Questions for the Leader of Scarborough Borough Council

To: The Leader of Scarborough Borough Council

3 April 2017

Dear Cllr. Bastiman


The Highpoint-Rendel  report in 2002 concluded that the main Whitby Piers had a residual life of less than 10 years.  Since that date, the consequences of a breach or collapse of the Piers have worried the townsfolk of Whitby.  As Cllr. Plant told the Yorkshire Post in 2014 “The work must be done – we cannot put the future of Whitby at risk which is what would happen if the piers are not renovated.”

Despite SBC being at all times fully aware of the severe risks involved, no significant repairs have been carried out to the Piers over the past 15 years – with the exception of the emergency repairs to the landward end of the East Pier Extension which was on the verge of imminent collapse.

The risks posed by the repeated postponements of the renovation works raise such a level of concern that we consider the people of Whitby have the right to be made fully aware of the current situation.  Consequently, we advise you that this is an open letter, with copies to the media.

1. Repairs to the East and West Main Piers.

Over the years, the scheduled date for starting the work has been pushed ever further into the future.  The most recent postponement now contemplates starting the work in 2019/20 – some 17 years after SBC were first warned that the Piers could have a life expectancy of less than 10 years:

Start Date                                            Cited in

April 2011           (Royal Haskoning Report 2009 and draft SBC Project Appraisal Report (PAR) 2009)

April 2015            (SBC PAR: Final Grant Submission to Environment Agency. Nov. 2012)

July 2017              (Cllr. Cockerill interview with Yorkshire Post. Feb. 2015)

April 2018            (Cllr Cockerill interview with Whitby Gazette. Dec. 2016)

2019/20                (SBC Financial Strategy 2017/27. Approved March 2017)

The £4.8 million grant from the Environment Agency was awarded for repair works to start in April 2015 and be finished by May 2017.  The grant application, submitted by SBC in Nov. 2012, stated that it was not possible to delay the works on the Main Piers beyond this timescale.

QUESTION 1 Why did the works not start in 2015, as agreed with the Environment Agency?

QUESTION 2 Why has SBC not started the works, even now in 2017?

QUESTION 3 Why does SBC think it is safe to delay the works until 2019/20?


2. Risk Assessment

The Whitby Coastal Strategy 2, adopted by SBC in 2012, recognised the critical importance of the Whitby Harbour structures to the overall flood and coastal defence system across the wider Strategy frontage, as well as directly to the harbour itself.

A recent SBC report (17/71. 23 Mar 2017) stated that SBC has the ability but not the duty to carry out coastal protection works under the Coastal Protection Act 1949. However, Whitby Piers are essential Harbour structures as well as Coastal Defence structures.  As the Statutory Harbour Authority for Whitby Harbour, SBC does have a duty to maintain harbour structures and facilitate safe use of the harbour. It also has a duty of care against loss caused by the authority’s negligence.

QUESTION 4 Would you please confirm that the SBC Risk Assessments for the Whitby Piers Refurbishment project will henceforth include the risks resulting from SBC not meeting its duties as the Statutory Harbour Authority?

The SBC grant application to the Environment Agency in 2012 estimated that if no action was taken (the ‘Do Nothing’ option) and should the Piers and Extensions fail, the damage to property, tourism & amenity, loss of historic environment, loss of harbour function, etc. could amount to £129 million.

QUESTION 5 Would you please confirm  that SBC’s Insurance reserves are sufficient to cover any loss of life or damage to vessels and property resulting from a breach / failure of the Piers and Extensions, which was attributable to SBC’s negligence in maintaining the harbour?


3. Funding for the Repairs to the Main Piers

SBC adopted the Whitby Coastal Strategy 2 in July 2012 in the full knowledge that the Whitby Piers project would not be eligible for 100% grant funding and that “SBC as the major beneficiary will be required to contribute £3.7m towards the design and construction of this first phase to allow the scheme to progress.”

SBC applied to the Environment Agency for a grant of £4.8m towards the cost of the remedial works to the Main Piers.  The application stated that “SBC have secured a contribution of £1,501k for the design and construction of the first phase of the scheme (Main Piers). SBC have also allocated an additional £2,209k for inflation, and to cover the risk contingency above the 50%ile level.”

QUESTION 6 For what reason has the committed contribution of £1.5m not been included in the SBC budget since the grant of £4.8m was formally accepted in 2014?

As the Statutory Harbour Authority, SBC is required to comply with local harbour legislation.                                           For Whitby Harbour that is the Whitby Urban District Council Act 1905, which requires that all the monies generated by the Whitby Harbour undertaking be reserved exclusively for the maintenance and development of the harbour.  Given the periodic requirement for extensive repairs to the Piers over the centuries, it appears ironic that SBC has not respected an Act of Parliament which was specifically designed to avoid any future funding crisis in respect of repairs to Whitby Harbour and to the Piers in particular.

QUESTION 7 Why has SBC not complied with the requirements of the 1905 Act?

QUESTION 8 Why does SBC consider that it can ignore its statutory duties?

QUESTION 9 Would you please provide a detailed list of the income generated since 2012 from the car parks and all other assets on Whitby Harbour land?


4. Monitoring the Condition of the Pier Extensions.

SBC’s engineering consultant , Royal Haskoning, recommended in 2009 that rectification of the High Priority defects on the pier extensions (void filling and new scour protection works) should begin in April 2011. This did not happen.

Following the emergency repairs to the huge void on the landward end of the East Pier Extension, in 2010/11, Royal Haskoning issued a further report In May 2012.  In order to give higher priority to the works on the Main Piers, they advised that it could be possible to defer the start of the remaining void filling and scour protection works on the Extensions until 2032.

However this relaxation came with two conditions:

  • Dive surveys were to be conducted every 5 years between 2012 and 2032. This was to “ensure that any significant deterioration in condition (such as large voids) is reported in order to allow the timing of the repair work to be re-evaluated if required.” It should be emphasised that the annual walkover surveys cannot provide the data required.
  • Due to concerns regarding the poor quality of the concrete at the lower level of the extensions, Royal Haskoning recommended that horizontal core samples should be taken in order to provide a better understanding of the erosion process. The cores were to be taken during the design phase of the main piers, which at that time was anticipated to be 2014.

QUESTION 10 Has SBC conducted any dive surveys on the Extensions since 2012?

QUESTION 11 If so, please would you provide details of the findings in respect of the extent and location of the excessively corroded steel sheet piling, the number and location of holes in the pile pans and the size and location of the voids?

QUESTION 12 How  is SBC monitoring the inevitable deterioration of the existing scour protection, the occurrence of new voids and the enlargement of the existing ones?

QUESTION 13 Has SBC commissioned the taking of horizontal cores in the foundations of the extensions?

QUESTION 14 If so, may we have copies of their subsequent analysis?

QUESTION 15 If SBC has not commissioned any cores may we know the reason why?


5. Safety Matters

The 2009 Royal Haskoning report highlighted that immediate repairs were required to the metal ladders  on the East Pier Extension, which had missing rungs and “corrosion to an unsafe level.” Similarly ladders on the Main Piers were condemned because of rotten timbers and loose fittings. Repairs were also required within 5 years to the significantly corroded wire rope rails around the lower decks of both pier extensions.  Royal Haskoning warned that all of these defects could cause “severe injury, potentially fatal.”

QUESTION 16 Has SBC rectified all of these potentially life-threatening defects?

QUESTION 17 If some of these defects have not been rectified, almost 8 years after the report was issued, would SBC please provide a full explanation and justification for their inaction?


6. The Risks facing the People of Whitby.

Both the main piers and the pier extensions are riddled with defects.  However, information in reports compiled by Royal Haskoning provides an insight into the seriousness of the problems with the Piers:

  • Main Piers.   The stone walls and the stone slab /concrete  decking  of the Main Piers  depend for their support  on sound, intact and well-consolidated stone fill material.  Royal Haskoning  advised that in 2008 there were  12,000 cubic metres  of voids within the stone fill material of the Main Piers.  Thus 10% of the total volume of the fill material was missing – and further loss is likely since 2008.
  • Pier Extensions.  The solid concrete Pier Extensions are protected against scour, the creation of voids and the risk of collapse by sheet steel piling, backed with concrete.  The Pier Extensions shield the seaward ends of the Main Piers from the full brunt of wave action.  In 2008, 32% of the 680m of steel sheet piling around the Extensions was found to be extensively corroded, perforated and requiring replacement.  Some 75m were replaced during the emergency works, leaving 21% still to be replaced – plus whatever further deterioration has taken place over the past nine years.  On-going monitoring of the condition of the Extensions is not an optional extra.


Perhaps Cllr Bastiman, SBC should reflect on the possible dire consequences that these repeated delays and inaction pose for the people of Whitby: possible collapse/ breach of the piers – risk to human life – increased flooding and erosion – endangering people’s livelihoods – damage to possibly 500 properties – closure of harbour businesses – closure of the marina – damage to heritage sites – possible relocation of the lifeboat service – loss of a harbour of refuge – decline in tourism – damage to the environment –  and the major loss of sand from the beach between Whitby and Sandsend into the harbour.

This letter contains 17 specific questions. We would very much appreciate a prompt reply giving 17 specific answers.

Even more so, the people of Whitby and our millions of visitors would appreciate some very prompt remedial action by SBC.

Yours sincerely

On Behalf of Fight for Whitby

John Freeman