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Funding refused for IOS Ferry Project

posted Mar 31, 2011, 8:18 AM by Richard Cliffe   [ updated Mar 31, 2011, 9:47 AM ]

Norman Baker MP, Minister, Dept for Transport, wrote to Cornwall Council today stating that funding was refused for all aspects of the IOS Ferry Project.  His letter stated they could not justify an allocation of £35 million to the scheme in a time of financial stringency.  He referred to the “poor appraised value of the scheme” and noted that the cost had risen by 50% since 2007.  He noted that other promoters (Councils) has managed to amend their scheme to reduce the call on Government funds.  A copy of his letter is attached.


Comment to Supporters

It was popular support expressed in the 3000+ signature petition, 790 letters to the planner and 4000+ facebook supporters that prevented this project sinking after Dec 2009.  It is obviously a big disaapointment to us all that it has not been funded today.

 As a result of the support given there is at least a plan with all necessary approvals to solve the problem of the sea link even if the Government has decided not to fund it.

Penzance has also demonstrated that a large part of the community is prepared to embrace change and hanker after mythical idyllic past that never existed.  We are prepared  to address the issues of today.  That has to be healthy for the community.

 The project has failed to be funded because of a combination of factors:

  • The once in a generation request for Govt funds came at a time of drastic budgetary pressure.
  • The were divisions in the Penzance community which weaken our case.
  • Failure of local political leadership in the form of a Town Council out of touch with the majority of residents.
  • An equivocal MP who appeared to be briefing against the plan.
  • The Steamship Company giving only half hearted support because they preferred a solution they own themselves even if it provided less than the Islanders desired.

Sadly the failure to gain funding is a disaster which has ‘Made in Cornwall’ (and I am not referring to Cornwall Council) stamped on the bottom of it even if it has been signed off by Norman Baker MP.  Penzance has ‘form’ saying no to important strategic investments (M&S, University Campus etc)  and it has happened again. Unfortunately it is the Islanders at ‘ground zero’ with Penzance and West Cornwall picking up the fallout.

This result is a reminder to all us why local politics matters. 


Comment (Implications)

 This decision is especially bad news for Islanders because it means the future of 2 out 3 transport links to the Islands is now uncertain (Helicopter and the ferry). 

 The Minister’s reference to “poor appraised value of the scheme” applies to all lifeline links to small remote islands.  The Scottish Islands would be largely depopulated if this criteria were applied to all islands ferry links in the UK.  The EU ERDF accepted this constraint (it applies to many remote communities) but the Government obviously does not.

 The Helicopter service is expected to cease either at the end of 2011 after sale of the Heliport or within a few years because the route is not profitable enough to justify investment in new helicopters.  That leave Skybus and the ferry

 The Scillion III has a licence for 2011 but its passenger capacity has reportedly been  reduced well below 600 because it is not compliant with current safety regulations and it is not cost effective to upgrade a 33 year old vessel.

 The IOSSC have a plan to replace the Scillonian with the Siluna Ace (or sister ship) but this vessel is significantly smaller (~320 pax), slower (~3 hrs + crossing) and may be weather restricted by the MCA (not designed for open ocean ferry routes). 

 The IOSSC have major concerns about investing in replacement vessel(s) unless there is investment in Penzance Harbour and especially measures to deal with overtopping by the sea which is a risk for passengers, staff and vessels.

 Objectors to Penzance Harbour Option A especially dislike sea defence measures whether they be rock armour or the proposed sea wall and reclamation.  The objectors’ alternative plan offers no sea defence of South Pier at all.  This raises a question as to whether a credible plan for Penzance Harbour is achievable.  Without investment in Penzance Harbour its long term future as a working harbour is in doubt.

 Once thing we can be sure of today is that we have not heard the last of the matter and it will continue to grab front page headlines for a few more years yet until resolved (I can hear you all groaning already .....).


Richard Cliffe,
Mar 31, 2011, 8:42 AM