MP Andrew George Says He Didn’t Work Against Route Partnership Plan

Scilly's MP, Andrew George

Scilly’s MP, Andrew George, says he didn’t work against the Route Partnership, by promoting alternative plans that favoured the redevelopment of Penzance seafront over the economic importance of the link to our islands.

In an interview with Radio Scilly, he says he should be thanked for saving the funding, because the entire Department for Transport cash was in jeopardy, as the government wanted a cheaper alternative.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Scilly’s Member of Parliament was writing to Government ministers to tell them not to back the Route Partnership project, as it stood, in the weeks before they decided not to fund the £42m scheme.

Letters Forwarded to Minister

Over a 6-month period, Andrew George forwarded 25 letters opposing the scheme to the Department for Transport and the Lib Dem minister, Norman Baker, who made the funding decision.

There’s no record of any material in support of the project being sent to Mr Baker.

Mr George says he forwarded all letters from constituents to the Minister, including those supporting the Route Partnership, and he believes the documentation supplied by the DfT has inadvertently omitted those letters.

From Radio Scilly

Hear the full interview with Andrew George, MP

The day after the Government announced that they wouldn’t contribute to the project to build a Scillonian III and Gry Maritha replacement, and rebuild St Mary’s and Penzance quays, Mr George was interviewed on Radio Scilly where he twice said he was disappointed by the decision.

Yet correspondence shows that just six days before the decision was made, Mr George forwarded the minister a letter from Penzance Town Council outlining the opposition to the scheme and their preference for an alternative plan, which would regenerate their harbour.

Two-Boat Alternative Outlined

Mr George wrote to the Minister on Feb 18th to outline alternatives, including a two-boat solution instead of having a purpose-built single vessel.

In the letter headed ‘My Position’ he stated, “I do not support nor endorse the ‘all or nothing’ approach of the Route Partnership. I am not prepared to put at risk the possibility of significant investment in this vital service by adopting such a position, and believe that better, cheaper alternatives are available.”

Andrew George’s Letter

Click here for a copy of Mr George’s letter to Norman Baker

Mr George then went on to outline over several pages an alternative proposal, concluding with the statement “I hope that these remarks may prove helpful when drawing your own conclusions on how the Government should proceed with this important project. If you were to adopt an approach as suggested in this letter then I can assure you that I will assist in promoting it.”

Mr George says that when he wrote to Norman Baker stating he didn’t endorse the Route Partnership’s ‘all or nothing’ approach, he wasn’t saying the government shouldn’t back it.

He maintains he wasn’t opposing the Route Partnership plan, the only one being considered by the Government, but putting forward other ideas

He also says he was suggesting that there was potential to save money on cheaper and less risky alternatives to the Route Partnership and promoting a more environmentally friendly solution.

‘Immediate Regenerative Benefit’ for Penzance

Throughout Mr George’s correspondence, there’s no mention of the economic benefits for the islands, but there are a number of references to ‘the immediate regenerative benefit’ for Penzance of an alternative plan.

He wrote that two smaller ships could fit the Penzance dry dock and again save jobs in that town.

But Mr George refutes claims he was putting the economic benefits that could arise from alternative schemes for Penzance, before those of the Isles of Scilly. He said it ‘goes without saying’ that any scheme that helped develop Penzance would automatically have knock on effects for Scilly.

Mr George’s letter to the Minister suggests that offering money could encourage Cornwall Council to support an alternative plan. He wrote, “As the only body able to deliver a scheme, it is clear that Cornwall Council will only accept an alternative scheme if it is induced to do so by the major fund provider (i.e. the DfT) and that such an offer of financial assistance is presented in a manner which would encourage the Council to accept.”

However, it’s now clear the approach that Mr George suggested has not worked. As it stands today, Cornwall Council has said it wants to play no part in developing future plans for Penzance.

Our own Council is proceeding with plans to upgrade St Mary’s quay, but was recently told by Norman Baker that funding could not happen without the Penzance quay project being ready.

Mr George says he is determined to find a solution for the Penzance end of the scheme, and also a way for Cornwall Council to re-enter the project.


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