Steamship Group judicial review 'an abuse of power'
Robert Dorrien-Smith has accused the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group of “an abuse of power on a very serious scale” after they began proceedings for a judicial review over the Penzance heliport.
Construction of the replacement heliport has now been paused while a judge examines the lawfulness of Cornwall Council’s unanimous decision to grant planning permission for the project.
The move by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group follows an anonymous attempt to have the decision reviewed by the Secretary of State, which was dismissed.
The team behind the helicopter link hit described the judicial review as a “legal attack… to disrupt the project”.
Robert Dorrien-Smith, who is behind the proposals to reinstate a helicopter service, said: “This is not an attack on us; we will persevere. This is an attack on the islands, islanders and our visitors by a company that claims to be proud of its island heritage.
“This issue is bigger than just the heliport; the islands are facing a critical challenge to their independence. On the one hand we have a transport monopoly trying to prevent improvements to the transport system, against the wishes of islanders and Penzance people. On the other hand we have an entire community wanting something better.
“This is an abuse of power on a very serious scale because we have no other options. It is not comparable to a planning challenge on the mainland where alternatives exist. In theory this behaviour by the Steamship Group could put us in a position in the future whereby they have the final say on anything and everything that happens in these islands.
“This obstructive move will only ever be seen for what it is: an anti-competitive action, dressed up in as much legal fog as they can muster.”
Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee gave the project the green light in February following a public consultation which saw over 2,600 letters of support from the public, as well as support from bodies including the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the Duchy of Cornwall, Visit Cornwall, Penzance Town Council and the Islands’ Partnership.
Mr Dorrien-Smith continued: “The level of support for this project is unprecedented and proves my deep conviction that a new helicopter service is right for Scilly. I want to reaffirm to islanders, visitors and the Steamship Company that I will stand by this conviction.”
A statement from Penzance Heliport Ltd said that it has contacted the Board of the Steamship Company in recent weeks in an attempt to find a way forward, including offering the Company an opportunity to invest in the heliport.
However, the Steamship Company responded with a “proposal to allow the helicopter to operate from Land’s End Airport, which it owns”.
The statement went on: “After studying the proposal in detail, Penzance Heliport Ltd concluded this would not deliver the growth and resilience enhancements that are core aims of this project. The proposal was also not viable for commercial reasons.”
Mr Dorrien-Smith added: “My intention remains to strengthen the transport system to these islands for the benefit of all. Unfortunately the Steamship Company’s response has demonstrated they are motivated purely by an obsessive defence of a monopoly, led by the misguided belief that a reinstated helicopter service will be damaging to their company.
“For many years the helicopter and other transport services to the islands worked in harmony and cooperation, and I do not accept the Steamship Company’s view that this could not be made to happen again.
"I hope the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group will take the sensible decision to withdraw this malicious obstruction. If they do not, we cannot say how long this process may take, but I remain absolutely committed to launching a reinstated helicopter service to the Isles of Scilly in 2018 and will keep you informed whenever I have news to share.
“Ultimately we have got to put islanders and customers first and we must try to design a transport system that is best for everybody.”