Tresco Island and the Dorrien-Smith family are spearheading a project to reinstate the scheduled passenger helicopter service between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly.
The helicopter service will provide a reliable, fast, comfortable and customer-focussed year-round helicopter lifeline to the Isles of Scilly.
This project will help grow visitor numbers to the islands, extend the tourist season, secure and create employment and make transport easier for locals and visitors alike.
The helicopter service will fly from Penzance to both St Mary’s and Tresco, providing a year-round, weather-resilient transport service to the islands and complementing existing sea and air links.
There will be up to 17 return flights per day to the islands and we hope to operate a limited Sunday schedule.
The service will operate using the state-of-the-art AW139 helicopter – the market-leading intermediate twin-engined helicopter, considered the benchmark for safety, performance and reliability.
The helicopter has superior performance levels and is significantly quieter and faster than the previous aircraft used on the route; indeed the flight time will be just 15 minutes.
The service will improve transport reliability and resilience, support growth in visitor numbers and an extension of the season, provide easier access for less able passengers, repair the reputational damage done to the islands in recent years, create around 30 permanent jobs, demonstrate investment confidence in the islands, and provide significant ripple benefits to the local economy.
To operate the service, we will build a replacement heliport at Jelbert Way, Penzance, near to the site of the former heliport on Eastern Green. The planning application received unanimous support from Cornwall Council in February 2017.
Of the many sites considered for the mainland base for the new service, Penzance remains the most suitable for many reasons…
The site’s low altitude gives significant operational resilience. Operations from a near sea level site are significantly less constrained by low cloud and fog.
The site has excellent access to the strategic road and rail networks. The site is adjacent to the A30 and less than a mile from Penzance rail station on the Great Western mainline, with direct services to the southeast, midlands and Scotland.
The relative proximity to the islands enables rapid flight times at a reasonable price, whilst minimising the environmental impact of the service.
Penzance provides excellent, existing tourist infrastructure with accommodation, shops, restaurants and other services readily available for passengers.
Islanders will benefit from direct access to the range of essential services in Penzance, including social, healthcare, financial and business services.
Cornwall Council granted unanimous planning permission for the replacement Penzance Heliport in February 2017.
The decision was reached within half an hour of the start of the meeting, with Councillors commenting on the “significant benefits for local businesses and visitors” the project would deliver. Cornwall Council received over 2,600 messages of support for the project – the most it has ever received for a planning application.
Unfortunately, it was confirmed in May 2017 that construction of the replacement Penzance Heliport has been paused temporarily, after the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company began proceedings for a judicial review into Cornwall Council’s planning decision.
The move has been condemned from all sides. Businesses and residents on Scilly and the mainland, island visitors, all three local parliamentary candidates in the 2017 General election, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the Islands’ Partnership tourism agency, Travelwatch Southwest and members of the House of Lords have spoken out against the move.
A petition, launched by an island resident and businesswoman, calling for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company to rescind its legal threat, has received over 8,000 signatures. You can sign the petition here.
We cannot say how long this process may take, or the delay this will cause to the project timeline, but we remain absolutely committed to launching a reinstated helicopter service to the Isles of Scilly from Penzance.
We firmly believe Penzance to be the only viable location for this service. The site is at low altitude, giving significant operational resilience, has excellent road and rail access, is close to Penzance’s existing tourist infrastructure and essential services for islanders, and is relatively close to the islands enabling rapid flight times and reasonable prices and minimising environmental impact.
Ultimately we have got to put islanders and visitors first, and we must design a transport system that will enable improvements in resilience, reliability and customer experience, as well as facilitating future growth in the islands’ tourism economy.Robert Dorrien-Smith
Supported by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in Rural Areas
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