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Minister accepts deputations from IOS and Penzance TC

posted Dec 10, 2010, 7:39 PM by Richard Cliffe   [ updated Dec 11, 2010, 7:28 AM ]

Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, has agreed to accept two deputations on  the matter of the IOS Ferry Link on 15 Dec 10 at the House of Commons. One will be pressing for funding of this vital lifeline project and avoidance of any further delay whilst the other will, presumably,  press him to withold funding and delay the project (you could not make it up).

The first invitation is to the Council of Isles of Scilly who will be attending with key representatives from Cornwall Council and its project team.  They will be making the case for the vital lifeline project to be funded as soon as possible given the state of the two harbours, MCA’s concerns over the Scillonian III and high risk of the loss of the helicopter service later next year.

The second meeting will be with a deputation comprising representatives of Penzance Town Council and Penzance Business Network.  Given past form they will be lobbying to prevent the Ferry Link project proceeding as currently planned and offering an alternative solution (Option Pz).

Controversy has already arisen about the Town Council representatives taking along Penzance Business Network whose name suggests to outsiders (and perhaps ministers) that they are representative of general business interests in Penzance which generally they are not (but the Penzance Chamber of Commerce is).  See following news items for exchanges between Chair of the Penzance Chamber and Andrew George MP on this matter.


 The IOS deputation resulted from an invitation made by Norman Baker to Marian Bennett, Vice Chair CIOS on around 8 Oct 10 at a regional meeting held by the DofT at Exeter.  Etiquette requires that  requests for meetings with ministers are made through the constituency MP (Andrew George in this case).  A request was made to the MP in early October but nothing happened. At the FofPH public meeting in St Johns Hall on 22 Oct 2010 Andrew George promised Marian Bennett (after she addressed the meeting and raised the matter) that he would arrange the meeting with the Minister.  Reportedly, he tried to arrange for a joint meeting where both CIOS and Penzance Town Council would be present but the CIOS refused on the grounds that Penzance Town Council were not part of the Route Partnership and were not supporting the current plans for which the CIOS are seeking funding.  The planned meeting on the 15th Dec comes approximately 2 months after the CIOS request was originally made.

 Since 8 Mar 10 when the Option A was blessed by the Strategic Planning Committee the predicament of Islanders has become starker. 

  1. The sale of Penzance Heliport to Sainsbury’s is public knowledge but what has not been publicised is that the BIH's bankers (Bank of Ireland) have a legal mortgage over all of the freehold and leasehold property of the Company.  If the sale does not proceed then the Company will not have the capital to repay £5.45 million due to creditors (mainly Bank of Ireland) in the 2011 financial year.  There is therefore a risk of the Company being wound up if the sale does not proceed and the future of the Heliport being decided by the Bank of Ireland (details from British International Holdings Ltd Consolidated Financial Statement 31 Dec 2009 available from Companies House at a cost of £1).
  2. The MCA, which licenses the Scillonian to operate as a passenger ferry, has indicated that it is taking a hard line on what corrective action it will require on the Scillonian III to allow it to operate  if no new vessel is on order.  These new restrictions would apparently be imposed in 2011 although one assumes there is some negotiating space as insufficient time remains for major vessel modifictions before the 2011 sailings start.  The MCA demands are likely to create a dilemma for the IOSSC because they either have to make a large investment in upgrading an old vessel with a limited life or face draconian restrictions on the vessels operations. 

The proposal from objectors to go back to the drawing board and work up a new solution is therefore a nightmare for the Islanders as the target date for introducing the new ferry into service would slip  3 years to 2016 (or later) and Islanders would be faced with the likelihood of no helicopter service from Sep 2011, additional significant restrictions on the Scillonian III’s operations and dependence on Skybus alone during the winter months for passenger services.