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Feedback on Deputation to Transport Minister 15 Dec 2010

posted Dec 17, 2010, 2:58 PM by Richard Cliffe   [ updated Dec 30, 2010, 5:09 PM ]

The Council of the IOS deputation met with Norman Baker MP on 15 Dec 2010 . There was a short pre-meeting with Andrew George MP before the delegation got to see the Minister.  Whilst the Minister was fully supportive of the need to upgrade the links he is looking for ways to reduce the cost to Central Government.  This included:

-          the option of purchasing second hand vessel(s) with prudential borrowing used to contribute to harbour works.

-          two vessel solutions (second-hand)

-          splitting the project – vessel solution to be delayed.

Many other issues were touched upon including the objector’s proposals for a remote freight handling area.

Graeme Hicks, speaking as a Cornwall Council Cabinet member, stated that Cornwall Council were not intending on investing anymore money in developing options. 

Mike Waters, Chair of Penzance Chamber of Commerce, attended as a member of the deputation and was able to represent the views of vast majority of Penzance businesses.  He took the opportunity to draw  attention to widespread support for the project within Penzance (the Minister has already been well briefed on this aspect).

Marian Bennett, Vice Chair of the CIOS, reflecting on the meeting afterwards felt ‘gently hopeful’ when describing the meetings (this is someway short of confident).

During the pre-meeting Andrew George MP was challenged by Cllr Graeme Hicks to say whether he supported the current proposals (which include the controversial Option A for Penzance Harbour).  Andrew George MP said “yes” he did but caveat his support by saying it was the only option now open given the way the project has been handled.

The visit is being followed up with written responses to some of the issues raised by the Minister as there was inadequate time to cover all of the issues he raised.


The CIOS deputation was followed by a deputation from Penzance Town Council and Penzance Business Network.  There were believed to be nine in the deputation which included:  Jan Ruhrmund (Mayor), Simon Glasson (Town Clerk), John Maggs (FoPH spokesperson), Charlie Cartwright,  Mr Newport (PBN), Adrian Piggott (PBN), Mr Bell (Architect PBN).  The identity of others is not known.




Jan Ruhrmund, whilst Major, is also on Andrew George’s constituency office staff.  This was a problem when she represented the Town Council at the Strategic Planning Meeting on 8 Mar 10 as she had to declare an interest as a members of the MP’s staff (there was a Lib Dem whip to vote against the application).  She subsequently (on behalf of Pz Town Council) got a savaging by Councillors when she admitted under questioning that Penzance Town Council had not held a public consultation on the Harbour matter, despite its importance, before deciding to oppose it.  At the time of the last, and hopefully final, Planning Meeting on 14 October the Town Council had still not held a consultation.  But for the generosity of the CIOS the views of the Penzance business community and the majority of local residents would not have been represented in the delegations to the Minister on the 15 Dec 2010. The CIOS agreed to include Mike Waters, Chair of the Penzance Chamber of Commerce, at the last minute.

Without going into excruciating detail, the idea of pursuing second-hand vessels unhinges the IOS Ferry Link scheme as planned.  The proposed new dual purpose ferry is to be bought with a combination of Central Government grant and prudential borrowing by Cornwall Council.  The borrowing is effectively paid for by the ferry operator who pays a charter fee for the vessel.  An older, second hand vessel is likely to cost more to run because of older engine technology and the costs of running two vessels (likely if buying second-hand).  A solution based upon second hand vessels is therefore likely to attract a lower charter fee (there would have to be a new round of bidding for the contract to operate the vessel) .  The charter fee will also be paid for a shorter period if the vessel is old.  Going down this route therefore adds all manner of uncertainty; it certainly adds a substantial delay to replacing the current vessels and reduces the likelihood of a financially sustainable solution. 

The current ferry is 33 years old and the Gry Maritha 29 years old.  If this solution was highly efficient we might have expected the IOSSC to have built up a substantial vessel replacement fund – this is not the case and explains why Cornwall Council and Central Government are involved in funding the replacement vessel.  Given the Government’s desperation to reduce up front costs it seems likely that the long term aspiration of making the link financially self sustaining (no future Govt involvement) may be sacrificed.