22nd December 2016
By Anne North
More than 2,500 people have so far registered comments with Cornwall Council over proposals for a £2 million private-sector heliport to restore passenger helicopter flights between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly.
The planning application is due to be determined by February. The heliport would be close to Penzance’s Sainsbury’s supermarket, which was itself the site of the former BIH heliport on Eastern Green where a helicopter service to St Mary’s and Tresco operated for 48 years. Flights ceased in October 2012.
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which also operates Skybus fixed-wing flights from Land’s End, has lodged an objection. The company’s letter says: “ISSG is not seeking to undermine any form of viable or sustained market competition but it can see no credible evidence or detail in the planning proposal regarding how the applicant hopes to deliver its plans without causing considerable damage to existing lifeline services through an attempt to take sizeable market share of the existing air market.
“The loss of the equivalent scale of even 30-40% of the current air market (circa 30,000-40,000 passengers per year), which is less than half of the applicant’s implied plans, would have very serious implications for incumbent fixed-wing services especially given the tiny scale of winter demand and the scale of financial losses during the November-March period.”
But Robert Dorien-Smith, the owner of Tresco Estate and one of the investors in Penzance Heliport Ltd, is backing the project and told Scilly Today: “The reinstatement of the popular and efficient helicopter service will provide a much needed injection of confidence and opportunity into the economies of both the Isles of Scilly and west Cornwall.”
He added that helicopters can operate in poorer visibility and fly at a lower level than other aircraft, offering better access and flexibility for those visiting, working and living on the islands.
The planning application followed consultation events held in Penzance and St Mary’s in September. Most people who expressed an opinion at that time appeared to strongly support for the proposal, with several remarking that helicopter flights would enable them to reach mainland hospital facilities more easily.
At the time of writing, 2,683 people have submitted comments to the Cornwall Council website, with a majority appearing to be in favour. The consortium behind the project say that if planning consent is granted early next year, they hope their first flights will take off in 2018.
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