Town Deal Board Hood-Winked?
Harbours correspondent ALLAN ROBERTS discloses how members of the Scarborough Town Deal Board (STDB) appear to have been ‘rail-roaded’ by SBC Officers over the latest so-called West Pier Regeneration Project. A previous incarnation, from fifteen years ago, is celebrated above – (special thanks to the eagle-eyed reader who bagged this snap at the former TIC building) – when the Council successfully squeezed some dosh out of Yorkshire Forward and the EU. Plus ça change . . .
It is no secret that Council have for years viewed the presence of the fishing industry on West Pier as unwelcome nuisance, in comparison to the tourism industry, as confirmed in its Visitor Economy Strategy document , which describes the Council’s aspirations for West Pier as:
‘Transformation of West Pier, to create a public piazza, provide new creative and retail outlets, and link with the fish landing.’
As part of that aspiration, in January 2020, the Council set up the Scarborough Town Deal Board (STDB), to oversee various projects including one close to my heart, the Harbour, where I earned my living for just short of 40 years.
Between Jan 2020 and March 2022, the STDB held 18 meetings, during which the Harbour was apparently discussed just three times. Copied below are the excerpts taken from the minutes of those STDB meetings.
‘The project team felt the following two projects were more suited to the culture, leisure and special places work stream; · Revitalising Scarborough Harbour’.
Culture, leisure & special places announced:
‘The project team have completed proformas for three projects including,
Harbour improvements – centre for food culture.’
‘Recommended for inclusion at Stage 2 – Scarborough Harbour Redevelopment’
SCARBOROUGH HARBOUR/WEST PIER
‘Helen Jackson (SBC) presented the Full Business Case for the Scarborough Harbour/West Pier project. Karl Battersby (NYCC) queries the Investor Save funding for the project.
Helen Jackson confirms that it has been accounted for.
Mike Greene (SBC, CEO) supports Helen Jackson, stating that Scarborough Borough Council have Investor Save funding streams.
Richard Grunwell ( Scarborough Businessman) supports the project but questions the projects impact on the fishing industry if it starts to improve.
Helen Jackson states that the project has dual aims in order to support both the fishing and tourism industry. With the buildings for the fishing industry able to be adapted if needed.
Mike Greene confirms that the cost of the project is due to the condition of some of the buildings on the Pier.
David Kerfoot (Chairman) proposes the board supports the Scarborough Harbour and West Pier project. The project is supported by the board and is passed unanimously.’
So there you have it – signed, sealed and rubber stamped – on the basis of what can only be described as a bare minimum of debate.
Let’s look a little closer at the 25+ membership of the STDB, and below is a typical screenshot taken from the minutes of May 2020:
Not one of those members has any maritime background or expert knowledge of Scarborough Harbour.
One member, for example, is a director of Anglo American, a company that, for those who may not be aware , is currently developing the multi-million pound potash mine on Whitby moor which, when up-and-running, will be the deepest mine in Europe and have the longest tunnel in Great Britain.
I am sceptical that this member has any interest in the West Pier, or the fishing industry, yet he is just one of a team making decisions that will affect the working conditions, and livelihoods, of the second-most successful shell fishery in the UK.
That said, there was just one member, businessman and retired solicitor Richard Grunwell, who, to his credit, did at least attempt to initiate a debate on the impact that the project will have on the fishing industry – only to be browbeaten by the Council’s CEO and his cohort Helen Jackson, Project Manager.
The Town Deal Board has, in effect, nodded through a project of which they have no understanding, and little interest.
The West Pier Regeneration Plan is a project which is unpopular not only with the Fishing industry, but also with many of the South Bay Traders, and residents of the old town.
It is a plan that has already seen the estimated cost rise in just one year, from £6.5m to £11.4 million – and still rising.
It is a plan that, as Cllr Liz Colling has confirmed, will exhaust completely the Harbour Reserve Fund and, in addition, will require borrowing on a scale not seen before at Scarborough Harbour.
It is a plan that provides nothing that does not already exist on West Pier.
This is an ill-thought-out project that must go back to the drawing board.