Andrew May has written a letter to the Western Morning News claiming that key concerns about the proposed heliport in Penzance have been ignored in the run-up to tomorrow's planning decision.
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group chairman reiterated his view that the route between Scilly and the mainland "cannot justify or sustain a new heliport just a few miles away from an existing one".
Cornwall Council's Strategic Planning Committee will decide whether to grant planning permission for the new heliport at a meeting tomorrow (August 2nd) at 10am.
Read Andrew May's letter to the Western Morning News in full below:
KEY HELIPORT CONCERNS OVERLOOKED
In the autumn of 2012, the helicopter service which had run to Isles of Scilly for over 40 years finally called it a day. All of us who live on the islands wondered what the future had in store. Few could have imagined the 2018 launch of the new helicopter service from Land’s End Airport would attract a small but loud chorus of “No that’s not the helicopter service we want.”
Back in 2012 when the last in a long line of companies who’d tried to sustain the Penzance helicopters pulled out, the Steamship Group did what it had been doing for almost a century - and sought to continue meeting the travel needs of our residents and visitors.
Six years on and more then £15 million of investment in enhancing resilience and seat availability for passengers by sea and air was topped off in May this year with the launch of Island Helicopters.
Overall we carried almost 216,000 passengers last year - up 3% - more than 61,000 of them via Land’s End Airport.
So, where does this leave the proposals due to be considered tomorrow, Thursday, by Cornwall’s Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) for a new heliport, just seven miles from a fully-operational state of the art base at Land’s End?
Some might be surprised to read the Steamship Company would support this proposal, as we would any additional transport infrastructure on the route. If we thought it could be sustained alongside the services by sea and fixed wing air.
The route cannot justify or sustain a new heliport just a few miles away from an existing one.
Unfortunately, this and other key concerns have been largely overlooked amid the crude attempts to rally support for the heliport via subjective and untested assertions and seeking to undermine the entirety of the islands’ lifeline transport infrastructure.
Penzance residents clearly do not feel like they have been properly consulted over the last 21 months. This is evidenced by more than 200 registered objections from local residents on Cornwall Council’s website and the 29 local people, including two GPs, who spoke against the proposals at last week’s packed public meeting.
The publication less than 24 hours later of a Cornwall council report recommending SPC approval for Penzance Heliport, will only have added to their frustration their concerns are being ignored.
It adds to our own view SPC members are being asked to rush through a decision on Thursday without being given all necessary information.
For example there is clearly a considerable difference of opinion among experts on whether a sea level operation will make much difference in terms of flyable days in comparison to a technologically-enabled Land’s End Airport.
The Steamship Company’s own data suggests that the advantage would be marginal at best. This margin will be lessened as our investment in GPS landing technology comes fully on stream in early 2019.
The Steamship Company made an offer to the SPC to co-fund an independent operational study. We have yet to receive a reply.
Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group