Friday 12th July 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Whitby Abbey ‘Aire’ – a Winter Lifeline

Whitby Abbey ‘Aire’ – a Winter Lifeline

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, offering a ray of hope for businesses in Whitby – and the whole of East and North Yorkshire.


The North Yorks Enquirer has received a Letter to the Editor – one which subsequent enquiries reveal has also been sent to Yorkshire Coast Radio (who covered the story, sort of, here), the Scarborough News and the Whitby Gazette.

The Letter, signed off by former Scarborough Borough Councillor (and Portfolio Holder) Sandra TURNER, speaks kindly of me and equally kindly of former East Riding of Yorkshire Councillor and campaigner Andy STRANGEWAY, whose name will be familiar to regular readers. This part has been omitted from the YCR report (by special request, I am given to understand).

The substance of the Letter concerns itself with an initiative that grew out of a socially-distanced site visit made by Andy and I for the purposes of examining the form of words on the signage prohibiting ‘overnight’ parking in a Council-owned car park. (Regular readers may be aware of Andy’s success in challenging TROs, PSPOs and OPPOs prohibiting ‘overnight’ parking; so are many Councils. The fact is that ‘overnight’ is not defined in law, thus rendering such prohibitions unenforceable).

When I presented the proposal to Whitby east side community group leaders Hero SUMNER (Chair of the East Side Traders’ Association) and former SBC Councillor Sandra TURNER (East Side Community Centre) the response was as positive as that recorded by Andy when he approached the motorhomer community – BRING IT ON!

But let me not steal Sandra TURNER’s thunder . . .

Letter to the Editor 

Preparing for a Future working with Covid-19

Dear Sir, 

I write to you as a former Scarborough Borough Councillor of nearly fifteen years service to express my strongest urgings to present Councillors of all political persuasions. For heaven’s sake, and for the sake of our business people, all pull together!

Nobody could have imagined, when the Labour/Independent coalition wrested control of the Council in May 2019, that the year (perhaps years) ahead would see the world, the country and the Borough driven to a virtual standstill by the COVID-19 virus. Since the local elections, we have witnessed a landslide Conservative victory in the general election, yet a Labour administration here in the Borough; a new PM has complied with the will of the 52% and discharged Brexit, yet the Leader of our own Council, for one reason or another, has accomplished very little, particularly here in the northern area. But surely the problems ahead transcend party politics? 

The immediate tragedy of the coronavirus – the forty thousand plus deaths – is certain to be followed by an extended period of dire economic challenge. Here in Whitby, our many small businesses have seen their town empty during the most glorious spring and early summer on record – and this following a long, wet and unusually quiet winter. Despite the grants and loans, the lasting legacy of the coronavirus pandemic will inevitably include the collapse of many hitherto vibrant businesses, job losses, mortgage foreclosures and bankruptcy.  

As we ease out of lockdown, our town will be crying out for footfall – self-distanced, of course – and, above all, creative ideas to extend the season, if possible through to Christmas and beyond. Local campaigners Andy Strangeway and Nigel Ward, through connections in the British motorhome community, the Whitby East Side Traders Association and other tourism-related business bodies, have been discussing with me the possibility of attracting motorhomers in large numbers (there are some 250,000 registered owners, in this country alone) to a specially designated parking area on the Council Abbey Headland carpark, where power and water facilities are already available, during the period November to March, when parking is free.  

Everyone I have spoken to sees this local initiative as a precious lifeline in an otherwise bleak economic landscape. Unfortunately, the Council’s association with the Yorkshire Coast BID has borne no fruit, nor even the promise of fruit – only controversy and negativity. What we need now is for the Council to set aside past differences and political divisions and embrace the unpaid and unrewarded creative input and community spirit of people like Mr Strangeway and Mr Ward. I may have lost my Cabinet Portfolio but never my fervent desire to do the best I can for the people of my town. This plan is a winner and I urge my former colleagues to get behind it, as I am sure they must. Right now, more than ever we must take advantage of any opportunities available to us. 

Best regards 

Sandra Turner

I can report that discussions with local business proprietors has confirmed virtually unanimous support for the proposal. In the past, the National Motorhome Organisation has been shunned in Whitby since a small number of B&B proprietors on Whitby’s West Cliff lobbied the bejasus out of former SBC Councillor Joe PLANT [Con.] to prohibit ‘overnight’ parking (apparently motorhomes parking ‘overnight’ there were “spoiling the view”- at night!). This present initiative faces no such objections.

I can also report that SBC’s leading Opposition Group is fully supportive, as the following Press Release confirms:

The Conservative Group on Scarborough Borough Council today call for support for a proposal put forward by former Councillor Sandra Turner to extend the season in Whitby by allowing motor homes to use the Abbey Headland car park during the winter months. There are toilet and water facilities on the site already and a nominal charge could be levied. There are at least 250,000 motor homes registered in the UK and they are an important part of the tourism industry with disposable income that could be usefully spent in Whitby. Leader of the Conservative Group on Scarborough Borough Council Cllr Derek Bastiman said: 

“We welcome good ideas wherever they come from in the spirit of cooperation and in the best interest of all the businesses in Whitby and the surrounding areas. We would hope that other similar initiatives could be explored throughout the Borough to extend the season and promote the local economy and employment which has suffered drastically in this crisis. If our economy is to recover we need the skills of all local business and community leaders to be recognised and used by the current administration in the Town Hall.”

Chair of the Whitby East Side Traders’ Association, Whitby Town Councillor Hero SUMNER – who is also spokesperson for the Yorkshire Coast Levy Payers’ Association – sums up the initiative thus:

“This idea would be great news for us all if Scarborough Council were to take this more ‘inclusive’ approach.

Many of our regular visitors are motorhome and camper van owners and they are a great contribution to our local economy.  They are a gregarious bunch and often meet up from all corners of the country.  

As you’re no doubt aware, there are currently less than adequate facilities to enable them to feel welcomed either as groups or individuals.  

The car parks discourage them as they take up extra room and residents certainly don’t appreciate their presence when parked outside their homes.  

This has led to many of these visitors saying they feel alienated and a lot less inclined to visit.

By offering a more welcoming, dedicated area for them so close to the Abbey and facilities within the town would undoubtedly help to provide a more ‘inclusive’ environment and give the assurance that all visitors are once again welcome.

It is a testament to the team spirit, ingenuity and creativity of Whitby businesses and communities to have created solutions where others might see problems.”

At a time when every business in Whitby is desperate to claw back lost time by continuing to attract customers in the ‘off season’, one can only hope that the incumbent Labour/Independent fragile alliance does not decide to play ‘dog in a manger’.

With a Cabinet comprising only Councillors holding seats south of Newby, one can imagine the initiative being ‘hijacked’ (as is so often the case) for Scarborough.

But those with a wider vision will recognise that every tourism destination in the country will be swift to follow our lead. So this is the message I would urge SBC to trumpet loudly to British and European motorhomers:

“Come and enjoy the Whitby Abbey Aire!”

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