Council Discusses ‘Watershed’ In Islands’ History

This week’s events will be remembered as a watershed in the islands’ history.

That’s how Dudley Mumford described the loss of the British International Helicopters service in last night’s Full Council meeting.

Councillor Christine Savill said the service was “part of all of our lives” and she was still at school when it started. She felt that when islanders see the last helicopter depart, in the same way that people see the last Scillonian III each year, the loss would sink in, knowing it wouldn’t be back in the spring.

Fred Ticehurst said he was disappointed that the 49-year service wouldn’t be able to mark its 50th anniversary.

Christine felt that improvements to the airport and facilities had to be made a top priority as more passengers will now be coming through St Mary’s and will need to be catered for.

Mike Nelhams felt it was an opportunity to raise our game and he told members that St Mary’s will change with Tresco passengers coming through. He added that we need to look after passengers and make their trip a positive experience.

Dudley felt better landing facilities and navigation could be added to the airport to improve reliability.

Logistical challenges will emerge over the next few weeks and members spoke about how procedures for transferring toxic and medical products to the mainland and bringing over newspapers would be tackled. Both are currently moved by helicopter.

Mike Hicks says that the Steamship Company have dedicated one aircraft as a freight carrier for the mail and suggested that could be used for Clive Mumford’s newspapers.

Members want closer liaison with the Steamship Company and Dudley suggested informally inviting Chief Executive Jeff Marston to transport meetings.

Chris Thomas was concerned that a monopoly could bring fare raises and Fred Ticehurst was of a similar opinion. He believes that the improvements to Land’s End airport, costing over £1m, will be funded from fares.

David Pearson, speaking on behalf of the children, said if young people can’t go to and from the mainland, the islands will “go down.”

The Council Chairman will write to the management of BIH thanking them for their wonderful service and Amanda Martin asked that words of sympathy for people who will lose their livelihoods be included in any letters sent.

She is grateful to generations of heliport workers who had allowed her to take more luggage then she should have been able to carry with her weight limit.

Robert Dorrien-Smith explained that the reasons for the cessation of service were clear, the helicopter company was a victim of ‘superstore wars’.

He urged the Council to write to Tesco claiming their intervention was ‘mischievous’ and commercial and would have a serious impact on the islands’ community and in Penzance.

Robert says that a large multinational has a social responsibility and the delay from the legal challenge by the supermarket giant triggered the end of the helicopter service. Robert wanted the firm to realise the social consequences of their action.

Philip Hygate said the chairman of the Local Enterprise Partnership, Chris Pomfret had contacts with Unilever and that gave him an inroad to the supermarket. He said the LEP was sending a letter of complaint.

Robert felt that the Council should also write to express their dissatisfaction.