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Friday, 25 July 2014

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No cash for repairs to storm-damaged Cumbrian harbour

The owners of Whitehaven Harbour say they have no money to repair devastating storm damage caused by massive waves which battered everything in their path.

Whitehaven harbour Celia MacKenzie photo
Celia MacKenzie

Winds of up to 100mph lashed the harbour on Thursday and onlookers watched in horror as huge waves brought walls tumbling down, lifting paving slabs and destroying buildings.

As the focus turned to clearing up and assessing the aftermath, the scale of the damage became clear.

One of the main casualties was the Sea Cadets’ building, which was pounded by waves on the Old Quay.

Even though those involved with the cadets have not been able to get to the building – because the area is still deemed to be dangerous – they know it will not be in any fit state for use and have closed for the foreseeable future.

Chairman David Abbott told the News & Star: “We know there is significant damage to the building – there is no doubt about it. It will take a lot of time, effort and money to put it right.

“We are all absolutely gutted and very sad.

“When I watched the waves on the news I knew we weren’t going to come out of it very well.”

Mr Abbott said he had received calls from upset cadets as well as offers of help from neighbouring units in Workington and Maryport.

As builders were drafted in to clear sandstone blocks and debris from around the harbour, Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners, which owns it, were assessing the damage.

Chief executive Celia MacKenzie said it would “take months” to fully assess the damage, and while this was taking place parts of the harbour, including the Old Quay, would be closed. She could not give any estimated time as to how long repair work would take, or when the harbour would be fully open.

Mrs MacKenzie said she had “no idea” who the commissioners would turn to for funding, and that would be the next step.

“We will be looking for funding – we just don’t have the money in the bank. People don’t understand that we are an organisation that is not for profit – we are a trust port.”

She said discussions would also have to take place with English Heritage because the harbour is classed as an ancient monument.

The Sea Cadets’ presentation evening will go ahead next Friday at Kells British Legion. The Cadet base had just been revamped by graduates from the Sellafield nuclear complex.

Mr Abbott added: “We will come out of it and will reopen – it may just take a little while.

“The bottom line is that it was things that were damaged and not lives.”

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