Letter: The harbourside: it needs a fresh vision

West Pier, Scarborough
West Pier, Scarborough

Reading between the lines of last week’s Scarborough News and its coverage of the “call in” of the Scarborough Borough Council scrutiny group report on the future of fishing; it’s obvious that Cllr Cockerill as Portfolio Holder for Harbours doesn’t like what the report came back with.

Surely, the group is an independent body tasked with ascertaining, in this case, the needs and requirements of the fishing industry and in doing should remain free of interference from the Portfolio Holder who it would seem feels unable to accept their findings.

With regard to Scarborough Harbour there has been no discussion or engagement with any Scarborough fishermen for around four years now on how the fishing sector takes advantage of the opportunities presented to it.

We on the Yorkshire coast are blessed with being given a further opportunity to remain an active fishing port despite the downturn in whitefish landings - many other small ports would relish given the chance and have had to turn to tourism because there are no other options available to them.

Whitby and Scarborough both suffer the same malaise, with a neglect of harbour infrastructure over many years.

Whitby Pier issues have been well documented and Scarborough Borough Council has been challenged custodians of harbour assets on how they have been maintained and (mis)-managed over a number of years.

Scarborough for its part, suffers similar issues with its piers and buildings which receive only crisis-maintenance, and then only at the last minute, when costs escalate, principally because of the severity of the decay that contractors face when trying to remedy issues that have gone beyond almost repairable.

In Scarborough, we have a unique listed building of West Pier with a history going back to the heyday as a herring port, its state now showing the abject neglect under Scarborough Borough Council. The scaffolding supporting the balcony has been in place for approaching three years, with no signs of any immediate remedial work taking place.

In 2010, Scarborough Borough Council had a serious opportunity to progress a regeneration of West Pier; but failed to follow it up. Undoubtedly these former offices - symbols of what Scarborough represented as a vibrant port will be allowed to decay further to the point that demolition is the only option available.

In a discussion with one councillor, he was amazed to learn that Scarborough on a regular basis exports live shellfish to the Far East, packed in such a way that they arrive as fresh as the time they were landed.

Obviously the Far East is not in the EU and as such the problems and issues of exporting outside the single market have been overcome.

As a consequence that £4.5 million in quayside prices probably transforms into £25 to £30 million pounds by the time it’s consumed at its final destination.

We have a problem, and have for some time over the lack of investment in infrastructure maintenance, whilst harbour revenues have been increasing and as such have been siphoned off into the Scarborough Borough Council central fund.

A classic example is the £180,000 to provide public toilets on the Vincent Pier under the guise of “harbour developments”.

What we need if the ports are to truly realise their potential, is to have someone as the portfolio holder who is able and willing to communicate with a degree of vision and enthusiasm for the task in hand in making the harbourside a safer and more efficient working environment rather than the cash cow; by transforming the area into a tourist facility.

Bob Roberts,

Owner, FV

Capernaum SH4