The Vision for Whitby 2023 consultation revealed a very clear and consistent definition of where Whitby residents see the problems in the town. They are significantly different from this “Blueprint” and, as a consequence, the better consulted on “Vision for Whitby” results should be acted on instead.
In November 2019, the Ministry of Homes, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced that Whitby had been identified as one of 101 towns in England that they wish to work with to develop Town Investment Plans (TIP) and bid for a share of the Government’s £3.6bn Towns Fund. A Town Deal Board for Whitby, appointed by Scarborough Borough Council (SBC), made up of representatives from different local organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors, was set up to consider proposals, develop a TIP and ensure that Whitby submit a bid to the Towns Fund by Autumn 2020. On the 3 March 2021, Government announced that Whitby had been successful in securing £17.1m of Town Deal funding in support of delivering its TIP.
Based on standard business practice, for consultation to be considered extensive it should take in the following stages :-
- up-front ideas gathering – to get suggestions for what projects to consider,
- project selection – to choose the most appropriate projects to move forward now that some structure has been added to the ideas,
- implementation stage detail – the details of how a project should be implemented,
- and optionally a project satisfaction review – how well each project meets the needs it was set out for.
UK Government advice for Town Deal says “ensuring communities’ voices are involved in shaping design and decision making at each phase of development”. Also “Engagement with local communities is a vital part of the Town Deal process, and this remains the case as projects move into delivery”.
- The Whitby Town Deal board ran an “up-front ideas gathering” consultation on a single day at Whitby Coliseum (7th March 2020), as well as taking input via the UK Government MyTown website. There was no stated participation rate for this consultation, so highly unlikely it was representative of much.
- There was no “project selection” consultation with the public about which projects to go forward with.
- There was “implementation stage detail” consultation on the closure to traffic of the Swing Bridge (NYCC, Sep 2021), consultation on Wayfinding “signage” (SBC, Oct 2021), consultation on the project for redevelopment of the Market Place (Town Deal Board, SBC, Whitby Civic, etc, Jun 2022), consultation on the Swingbridge Pedestrianisation and Urban Realm project (Town Deal Board, Nov 2023).
Our comments on the consultation process for Whitby Town Deal :-
- the processing of the public input from the “up-front ideas gathering” consultation was never made public,
- the projects decided on by the Town Deal Board didn’t reflect much of the public input from the ideas gathering, with at least one board member opining that they seemed like “prepackaged projects from elsewhere”,
- there was no “project selection” consultation, so residents were stuck with what the Town Deal Board chose.
- the Town Deal board had very little Whitby resident involvement (by our estimates only 3 out of 23 members were town residents!), with SBC deciding the composition of that group.
- many of the projects selected (with the exception of the Eastside project, and to a lesser extent the NetZero village) did not necessarily reflect the prioritisation of the towns residents, nor were many of them benefitting residents (and since Town Deal was supposed to be “levelling up”, one would be forgiven for thinking that was what should have happened).
- we conclude that there was not consultation “at each phase of development”, and that the Town Deal Board failed on those aspects of their remit.
Moving on to what was selected, the 6 projects included were as follows
- Maritime Training Hub
- Broomfields Farm Zero Carbon Living
- Eastside Community Hub
- Harbourside Public Realm Improvements and Pedestrianisation of Swing Bridge
- Old Town Hall and Marketplace
You can find these projects on the following map, with their business cases available by clicking on each symbol.
The other output from this Town Deal exercise was the SBC Whitby Blueprint (2021) document, which we have reviewed later in this page.
1. Maritime Training Hub
The Whitby Maritime Training Hub will provide training and certification opportunities for the maritime, marine and offshore renewable industries, to residents of Whitby and wider market. This project addresses a need to develop a better supply of technical abilities to meet the demand in both developing new skills and recertification. Additionally, the Hub will also provide accommodation for maritime businesses and service providers to support economy growth and resilience within the local community. The Aim of this project: “To become a renowned centre of maritime training and enterprise which strengthens and supports the local maritime sector and embodies traditional and 21st century maritime culture”. It is underpinned by the following objectives:
- To support the training requirements of the local industry through certified, technical training and apprenticeships, acting to increase qualification levels amongst the working age population
- To enhance the perception of the maritime and associated industry amongst local people and businesses, generating a more viable sector which becomes more attractive to work in
- To deliver high quality, affordable and flexible commercial space, driving increases in the number of start-ups and/or scaleups and the number of enterprises within the Town Deal Area
- To support high level education and career pathways for local people, delivering higher value in the local area
Business Case Costs
The Financial Case shows that capital costs are affordable within the Towns Fund allocation. The total cost is estimated to be £9,985,000 just under the TF allocation of £10,000,000. This includes 15% contingency and inflation at 14%. Revenue costs and income are considered in the report including the impact on car parking revenue. These are shown to be cost neutral. However it is felt that this needs further work on the revenue case as the scheme progresses.
There is no doubt that Whitby requires more job and training opportunities, so if the existing fishing school needs to expand then absolutely find it better premises, and if it can be demonstrated that there will be offshore energy opportunities coming to Whitby then great we can support a project like that in principle.
This proposal has a (new-build) building situated on Endeavour Wharf. A schematic, taken from the business case, is shown below. 4 stories high, and not in keeping with the rest of the harbour. A monstrosity in a conservation zone. We also express concern at the state of Endeavour Wharf to provide the stability for a structure of this size, given that in the past the land in this area was not considered sufficiently stable for any significant building (piling down to 60foot!).
Clearly this location, being on the harbour, is at significant risk of flooding. We cannot see how this could make it through planning building on a level 3 flood plain. As it is being built on a flood plain then it will require a mandatory Environment Agency consultation (Town and Country Planning Order (England) 2010). There is a prior example of such a Town Deal project having to change proposed location due to flood mitigation issues in Todmorden Town Deal.
The figure shows the current flood risk. To see the flood risk by 2030 and onwards (taking into account the climate change that we are told will impact the planet), please use this link.
We would question the overall location from the perspective of best value for money, and also from the perspective of carbon footprint of providing a new building when existing space is available elsewhere in the town. Whitby secondary schools have significant empty class space, some of which has its own entrance and parking (Caedmon College Sixth Form). Why could these existing spaces not be utilised for something that actually does not need to be next to the river? That would save on building costs. It should also be noted that the proposed wind turbine aspect of this development appears not to be happening, so it is simply a fishing school plus office space.
In terms of the business case put forward, this academy will “provide full-time training to 36 students per year (24 x level 2 diplomas in sea-fishing & 12 x level 3 apprenticeships as work-boat crew)”. It states
The benefits are quantified using economic value per learner benchmarks from the Unit Cost Database, which estimates
- An annual economic benefit of £557 per learner per annum for NVQ Level 2 Qualifications
- A Marginal Lifetime Benefit of Achieving a Level 3 Apprenticeship compared to level 2 qualifications for males (£212,683) and females (£95,104). Although women represent just 1.2% of the global seafarer workforce, we have assumed 25% of learners will be women to reflect the need to target a
gender balance within the sector in the future, resulting in a lifetime benefits of £183,288 per achievement.
- For Short Courses, an economic value for developmental learning of £31,435 per achievement from BIS Research Paper Number 38 Measuring the Economic Impact of Further Education.
The problem with those numbers are that they are not new benefits since they are achieved currently using the existing fishing school located in the Missions to Seamen, simply being relocated to this new site. So what are the additional benefits from the fishing school component when compared to the existing school? e.g some of the 500 students on 2-day courses? That is the number that should be used, not by claiming the existing school values.
What other businesses will operate from that building to contribute to the benefits? No information is seemingly available on that, with responses from such as the MP and Town Deal board akin to “trust us, people will come from around the world”. But we are interested in opportunities for young people from the local community.
A secret meeting with “stakeholders” took place on 21st Feb 2023 in Whitby Coliseum to discuss progress with this. Apparently, despite the very sound evidence-based construction concerns, NYC are intent on pushing ahead with this location. There was supposed to be a follow-up meeting “within 4 weeks”, but by October 2023 no such meeting had been arranged. No further info put into the public domain. No word on ever letting the public have a say on it …
It should also be said that this seems to be another variation on a previous proposal by Dalby Offshore. The consultation on that particular proposal had little publicity and consequently few people responded to its consultation.
2. Broomfields Farm Zero Carbon Living
A development of 60 new all-affordable homes : We will deliver a wide range of housing to meet the cross-generational local demand and contribute towards a sustainable community, with property sizes ranging from 1 bedroom to 4 bedroom. Of the 60 new homes, half will be made available for affordable rent and the remainder will be for shared ownership.
A net zero carbon, sustainable development : The development will be all electric, with homes heated by air-source heat pumps and generating their own renewable energy through photovoltaic solar panels. All homes will be fitted with a range of energy saving components within a very well insulated structure. The homes will be delivered using timber-frame construction technology, delivering advantages in sustainability and speed of development.
Community facilities : The proposal doesn’t just deliver new homes; a community hub, art trail, allotments and sustainable transport infrastructure will ensure that the development offers something for everyone and enables more people to enjoy the unique setting of Broomfield Farm.
Business Case Costs
The business case demonstrates that there is an affordable scheme. The overall scheme costs is £12.6 million with the Towns Fund contribution as £2.6 million. Project match is secured and is made of:
- Project Source Amount Homes England MMC Funding £600,000
- Homes England Affordable Housing Funding £3,100,000
- Sanctuary and MCI/Keepmoat Funding £6,373,720
We welcome the provision of 30 social-rented and 30 “low-cost” home ownership properties, but we do hope that primary residence is enforced on the “low-cost” home ownership properties because, otherwise, they will eventually become second home or holiday lets.
We understand that this project may now no longer happen, due to Keepmoat builders pulling out and, as a consequence, Sanctuary Housing pulling out. NYC Town Deal staff are talking to the UK Government housing officers to try to find a solution.
3. Eastside Community Hub
Eastside Community Hub will provide a purpose built gym for Whitby Boxing Club and an extension to Eastside Community Centre enabling a greater range of training opportunities and community café. At Abbots Road, Eastside, a contribution from the Town Fund of £823,000 will be used to build a modern new home for Whitby Boxing Club, providing greater opportunities for young people to participant in sport, and an extension and improvements the existing community centre providing a more flexible space for training, activities and community use. Additional funding is being provided to Whitby Boxing Club from Scarborough Borough Council, Sport England and Sirius Foundation. The project to transform community facilities in Whitby has reached a significant milestone with the erection of steelwork to create a new building. The boxing facilities will be open in the autumn. Planning permission has been secured for the Community Centre Extension and work will start in summer 2022 and is expected to be completed by Christmas.
Business Case Costs
The total project cost is £1,150,051. The project seeks to attract £823,051 (822,916) of funding from the Towns Fund which will be matched with a total of £160,000 from Sport England, £117,135 from Scarborough Borough Council (S106 & Capital receipt) and £50,000 from Sirius Minerals foundation. A total match pot of £327,135. ECC has also put forward £20,000 from its own funds to provide the initial cashflow for the project.
We wholeheartedly welcome this development, directly benefitting residents; what “levelling-up” was intended for.
This project is now complete, and benefitting residents on east side.
4. Harbourside Public Realm Improvements and Pedestrianisation of Swing Bridge
Creation of a flexible pedestrianised route across the Swingbridge, creating better connections between the East and West sides of Whitby and improved public safety, enabled by improvements to the public realm and physical infrastructure changes to the road network.
The Harbourside Public Realm project will improve the street scene around the Whitby Swingbridge area, allowing the routine closure to road traffic to be implemented more easily and with more permanent signage. This will enhance the centre of the town, improving the visitor experience and promoting additional return visits. The pedestrianisation of this central area will also improve non-motorised links between the east and west sides which links to other projects currently being developed in the town. The scheme will also look at improvements at the junction of Spital Bridge with the A171.
The aims for the Harbourside Public Realm project are as follows:
- Improve pedestrian and cyclist safety on the Swingbridge during times of high tourist activity.
- Improve daytime east-west non-motorised connectivity between the two halves of the town.
- Reduce carbon/carbon-equivalent and pollutants, and improve local air quality
- Improve connections across communities
- Enhance the connection of the networks of interesting spaces to explore and places to linger, and improving knowledge of natural assets
- Enhance the highway network in and around the Swingbridge to improve traffic movements and improve the visitor offer in the centre of the town.
- Provide a public area to continue to develop key visitor attractions.
- Support the tourism economy associated with Whitby.
Business Case Costs
The financial case presents a total project cost for the preferred option of £2.316m, the allocation from the Towns Fund is £2.3m so this presents a slight funding shortfall of £0.016m. The shortfall is not considered significant and will be addressed at RIBA Stage 3.
A high level breakdown of project costs is presented within the financial case with a Bill of Quantities for the construction works attached as an appendix to the business case. All key costs including risk and inflation appear to be accounted for with narrative provided for the assumptions.
Significant additional maintenance costs are not expected and will be the responsibility of NYCC falling under their routine maintenance schedule / budget.
Pedestrianisation of the central part of town makes perfect sense in itself, setting aside the potential impacts on essential services and getting about the town. A separate question is why this does not come out of the NYCC Highways budget itself, and why we have to spend “levelling up” money on a Highways project. Also, how is something “levelling up” when it is basically spent to enhance the offering for tourists?
The claimed “benefits” to cycling in this project are a fallacy. This scheme is pedestrianisation, so that would mean that cycling is prohibited, unless it will be adding cycling permitted signs and that is not mentioned in the business case document. The real problems for cycling are not the very centre of town, but on access roads, and the council(s) are not addressing these at all.
The junction at Spital Bridge was even harder to get out of with the trial of this scheme and needs a complete redesign, as we have listed on our Transport page. Car parking spaces are lost on Tin Ghaut car park, with no extra allocation elsewhere … a sign of no joined-up strategy for moving car parking out of the town centre.
It would have been a good opportunity to establish a broader central area for a 20mph zone as part of this project, rather than just New Quay Road, St Annes Staith, Bridge Street, and a small part of Church Street.
The bridge closure “trial” is still a trial. Awaiting some form of consultation on what the end result will be.
5. Old Town Hall and Marketplace
Revitalisation of the Grade II Listed Old Town Hall building and Market Place in Whitby through renovation and renewal. A toll-booth/town hall and market has been located in the Market Place since the 17th century. After the original toll booth building became decayed and unsuitable, it was demolished and in 1788 the then Lord of the Manor, Nathaniel Cholmley commissioned Jonathan Pickernell of Whitby to design the Old Town Hall as we know today. An outdoor market still takes place within Whitby market place and the undercroft of the old town hall building to this present day. However, the building is in a poor state of repair and the first floor has not been occupied or used since 2017.
This project aims to deliver improvements to Whitby’s Old Town Hall & Market Place, which are Grade II Listed and an iconic part of the town’s heritage. We will repair & restore the building to secure its structural integrity and improve the appearance of this unique heritage asset for Whitby. The available floor space in both the first floor & undercroft will be repurposed to provide year-round community and cultural activities and we will improve the market place area through landscaping. The aims of the project are to:
- Build on the history and heritage of the old town hall building and market place by repairing & restoring the building to secure its structural integrity and improve the appearance of this unique heritage asset for Whitby.
- Restore the old town hall building a key focal point for Whitby through refurbishment and repurposing the building for community use, creating 112sqm of floorspace to ensure the building is sustainable and income-generating in the long term.
- Create a vibrant and bustling year round market place, with 81sqm of improved quality of public realm and improved facilities for market traders, driving an increase in footfall and dwell times.
Business Case Costs
The total cost of the preferred scheme is £1.504m. A National Heritage Lottery Fund grant would need to be secured to deliver this. However, the business case also demonstrates that there is an alternative affordable scheme (no glazing) which will still deliver the outputs for the Towns Fund at a similar BCR of 2.33. There is also the possibility to value engineer the public realm landscaping proposals to provide an alternative way to improve this area and still provide facilities for the traders. Please note that an Architectural Development Grant of £15,000 was provided to produce the architectural designs from BFF Architects.
Based on the estimated recurring operating costs (£56,170 after the first year of operation), and estimated revenue generation (£92,876), it is anticipated that there would be a surplus of £36,706 to enable the development to be self-sufficient and provide sustainability. Further work will need to be carried out on the revenue implications of the scheme to confirm the operating model.
Good that one of the many historic buildings in Whitby is being revitalised. The upgraded building will need to have a clear use though, and we don’t have visibility of what the plan is for that. We understand that planning for this will be in 2 stages … the basic refurbishment, and then the glass screens plus concrete plinth. There is seemingly no stated benefit of the “plinth” that extends the Old Town Hall surface, and it occupies 40sqm of the Market Square, so less space for market traders and rental space for cafes; if anybody can find the reasoning for this, please do let us know.
The basic restoration and a plinth (or “apron”) from the Old Town Hall into Market Square (4.9m in extent out into the square … 3.1m of surface and 1.8m of steps, making up 40sqm of Market Square surface taken up by the plinth) made its way through planning, despite significant objections (from residents objecting primarily to the plinth, and from the Georgian Group to the details of the “restoration”) being largely ignored. The glass screening is allegedly “on hold”, but still present in the planning system.
The Wayfinding project provides town centre pedestrian signage in both Whitby and Scarborough. This includes a family of signs for visitors to help them navigate around the towns and signpost to key attractions. Also working with the Love Exploring App enables visitors to engage with fun trails and games with various themes.
Business Case Costs
The Commercial Case explains that three procurement exercises are planned for this project:
- Professional services contract to manage the project at a value of £27,298
- Supply and installation of way-marking signs at a value of £164,918
- Development of digital information at a value of £35,000
Procurement will be done in compliance with Scarborough Borough Council procurement rules. In the Financial Case, the analysis was completed by reviewing the capital and revenue implications. It was found that the project can be delivered within the identified funding package.
The signage doesn’t seem to be of particularly sturdy construction that will last for years. For the cost involved, one would have hoped for something longer lasting that offered value for years to come. How is something “levelling up” when it is basically spent to enhance the offering for tourists?
This project is complete.
SBC "Whitby Blueprint 2021"
As an additional output from the TownDeal “consultation”, SBC announced a supposed strategy document for Whitby entitled Whitby Blueprint 2021. It represents an excessive use of pictures, and a seeming lack of strategic thinking about where the town needs to place itself. It pertains to the school of thought that if you make it glossy, then people will believe in it. It simply fails on many levels to address the problems present in the town for residents. SBC don’t reveal the composition of the group that created this document, but the amount of Whitby residents involved was presumably max 3/23, since this was the same group as Town Deal. SBC are quoted as saying “The Whitby Blueprint sets out an exciting vision for the future of the town with clear opportunities to improve it for residents, businesses and visitors. The masterplan has been driven by extensive input from the local community and organisations such as Whitby Town Council. I am grateful for their involvement.”. We are just thankful that SBC has ended, if this is their definition of “exciting” and that the document has had “extensive input“!
As we have said before, for Whitby Town Deal the consultation was inadequate, with no “project selection” consultation at all, so, in effect, Whitby residents had no say in which projects are carried out as part of that project, and consequently which projects feature in the glossy pamphlet that is this “blueprint”. Perhaps the Whitby Town Council (WTC) representative(s) haven’t talked to their fellow councillors or actual residents or done any strategic thinking about what the real problems are for these residents? Since WTC doesn’t seem to have a “plan” for the town, then that wouldn’t surprise us.
Lets look at the “aims” of this document
- “Increase the proportion of residents in year-round and well-paid employment”, and “Achieve sustainable growth and diversification
of Whitby’s economy” : the only item mentioned even vaguely related to employment is the Maritime Hub from Town Deal. As we have seen from the business case and recent developments on that project (no wind power company will apparently be using this, correct? Dalby Offshore?), there is little additional training (and hence employment) coming from that (yes, the fishing school already exists). It talks of improving the fish quay area and provision of modern facilities, great, but the numbers employed in fishing is not high, and as for building on the “Whitby Seafood” brand, how much of that company’s produce is from this town? (was the presence of the chair of Whitby Seafoods on the Town Deal board relevant here?), and we have emphasis on the tourist angle. So where will this well-paid employment come from? Why isn’t the available space in Whitby’s secondary schools mentioned as something that could be utilised for skills training?
- “Reduce deprivation and increase prosperity among Whitby residents” : like the aim regarding employment, we cannot see any initiative in the document that will have the remotest impact on this. Increased prosperity means moving away from a minimum wage economy, yet businesses already struggle to find (minimum wage) staff due to the lack of affordable housing, and the lack of aspirations in the town.
- “Increase and change in the profile of Whitby’s population and raising aspirations” has little to back it up. It proposes the 60 affordable homes from the Net Zero Village in Town Deal (very welcome, clearly), but the population of Whitby is not increasing even with the house building we’ve had in the last 10 years, so how do 60 affordable homes impact on that? Aspirations can only be raised by limiting the number of homes being sold as second homes / holiday lets, build significant numbers of social housing, increase the training opportunities for real trades by utilising the secondary schools, as well as a better provision of quality public transport to allow people to get about; people need to believe they can develop a life here. We can’t find those aspects in this document.
- “Improve health and well-being for Whitby residents” : the improvements to the Eastside Centre as part of Town Deal could help the community close to that centre, but there are no significant improvements to the towns depleted green space which has, by far and away, the biggest impact on well-being; it simply mentions improving Crescent Gardens (to improve the attractiveness of the West Cliff, for the tourists!), but nothing about green space close to residential areas (it is essential that green space is accessible for residents, within 100m, 200m etc, Natural England have measures for Green Infrastructure, which are not being met in this town), depleted by years of SBC concreting over amenities, and not maintaining the few that are left. Where are any improvements to the town’s health services, such as the hospital?
- “Grow our cultural offering and public and community events programme” : there is always a need in a tourist location to keep ideas fresh, so yes Whitby Spa (only SBC refer to it as Whitby Pavilion, so as not to detract from Scarborough Spa) is under utilised, but that is down to under investment by the organisation providing this document. Good that they finally recognise the need to better utilise it.
- “Improve access to and use of the Town Centre and surrounding natural assets” : this simply wants to provide access to the coastline (footpaths on Khyber Pass, Whalebone Arch etc, for the tourists!), and create a more walkable town (some pedestrianisation for the Swing Bridge, primarily for the tourist). Where is the aspiration to provide proper walking and cycle infrastructure along all green corridors in the Local Plan ? With that we would be seeing development of links up the Esk Valley, instead we get a single reference to linking the Cinder Track into Pannett Park. Improving access and encouraging active travel (walking, cycling, scooting) will only be encouraged by firstly providing a Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) which defines the travel corridors, something that we have been successful in campaigning for, and something that we would never have obtained from SBC. Sadly any sensible stab at providing active travel is not even featured in this photofest (contrast that to the “Scarborough Blueprint” where their LCWIP is a key component).
In fact, much of the content is aimed at the tourist, seemingly thinking that we can fit even more tourists in the town, but never mind the quality of life for the resident. Hint, life expectancy for residents of this town are some of the lowest in North Yorkshire, yet we have further council documents doing little about it.
Where are the ideas about generating energy using the piers? or kelp farming? These went through proof of concept a few years ago. These are harbour businesses that would assist in the sustainability of the town, and be valuable harbour resources (something that councils ought to be keen on, given SBC’s publicised issues with their accounts and the Whitby harbour), and given that they need to repair the pier extensions by 2030 – an opportunity to spend some of that car parking money! Regreening of various parts of town should be a high priority for climate mitigation, as well as for the mental health of residents. Reducing the traffic in the town will involve much more than just closing the swing bridge, so why is there not consideration for further park-and-ride facilities on both sides of town? We could go on.
If we were to sum it up in one phrase, try this one : lack of ambition and strategic thinking, with very little understanding of the problems experienced by residents of this town. Vision for Whitby has far more vision, and originates direct from the resident.