us and acts now, before it is too late.
Colin Pyrah OBE, Whitby
[This letter was published recently in the Yorkshire Post, and part of it in the Whitby Gazette].