COUNCILLORS have tonight called for leadership to be shown in Whitby as the town continues to battle landslips and flooding.

Civic leaders at an extraordinary meeting of Whitby Town Council were furious that no one seemed to be taking charge of the crisis that threatens both homes and businesses.

The meeting was called amid fears about the stability of the ports historic Henrietta Street.

Concern has been growing for the street and its 140-year-old kipper house - Fortunes Kippers - after slips which sent land and human bones tumbling down from St Marys Church graveyard.

An earlier separate landslip further along the town's East Cliff left a terrace of five houses needing to be demolished in Aelfleda Terrace.

Councillors fear for the safety not only of the immediate area but the risk of ripple effects damaging the rest of the town.

While Yorkshire Water and all the other utilities were represented at the meeting at the Pannett Park Art Gallery in Whitby, no one from Scarborough Borough Council turned up due to commitments to other meetings.

Whitby Mayor John Freeman said: "I think Scarborough Council will be embarrassed there is no one here for such an important meeting and the excuses for not coming are fairly lame.

"It has really highlighted the lack of support we have had from the borough and county council who should be here as well.

"People are suffering from the loss of their homes and the loss of business."

Barry Brown, co-owner of Fortunes, said it was only his premises holding back a "wedge of mud" that was threatening to descend on the rest of Henrietta Street.

He added: "It has contaminated the area where we prepare the fish so at the moment we are at a standstill with 40 or 50 tons of mud hanging behind the shed.

"It's a total mess and no one has had a meeting with the residents or anyone who has property down there."

Councillor Joyce Stangoe asked if the situation had been officially classed as an emergency by the local authorities - and if not, why not?

She said: "It is carrying on. It is not finished - and we still  have the worst of the bad weather to come.

"What I want to see is someone in charge because at the moment I do not get the feeling that any one is."
Other councillors agreed that the use of emergency powers could be very useful in ensuring a rapid response to flooding and earth movement, particularly since there were so many questions of land ownership complicating what was already a complex and fast moving crisis.

Councillor Niall Carson said: "It might not be an emergency at this time - but we do not know when the rain is going to stop and until it does all this water is not going to go away.

"So let's stop this becoming a bigger emergency. Let's go onto land where broken pipes are spurting out water and divert it into the river."