Cornwall Council has again granted planning permission for a heliport in Penzance that will reinstate the town’s air link to the Isles of Scilly.
In this morning's meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee, Members agreed unanimously to approve the recommendation in the accompanying 68-page report that the project be given the go-ahead subject to 39 conditions. They also added another condition and amended an existing one slightly.
The conditions, available to view here, include that there are no flights before 11am and after 4pm on Sundays or before 7.30am and after 7pm between Monday and Saturday.
Principal Development Officer Peter Bainbridge began the meeting by presenting his report with accompanying slides, concluding that the adverse impacts of the proposals were outweighed by the public benefits.
His presentation was followed by several public speakers, who were each given three minutes to address the committee. Penzance GP Mark Russell said the noise impact assessment in the application was flawed. Stuart Reid, Chief Operating Officer at the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said the information provided was based on the applicant's opinion and that the ISSG's own weather data showed Penzance would only benefit by a handful of days. He also reiterated ISSG chairman Andrew May's offer to co-fund a study to "settle the debate" on the relative merits of a helicopter operation from Land's End and Penzance.
Penzance Mayor Cllr Dick Cliffe spoke on behalf of Penzance Town Council, saying the loss of the heliport in 2012 was a "catastrophic blow" to Scilly and Penzance and that inadequate links to the mainland were causing the islands' economy to "stagnate", while investment prospects were bleak.
Penzance Heliport Ltd's Robert Dorrien-Smith said that the current transport links from the mainland to Scilly are the "least reliable ever" and that Land's End has always suffered extensively from fog. He vowed that he would do everything in his power to work constructively with the ISSG and that a monopoly was "not a desirable situation".
He emphasised the importance of rebuilding the islands' reputation as an accessible destination, which he said had been damaged by unreliable transport links. He added with a smile that Scilly's Council chairman Robert Francis "would be with us today but unfortunately there was fog at Land's End".
Cllr Dorrien-Smith was followed by the applicant's agent Simon Cole, who said the ISSG's claims were not backed up with hard evidence, and several local Councillors, all but one of whom supported the application.
The Members present then asked questions of Officer Peter Bainbridge and discussed the application, after which the vote took place an hour and a half into the meeting.
Cornwall Council received over 3,534 comments of support for the project and 220 objections.
Yesterday a letter in the Western Morning News from Andrew May claimed that key concerns about the proposed heliport were ignored in the run-up to the decision.
The webcast of the meeting is available to view here.