Penzance Heliport Ltd has said it is "perplexed" by yesterday's statement by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, accusing the company of openly criticising the integrity of Cornwall Council's planning system.
The Steamship Group said that the level of support for the proposed new helicopter link from Penzance has been "inflated" and raised several points of contention after conducting a "fresh analysis" of official supporter data registered on Cornwall Council’s planning portal.
The most recent war of words comes ahead of what is expected to be a highly-charged public meeting about the heliport application in Penzance on July 23rd, with a decision by the Strategic Planning Committee due three days later.
Read Penzance Heliport Ltd's response in full below:
'Penzance Heliport Ltd is perplexed by yesterday’s statement by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, in which they appear to openly criticise the integrity of the Cornwall Council planning system.
The Steamship Group claims a “study” shows almost three quarters of comments in favour of Penzance Heliport do not identify the commenter’s location, saying this calls into question the level of support for the project. Notably, the same “study” does reveal that of those supporters who did state their location, more came from Penzance, Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly (33%) than from outside Cornwall (8%), showing the deep and strong support that exists for this project in Penzance, Cornwall and on the islands.
We are confused by yesterday’s announcement for several reasons:
- Why does the Steamship Group think it appropriate, sensible or constructive to apparently publicly criticise the integrity of the Cornwall Council planning system?
- Why does the Steamship Group feel public commenters must state their location? There is no requirement for those commenting on a planning application to publicly state their location and this in no way impacts on the legitimacy of their comments.
- Why does the Steamship Group seem to argue the views of people from outside Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are less important than those of locals, as implied by the “study” and previous statements? Visitors to these islands are not only the Steamship Group’s customers but are the lifeblood of the Isles of Scilly and make a substantial contribution to the economy of Penzance and West Cornwall. Indeed, a recent Steamship Group survey suggested visitors to the Isles of Scilly spend £24m in Penzance and West Cornwall - a figure that would only increase with the growth supported by Penzance Heliport. We believe the views of these visitors are important.
- The “study” displays significant inconsistencies in data; the numbers of supporters does not add up to the (varying) stated total, and percentages quoted add up to 115%. These discrepancies throw the whole analysis into doubt.
- We are bemused by the accusation that official spokespeople and supporters of Penzance Heliport have “inflated” the level of support and have seen absolutely no evidence of this.
- The “public health experts and environmental campaigners” referred to by the Steamship Group have recently launched a campaign ‘Stop the Chop’. Despite a costly and coordinated leafletting and social media campaign, the group has received open derision online and has produced only a handful of new objections. The campaign leaflet produced by the group takes medical studies out of context, inflates and misrepresents information about the Penzance Heliport project, and is no more than a quite blatant and crude attempt at scaremongering.
We remain delighted that 3,376 comments have been made in support of Penzance Heliport (95% of the public comments on the planning portal), and that over 11,600 people have signed the petition for the project. This proves beyond doubt the huge volume of support that exists for Penzance Heliport from residents, visitors and businesses on Scilly, in Penzance, throughout Cornwall and beyond.
Penzance Heliport welcomes the opportunity to proactively engage with key stakeholders in this process, some of whom will naturally have concerns about the project. However, we will not engage with those who deliberately mislead, manipulate and scaremonger to achieve their goals. Such activity achieves nothing except damaging the reputation of the Isles of Scilly in the eyes of the public.'
The ISSG has since responded to Penzance Heliport's statement, saying: "This is a deliberate distortion of what we said. We are not calling into question the integrity of Cornwall Council. What we are saying is that various statements by Penzance Heliport and their supporters about 'overwhelming' local support are not supported by fact, and on closer examination are not true. Cornwall Council has a duty of care to local people. 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?”