Wednesday 22nd May 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

URGENT: 2nd Town Assembly

September 14, 2023 Whitby Town

URGENT: 2nd Town Assembly

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, alerting Whitby residents/electors to the convening of the SECOND Town Meeting/Assembly within a fortnight. Two major issues were excluded from the Town Meeting/Assembly held at the Coliseum on Monday 4th September 2023, on account of the fact that the Chair – Whitby Town Mayor Councillor Bob DALRYMPLE – closed the Meeting prematurely, having spat out his dummy  following the successful Call for a Town Poll. See earlier report “WTC: Much-Needed Town Poll Confirmed” here:

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Councillors Chris RIDDOLLS and Alf ABBOTT have convened another Town Meeting/Assembly to allow a proper debate on major issues facing the town – namely, two of the Whitby Town Deal Board’s highly unpopular projects (i) to build a four-storey ‘Maritime Training Hub’ on Endeavour Wharf, and (ii) to restore the Old Town Hall in the Market Place (long overdue) and simultaneously create a bizarre and superfluous ‘plinth’ or ‘apron’, elevating around 45% of the market area (for reasons unknown) to a height of up to five feet.

The voting members of the Whitby Town Deal Board are listed on the North Yorkshire Council website, as follows:

All of these voting members were appointed – not elected. We did not choose them.

Asking around east Whitby, I found that, for the most part, members of the public (amongst a sample of nearly 40) recognised only three of these names (Sir Robert GOODWILL MP; former WTC Mayor Linda WILD and Harbourmaster Captain Chris BURROWS); two knew of Barry HARLAND and one mentioned vaguely recognising the name of NYC Chief Executive Richard FLINTON.

Seemingly, very few Town Deal Board members are even resident in Whitby – perhaps only Linda WILD, herself a relative newcomer who no member of the public voted onto the Town Council – or onto the Town Deal Board.

Nevertheless, these are the people who approved the Whitby Town Deal Board projects – only one of which has achieved (and deserved) any popular acclaim; namely, the splendid new facilities at the East Side Community Centre (including the Boxing Club) driven by Sandra TURNER, outside of her role as a Whitby Town Councillor.

Maritime Training Hub

Regarding the ‘Maritime Hub’, I can do no better than quote Sue BOYCE’s definitive article, published in the Whitby Civic Society newsletter:

How many members of the Whitby Town Deal Board enjoyed even a passing understanding of these concerns, before happily committing to blowing £10M on such a risky and pointless exercise, is not recorded. But, hey, what the hell? Few of them live in Whitby . . . why should they care?

Old Town Hall & Market Place

The Whitby Town Deal Board describes the proposal thus:

In response to this proposal, the Whitby Community Network commented:

Having attended the three-hour ‘consultation’ on the proposals for the Old Town Hall & Market Place, on 30th May last year, I can confirm from first-hand experience that virtually NOBODY wanted anything more (or less) than a thoroughgoing and long overdue RESTORATION of the third-most photographed structure in Whitby, the focal centre of the old town since 1788.

As far as I could tell, however, the consultants made note only of passing visitors’ remarks regarding the steepness of the cobbled incline leading up from Sandgate. That, presumably, provided the ‘justification’ for ‘levelling up’ the market stalls area – hardly the kind of ‘levelling up’ that the Department of Levelling Up, Homes & Communities had in mind . . .

Plans for the first floor seem to have overlooked entirely the fact that there is (and can be) no disabled access. And the very tightly-wound spiral staircase would hardly suffice as an emergency exit.

Further, during torrential rain (when the drainage system proves totally inadequate), the run-off passing downhill on either side of the Town Hall dissipates by spreading out laterally across the market area. The ‘plinth’ would prevent this – and adjacent cellars would soon be flooded, along with the public conveniences and the Shambles indoor market at the bottom of the slope (see bottom right in the composite image below).

Access for emergency vehicles and RNLI crew members would also be severely constricted.

All in all, a throughly dreadful and ill-begotten plan.

Aside from these obvious practicalities, and lest we forget, Whitby’s strongest appeal (to residents and visitors) is its cultural heritage.

The erstwhile Scarborough Borough Council offers an explanatory overview of architect Burrell Foley Fisher’s vision here:

“Conservation Area”? Do me a favour!

The following snippet from the Yorkshire Post (16th July 2023) report on the Planning Application meeting offers a perhaps unintended indictment of Whitby Councillors:

One could not make it up – but the Town Deal Board did . . .

The Whitby Town Deal Board’s ‘vision’ to gentrify the Market Place amounts to nothing more than a classic case of “we are being offered funding – let’s grab it!”, even though (as ever) much of it will be squandered on invalid ‘consulations’, misbegotten ‘visions’, slaries and perks for local government desk-jockeys and pure ignorance of the very nature and character of Whitby.

As one Town Deal Board member said (and I have this from multiple sources) “For heaven’s sake, don’t ask the people of Whitby what they want – they won’t say what we want them to!”.

Returning to the second (or second part of the 4th September Meeting/Assembly) the Town Meeting/Assembly, the crux of the matter is this:

Since North Yorkshire Council is already legally obliged to hold a Parish Poll on the Question:

. . . there is nothing to lose by including in that Poll further Questions, at no additional cost, on the extent (or lack) of community support for these two absurd vanity projects.

The people of Whitby have one last chance to be heard on this subject;

at the Town Meeting/Assembly to be held at the Coliseum on Monday 18th September 2023, at 6:00pm.

Be there!

Bring your mums and dads.

Bring your brothers and sisters.

But BE THERE!

With thanks to readers, it would now appear that purportedly newer (though slightly conflicting) versions of the artist’s impressions of the Old Town Hall / Market Place proposal are currently being displayed on Council web-pages:

In an email today, Kerry LEAVITT stated:

These were the original design proposals we put forward for the market place but unfortunately, we received a large number of strong objections to it when we carried out our public engagement and therefore we made the decision to remove the bottom platform and just keep the upper platform which is what was included in the approved planning consent.

Kind regards,

Kerry

Regeneration Projects Officer, Community & Economic Development 

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