Pier Pressure? Anglers lose access to Whitby Pier

Whitby Pier and BeachWhitby Pier and Beach

Earlier in October my colleague Natalie and I travelled to Whitby in North Yorkshire, with the intention of interviewing sea anglers fishing from the western arm of the town pier (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Whitby-West-Pier/201260026614389). On arrival we were shocked to find that the access footbridge to the pier had been closed, with a sign explaining the closure had been made for health and safety reasons (see image below). While previous visits had revealed the pier to be a popular place for anglers to congregate, on this bright autumn afternoon not a single angler could be seen.Whitby Pier SignWhitby Pier Sign

In the hope of gaining some local perspective of the situation, we called into the tackle shop Whitby Angling Supplies. We spoke to Dan, who explained that the pier had in fact been closed since the 3rd of September, 2011. The closure of the pier, Dan said, had already had a negative impact on visitor numbers to Whitby and, in turn, the turnover of the tackle shop. He added that other businesses, such as cafes and the local garbage recycler, had also noticed a downturn since the pier closure.

For Dan, the biggest problem presented by the closure was the loss of fishing tackle sales. Many anglers who fish from the pier, he explained, are not serious anglers. A lot of these anglers are on holiday and might only fish a couple of times a year. They tend to purchase ‘ready to fish’ items, like rod and reel combinations, and these are items that the shop can make a decent margin on.

Whitby Pier Aerial ViewWhitby Pier Aerial View

Given that the eastern arm of the pier has been closed since storm damage 10 years ago (see the red circled area in the photo 'Aerial view of Whitby Piers'; the yellow circle is the recently closed western arm), there is a real fear that Scarborough Council will not take any immediate action to remediate the structural concerns. Ultimately, there is concern that the storm defences for Whitby will be compromised if nothing is done soon. The current financial pressure faced by local authorities doesn't raise confidence in a quick solution.

Whitby Angling Supplies hosts a petition calling for political action to save the pier, and Dan spoke of regular visiting anglers from nearby Cleveland who were lobbying the Whitby MP about the pier. Unfortunately, because they reside outside of that political constituency their emails to the MP keep bouncing.

Dan told us how prospective anglers call the shop with the intention of fishing at Whitby, only to say that with the pier closed they will fish at Scarborough instead. The real danger, Dan said, was that the situation will not be resolved in time for the 2012 summer season.



Whitby West Pier Temporary Footbridge

I hear from Scarborough Borough Council that there is now access to the West Pier via a temporary footbridge with plans in place to replace this with a permanent footbridge -- timescale unknown. I don't now if this was a result of the local petition by Whitby Angling Supplies. If so, well done!

No indication of whether the East Pier footbridge will ever be repaired but if the Council can't afford to do this there are EU funds that they could be accessing to help with this. This is exactly the kind of thing the Angling Trust could try and help with if they were approached.