Chopper service row continues as Penzance Heliport sends open letter

St Mary’s. Image courtesy of SCYTV.

Thursday 24th May 2018 12:44 BST

The public row between rival helicopter services from West Cornwall to the Scillies continued yesterday as Penzance Heliport published an open letter to the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group calling for the firm to “refocus its attention on its core services.

In the letter, published on Penzance Heliport’s website, Robert Dorrien-Smith, who is planning to launch a service from the town to the Islands next year, also requested the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group (ISSG) “drop their objections” to his firm’s planning application for a heliport lodged with Cornwall Council.

An ISSG spokesperson has responded, saying the company has not formally objected to the application.

Mr Dorrien-Smith has been behind plans for a heliport in Penzance since 2016. The AW139 helicopter is planned to operate all year round, with up to 17 return flights per day to Tresco and St Mary’s, and a limited Sunday schedule.

Meanwhile ISSG’s Island Helicopters is currently operating flights to St Mary’s on a charter basis, after permission to run a scheduled service was suspended last Friday by the Council of the Isles of Scilly, pending a Habitat Regulations Assessment.

The letter in full:

To: The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company,

Over recent months, the debate over helicopter services to the Isles of Scilly has become increasingly bitter. We say it is time for this to stop, before the current situation damages the islands.

We are not against the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, and never have been. The islands need a successful Steamship Company, but that is one focused on its core services.

If the Steamship Company is genuinely convinced that Island Helicopters is the service Scilly needs, they should drop their objections and let Penzance Heliport move forward, allowing the services to compete.

We are astounded that, with the ongoing situation with Island Helicopters, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company has felt it appropriate to lodge yet another objection to Penzance Heliport with Cornwall Council.

Besides many factually incorrect and presumptive statements, the assertion that Penzance Heliport is for the “benefit of an individual estate at the sacrifice of other islanders” is a disappointing attempt to damage the integrity of this project.

The Penzance Heliport project has been clear from the start: our aim is to make the Isles of Scilly a better place to live, work and visit – for all of the islands. We believe in growing the size of the market for all, not arguing over how to slice it up.

We hope the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company will listen to the views of islanders, visitors, businesses, our MP, the Minister for Transport and many other friends of Scilly and refocus its attention on its core services, on which these islands rely.

We believe in a strong, cohesive, resilient transport system for the Isles of Scilly. A vital part of this is the core Steamship Company services, and in particular the essential passenger and freight sea services on which the islands depend.

We firmly believe that Penzance Heliport has a key role in the future of transport to Scilly and must never forget that the helicopter services from Penzance since 1964 underpinned the economy of Scilly and enabled growth and resilience.

We would ask the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company to drop its objections to Penzance Heliport, refocus its attention on its core services, and make these services the best they can be.

We are eager to see a new era of cooperation and collaboration on the Isles of Scilly, where Penzance Heliport and the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company can work together to provide targeted investment that will ensure maximum resilience and growth for the islands and West Cornwall.

We believe this can best be achieved through strong passenger and freight sea services, a strong fixed wing air service, and a strong helicopter service from Penzance.

We remain absolutely committed to the Penzance Heliport project and the wider island transport system, and hope the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company will join us in a positive future for the islands.

Robert Dorrien-Smith

A spokesman for the ISSG said: “Island Helicopters is continuing to operate flights to the Isles of Scilly on a chartered basis with the agreement of the Council of the Isles of Scilly. We are still working with the Council and anticipate its decision to lift the current ‘stop’ notice on scheduled helicopter flights very soon.

“We responded to the planning application for Penzance Heliport last week as a consultee on behalf of Land’s End Airport. We have made a number of comments which we feel are important for the committee to bear in mind when they determine the Penzance Heliport planning application. However, we have not formally objected to this application, and we have made this very clear to Cornwall Council’s planners.”

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