Cornwall Council has unanimously resolved to grant planning permission for a heliport that will reinstate the vital air link between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly. This is the news we have been waiting for!
Helicopters will operate from Penzance to the islands of St Mary’s and Tresco, complementing existing routes and playing a vital role in growing the islands’ visitor economy. It is hoped flights will commence in spring 2018.
Cornwall Councillors unanimously approved the scheme after Officers reported the proposal would bring “significant benefits for local businesses and visitors.”
The site off Jelbert Way is adjacent to the site of the former heliport at Eastern Green, where a helicopter service to the islands operated successfully for 48 years until October 2012. The location has significant benefits in terms of weather resilience, excellent road and rail links, and proximity to local amenities including accommodation, shops and eateries.
The £2m private investment will bring benefits for both West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’s tourism economy, increasing visitor numbers and extending the tourist season. The project will also bring important social benefits, improving connectivity for island residents and creating around 30 permanent jobs.
Robert Dorrien-Smith commented: “Naturally, we are delighted. Today’s decision marks the start of the project that we believe will bring about a revival for the islands and dramatic improvements for their residents, businesses and visitors.”
Cornwall Council received over 2,600 messages of support for the project – the most it has ever received for a planning application.
Robert added: “The volume – but also the content – of the public support demonstrates without a doubt the importance of this project to the future of tourism on Scilly, and in Cornwall as a whole. We want to take this opportunity to thank all those who shared often very personal reasons for supporting the reinstatement of this lifeline service.”
The service is expected to launch in spring 2018, operated by state-of-the-art AW139 helicopters into both St Mary’s and Tresco.
More updates will follow as we have them…
Penzance Heliport Ltd is planning to reinstate the popular scheduled helicopter service between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly.
To operate the service, we plan to build a replacement heliport at Jelbert Way, Penzance near to the site of the former heliport on Eastern Green.
The helicopter service will complement existing transport services to the Isles of Scilly, re-establishing a multi-modal, weather resilient transport system to the islands. The flights will serve all the islands through St Mary’s Airport and will also restore a direct link to Tresco.
A planning application for the replacement heliport has been submitted to Cornwall Council. You can view this at the Cornwall Council planning website. Some of the key documents are our Socio-Economic Report into the benefits the service will bring, our Planning Statement which outlines the application, and the Environmental Statement – a ‘plain English’ outline of the key technical reports.
Image: Penzance Heliport in the 1960’s
Helicopter services to the Isles of Scilly started in 1963 from Land’s End aerodrome and relocated to Eastern Green, Penzance in 1964, where the service operated reliably and successfully until 2012. For 48 years the helicopter was a very important and profitable service. It played a significant role in the visitor economy and was the springboard for the islands’ post-war regeneration.
Since the helicopter service stopped, there has been a decline in visitor and air passenger numbers to the Isles of Scilly which has impacted both west Cornwall and the islands’ local economies. Residents, visitors and businesses have all been affected by the loss of the service and there have been calls for its reinstatement ever since.
For many years the helicopters, the fixed-wing planes and the ferry worked in harmony – the various services complemented each other and provided a resilient transport system. The new service hopes to recreate this situation and bring benefits to all the communities that it will serve through providing greater travel choice and flexibility.
The primary aim of reinstating the service is to grow the overall visitor numbers to the islands by enhancing travel options for visitors, businesses and residents.
- Improve transport reliability and resilience in poor weather
- Provide easier transport for locals and visitors with limited mobility
- Enhance customer confidence and repair reputational damage which has reduced visitor numbers to the Isles of Scilly
- Grow overall passenger numbers to the islands by expanding the travel options, tourist season and regaining the winter market
- Grow income, trade and both permanent and seasonal employment opportunities in west Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
- Assist with medical transfers to reduce reliance on the emergency services for routine transfers, whilst re-instating a weather-resilient west Cornwall refuelling facility for emergency helicopters
- Encourage private sector investment in the islands by improving infrastructure and access
- Re-establish a truly multi-modal, resilient and customer-focused transport system in cooperation with the fixed-wing plane and ferry provider
The proposed location for building the new heliport is at Jelbert Way, near to the site of the former heliport on Eastern Green.
Image: Aerial view of proposed Penzance Heliport site – Credit: Google Maps
Many sites across Cornwall have been considered for a replacement heliport. Penzance is deemed the most suitable site for many reasons, including excellent access by road and rail; established tourism offering; good infrastructure, and close proximity to the islands providing quick flight times, and affordable fares.
The businesses of Penzance will benefit from increased trade from users of the heliport who are likely to use local shops, restaurants and accommodation
Residents of the Isles of Scilly will benefit from easy access to facilities such as social and healthcare plus financial and professional services they require on the mainland.
The helicopter service will also create a number of jobs both during construction of the heliport and in the operational phase on both St Mary’s and Tresco, and in Penzance. It is expected Penzance Heliport will directly employ approximately 25 people.
The Jelbert Way site itself is also low level (only 15 feet above sea level) which has significant advantages for operations and there are no environmental designations or constraints.
How will the helicopter service operate?
The Penzance helicopter will service St Mary’s Airport and Tresco, offering another option for travel for those wishing to visit any of the islands.
The helicopter flight paths have been carefully considered to avoid flying directly over any residential properties.
It is expected there will be a daily service operating year-round with a reduced service on Sundays. Journey time will be approximately 15 minutes from take-off to landing.
As with the former helicopter service, the number of flights per day will vary depending on the season; during the peak summer season there will be up to 17 return flights from Penzance Heliport per day between 07.30 and 19.30 with approximately one take-off at Penzance every 45 minutes. During the off-peak season, there will be fewer flights.
Image: AW139 fifteen seater helicopter
The service will be operated using the AW139 15-seater helicopter. This is the market-leading intermediate twin-engine helicopter and is considered the benchmark for safety, performance and reliability all over the world. The AW139 is equipped with state of the art navigation systems. It has far superior performance levels and is faster and quieter compared with the previous S61 helicopters that used to service the route.
Why is a helicopter service needed?
Since the helicopter service stopped in 2012, we have received extensive enquiries asking for its reinstatement. The primary aim of the re-instated helicopter service is to grow overall visitor numbers to the islands by enhancing travel options and resilience. The new service will complement existing services to the Isles of Scilly, re-establishing a multi-modal, weather resilient transport system to serve the islands.
Will this bring visitors into Penzance?
Yes, this is great news for the west Cornwall tourist industry. An additional service such as this, which requires people to be in Penzance to catch the flight, will ultimately mean increased numbers and trade to the town, as well as the Isles of Scilly. This will also be a year-round service so will bring additional visitors to the area during winter months when the passenger ferry is out of operation.
Have you got planning consent yet?
The planning application was submitted to Cornwall Council in October 2016 and the Council has undertaken a formal consultation period. We are now awaiting confirmation of the date of the Stretegic Planning Committee meeting at which the application will be determined. We anticipate this will be early in 2017.
When will the helicopter service start?
If the planning application is successful the heliport will be built and a scheduled service will commence as soon as possible. The consortium is aiming for early 2018.
Will this project receive any public funding?
The project will be privately funded and will not rely on public funding.
Where will the helicopter serve?
The helicopter will serve all of the Isles of Scilly through St Mary’s airport and will also reinstate a direct link to Tresco.
Where can I find out more?
The consortium has assessed various other options, but Penzance is by far the best available site. There are several reasons for choosing Penzance. The site is in close proximity to the strategic road and rail networks and local amenities including accommodation, shops and services. The site’s close proximity to the islands lowers fuel costs, whilst the low level of the site has enormous benefits for weather resilience.
What will it cost?
We expect a return adult fare will cost in the region of £220 which will include an anticipated 20kg per person luggage allowance.
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