In an area of natural beauty, be it on the coast or in the national park, environmental issues can have a massive impact on the lives of residents.

Green Space

Open space performs a vital service to the physical and mental well being of residents. Whitby has a large deficit compared to the local standard.


From the harbourside, the rivers, and the sea, the environmental issues can have a massive impact on life in this district


All products use resources, and we should aim to live sustainable lifestyles


River Esk

The River Esk provides significant potential for hydro power. Only some of this is currently exploited, with the prime example being the Archimedes screw turbine in Ruswarp.

In terms of sewage, there is the Rivers Trust sewage map showing discharges. The image below is a snapshot from July 2023, with the river Esk marked, and with many discharges affecting water quality.

Rivers Trust Sewage Map : July 2023


All information relating to the harbour is on its own page.


Whitby and District covers an amount of coastline, and environmental problems occurs from time to time in terms of water quality.

We recommend consulting the Surfers Against Sewage map for an up to date view of issues. Runswick Bay has had issues with overflows causing water quality issues.

Shellfish Mortality

Around October 2021 it was noted the vast number of shellfish deaths found on the coast between Teesside and Robin Hoods Bay. The government launched an “investigation” into the reported incident. In February 2022, a government press release announced that the mass death was caused by an “algal bloom” – a rapid increase in the population of algae that can release toxins into the water and affect other wildlife. Shortly after the press release was published, another mass death of crabs and lobsters was reported on the same coastline. While an algal bloom in October is implausible, an algal bloom in February is considered impossible. In May, there was another mass stranding of crabs and lobsters on the same beaches with divers reporting the seabed immediately south of the River Tees as a “dead zone” with even the seaweed dying.

A report was published by DEFRA in May, concluding that no single consistent causative factor was found, although there was a harmful algal bloom coinciding with the timings of the original incident; the investigation was closed in March 2022. This “conclusion” is disputed by local fisherman, suggesting that pyridine could be a possible cause since the algal bloom theory did not totally fit the marine biology findings, and so were crowdfunding their own independent report by Tim Deere Jones. The DEFRA work has been passed to Cefas to investigate some aspects further.

The local MP for Scarborough and Whitby asked the Ministry for Fishing to investigate further, and their response is available here. This is an open issue with the UK Government currently having no definitive answer, with the Tees being seen as an important Freeport “experiment”.

Newcastle, York and Hull universities have subsequently performed research into the effect of pyridine on crabs, and the water conditions around the Tees. The conclusions show the devastating impact that pyridine has on shellfish. They have subsequently been invited before the Environment Select Committee in London.


It is our desire to establish various projects aimed at reuse and recycling in the Whitby area, for the mutual benefit of the residents. One of these, once we have a cycle network, would be the recycling of bicycles, for the benefit of those without access to one, so that they can make use of this form of transport rather than be constrained to needing a car.

Climate Change

Much of the North Yorkshire Council strategy is based around carbon net zero by 2028, and carbon negative by 2040. WCN presented this at our meeting on 13th March 2023 and the presentation is available here.

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