Steamship Group: 'Local people must come first'
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group has published a new blog warning that local residents should always come before "big business" when it comes to deciding on a new heliport in Penzance.
The company claimed that Penzance Heliport supporters have "overstated the levels of support" in order to influence local media and political stakeholders ahead of the planning decision, and that the "legitimate concerns" of local residents should not be overridden by a "highly organised and well-resourced advocacy campaign".
It also said that local objections to the planning application for a new heliport have increased by 188% in the last five weeks (from 60 to 173).
The blog post reads: "On the 23rd July 2018, Cornwall Council will host a public meeting for local residents to air their views on the proposed plans to build a new heliport in Penzance. This new development is aimed primarily at visitors to Tresco on the Isles of Scilly
"In recent weeks, the Steamship Company has published a series of detailed analyses of supporter data for the proposed heliport. We published these studies following statements to the media by Penzance Heliport supporters that claimed they had ‘overwhelming’ levels of local support. On further inspection, we believe Penzance Heliport campaigners have overstated the levels of support to influence local media and political stakeholders ahead of a planning decision which is expected in August.
"Despite the proposals for the new Heliport being originally submitted in October 2016, our research reveals the following:
Just 3.2% of local residents in Penzance (1,220) have registered their support for the heliport via 38 Degrees, an online petition website used by political activists. Less than half (38%) of the population of the Isles of Scilly registered its support for the new Heliport via 38 Degrees. The location of almost three quarters (2,355 at the time of the study) of so-called supporters registered on Cornwall Council’s official planning portal cannot be identified.
"Why does this matter? Cornwall Council has a duty of care to local residents. If the majority of people that have registered their support cannot be identified, then how can councillors determine whether the heliport planning decision they make is in the best interests of local people? Similarly, there is an issue if supporters are making misleading claims about overwhelming local support to shape a more favourable media and political narrative. The legitimate concerns of local residents must also be considered, and we do not believe they should be over-ridden by what is clearly a highly organised and well-resourced advocacy campaign.
"With so much at stake, Penzance Heliport’s plans deserve proper scrutiny. Our research indicates that only around 200 local residents in Penzance self-identify as registered supporters on Cornwall Council’s official planning portal. Meanwhile, some 170 people have registered their opposition. In short, local opinion in Penzance is split.
"In the space of just five weeks, local voices registering their opposition on Cornwall Council’s website to a new heliport being built in their community have increased by 188% (from 60 to 173).
"Local people are increasingly becoming more informed about the debate and the wider issues, and the more they discover about the potential impacts of a heliport operation on Penzance and its residents, the less they like it. We hope Cornwall Council’s elected members weigh these arguments very carefully - local people should always come before the interests of big business."
Penzance Heliport Ltd subsequently issued a response to the Steamship Group's latest opposition figures, writing: "“To clarify, in the five-week period quoted, there were 113 new objection letters (to a total of 173) and 410 new support letters (to a total of 3,402).”