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European funding worth £1.8 million (US$2.3 million) has been confirmed for Penzance Heliport as work begins on restoring the helicopter link between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly.
The scheme will receive support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which aims to support smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. ERDF funding has previously supported other Isles of Scilly infrastructure projects including airport redevelopment at Land’s End and St Mary’s and quay upgrades at Penzance and St Mary’s.
The remainder of the £4.3 million (US$5.5 million) project costs will be from private investment, with Tresco Estate and the Dorrien-Smith family the largest investors.
Penzance Heliport will reinstate the air link between Penzance and the islands of St Mary’s and Tresco, with flights expected to begin in the spring of 2020 and tickets on sale from the summer of 2019. The service will strengthen transport links to the Isles of Scilly with increased capacity, improved road and rail connectivity and enhanced weather resilience.
Robert Dorrien-Smith from Penzance Heliport Ltd said: “We’re delighted the Isles of Scilly will once again benefit from European investment in its transport infrastructure. This European funding, alongside the record support from islanders, visitors, businesses and agencies on the islands and further afield, shows the importance of Penzance Heliport to the future growth of the Isles of Scilly.”
Preparation work has now commenced on the site at Jelbert Way, following an archaeological survey completed by the Cornwall Archaeological Unit. The preparatory works include drainage and the removal of a section of hedge to allow for the helicopter landing area. The removed sections of hedge will be replaced by almost four times as much similar habitat.
Following a tender process, West Cornwall contractor Symons Construction was selected to complete the preparatory work. The main contractor will be announced soon, with construction expected to begin in April 2019.
Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport councilor Geoff Brown said: “I welcome this news which will enhance passenger choice in traveling to and from the Isles of Scilly and improve resilience on the route.”
Chairman of the council of the Isles of Scilly councilor Robert Francis said: “Excellent transport infrastructure is vital to the social and economic future of our islands. Today’s announcement of European support for Penzance Heliport will further strengthen our island transport links for a thriving island community.”
Penzance Heliport will help extend the visitor season and make access to essential services easier for islanders throughout the year. A study found the investment will also help unlock £31 million (US$40 million) of private investment in the Isles of Scilly, stimulate £10 million (US$12.9 million) of economic activity in West Cornwall and provide around 30 permanent jobs.
Mayor of Penzance councilor Dick Cliffe said: “There is enormous support in Penzance for the return of the helicopter between Penzance and the islands and there will be delight at the news of this grant. There will also be relief that this ambitious private sector-led project has substantial external financial support given the national climate of economic uncertainty and investment restraint. The long term importance of this project to the economy of the islands and also Penzance cannot be overstated.”
David Jackson, executive director for the Islands’ partnership tourism body, said: “The Islands’ Partnership welcomes today’s announcement of further European investment in Scilly’s vital transport infrastructure. This latest round of ERDF support follows earlier investment in other island transport hubs at Land’s End and here on St. Mary’s – due recognition of the importance of a resilient and multi-modal transport system in securing a sustainable economic future for our islands.”
Helicopter flights from Penzance Heliport will operate to St Mary’s and Tresco using a state-of-the-art Leonardo AW139 helicopter operated by Sloane Helicopters. The new heliport, just 200 meters (650 feet) from the previous site, will provide excellent road and rail connectivity and enhanced resilience and reliability.