Tesco Say They’re Not To Blame For Helicopter Pullout

Tesco say they should not be blamed for the closure of the Penzance to Scilly helicopter service.

BIH stated that the supermarket’s judicial review into Cornwall Council’s approval of Sainbsury’s planning application to build a store on the heliport site was one of the reasons they decided to close the route in November.

It’s brought an angry reaction from locals. The Council is writing a letter of complaint to Tesco’s head office and Councillor Sheila Thomas has encouraged locals to boycott the store.

She’s told her Facebook friends that, after 5 years, she’s taking her trade to Asda.

Tesco called her yesterday afternoon following her comments.

They say they objected because they want the helicopters to continue and felt Cornwall Council should have insisted that BIH operated from elsewhere when granting planning consent to Sainsbury.

Michael Kissman, Tesco’s UK Community and Property Communications Director, said they wrote to Cornwall Council in July to explain their concerns and he says there were actions that could have been taken. Tesco want Cornwall Council to put in place a legal agreement that would ensure the helicopter service continues.

Michael says their legal challenge is not against BIH but Cornwall Council, because they want to ensure the helicopter service continues in the future.

And he says Tesco will contact the Council of the Isles of Scilly to try and clear up any misunderstanding.


22 Responses to Tesco Say They’re Not To Blame For Helicopter Pullout

  1. Todd Stevens August 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Our council officers spend so much time on gaining grants for projects and things we dont really need- when they should be concentrating on the infrastructure- The waste management; Sewage; transportation. In all these things they are failing us. The moorwell alp grows larger every day. The sewer system fails regularly and is desperately in need replacing and the route partnership was an epic fail. Its time for new leadership.

    • IanT. August 8, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Well said Todd. Perhaps instead of spending £12M on a new school which works out at about £40K for every man, woman and child on the islands, the existing school could have ben refurbished for a couple of million and the rest spent on the infrastructure.The sewage system didn’t meet EU regulations twenty years ago so how far does it fall short now in 2012? The school/sports hall facilities are wonderful but I seem to remember a Councillor once saying back in the 1990’s that sports facilities on Scilly were ‘second to none’..!

  2. Neil Farmer August 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Despite all the comments above, and we will miss the helicopter and don’t fancy the planes – so back to the stomach churner , it looks as though it is Cornwall County Council that failed to ensure the Helicopter had a “plan a” and probably a “plan b” in order to keep the service going if anything went wrong with the planning applications – which is why apparently Tesco have objected. This all seems to be a complete mess, along with the Penzance Harbour and the boat link, and with St Mary’s airport runways crumbling it seems everyone has missed what has been and is happening under there noses. We love scilly, its friendly people, the whole beauty of the place – and it needs us “tourists” to help them survive – we hope that the BIH problems won’t be the first of many transportation problems for scilly in the future.

  3. JayPaul August 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    You know Tony, that’s not a completely bad idea. They dip their fingers in most pots and there’s little they don’t do…

    They say they are supportive of the service, so why not have them buy over BIH Aircraft, update to modern aircraft and slap their logo all along the side of it? I wish I was joking but it’s not like they couldn’t afford to.

  4. Tony Mann August 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Perhaps Tesco would like to sponsor the heilcopter service to ensure it continues?

  5. Azimuth August 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Well done Cassandra and Todd. Venture capital investments like those that purchased BIH a couple of years ago are known for asset stripping to keep up high return payments to the capital investors. Once in that scenario there is rarely any return. The writing was on the wall years ago but obvoiusly not one on Scilly realized.

  6. JayPaul August 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Folks,

    New to these boards and can openly admit to being an off islander… although have had the pleasure of connections to the islands.

    My concern in all this, regardless of the tesco shebacke is the affect that this is going to have on people being able to make it to the mainland for appointments. Will it get to the point where people are in need of urgent medivac? Skybus is not completely reliable in terms of patients getting a to b

  7. Steve Raven August 6, 2012 at 11:25 am

    If you feel strongly enough, put your thoughts on Tesco’s Facebook page or any of their other web-sites.
    I’m surprised that none of the National dailys seem to have picked up the story. There is a huge ‘human interest’ angle in it, but I guess the Olympics are taking the best of their journalistic resources.

  8. Matthew PInney August 5, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Guess more holiday makers and day tripers are going to have to fly or use the ferry to get to the island’s instead, such a shame for BIH

  9. Cassandra August 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

    One thing that I can’t see has been specifically mentioned so far in this discussion is the role of BIH’s company structure in its demise. I must admit that I haven’t taken the time to drill-down on its accounts and I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong but it looks to me like the curse of Private Equity Finance has got a lot to do with this. Essentially what happens is that a profitable company is bought (by the management in the case of BIH) with the money for the purchase being borrowed from a private equity source and/or a bank. The issue is that the money is borrowed by the company rather than the buyers and in doing so saddles the company with the need to pay very high dividend/interest payments (as well as mortgaging its property) that kill profitability and hence capability for reinvestment. Basically, the company is run into the ground to fund its debts.

  10. peter August 4, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Well said Todd. You have summed it up 100%.
    Sell out and pull out.
    Only “loyal;ty” are the people using the service.
    Sad,but true.

  11. Neil Farmer August 4, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Just did a google search on sikorski s61’s for sale – and lo and behold G-ATBJ was put up for sale in July – some time before the “announcement” – price – ‘offers’ – so get some support and get your own community helicopter!

  12. lynn August 4, 2012 at 6:17 pm


  13. IanT. August 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    In some respects the Council should take part of the blame for the demise of BIH. For twenty years or more there has been concern over the subsidy inequality situation compared with Scotland and, I believe, Northern Ireland. Only now, when it is probably too late, is any real effort being made to rectify this situation. No doubt the Giovernment will fob them off as they have before with the ‘you are in England so go away’ excuse.

    • Sheila Thomas August 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

      I think you’ll find Ian, that the Scottish Isles get transport subsidies because the ferries are Government owned, not private as the Steamship Company own the Scillonian and Skybus. I do not think you can blame the Council.

  14. Todd Stevens August 4, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Tesco are not to blame here! BIH sold there own base from under themselves over 18 months ago, without a home to go to first. Every business has one good criteria that gives them a better chance at success in their given business -location-…location- location. BIH were already perfectly located for Scilly, right by the train station in an industrial area where they didnt bother home owners etc. To want to sell this base was either utter madness or simply that they WANTED to pull the plug. I think they pulled the plug as, is in their own words “the route was no longer financially viable” All this about moving was simply a rouse to keep their staff until the last minute. If they told them they were selling up back then they’d all have gone looking for jobs elsewhere. The choppers were old and with new ones at 35 million pounds a peice it was a get out now before its too late. Personally I think the pretense at relocation was a shabby way to treat their staff..

    • Alan Yeates August 4, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      Todd Stevens has the honest view I feel, and what with all the dithering about Penzance Harbour, and Air Services as well, I see a major threat to the Islands’ tourist trade.

    • Gordon Bilsborough August 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      You may well be right about BIH pulling out, Todd. It appears they were advertising an SK61 helicopter for sale on 9 July. ( wonder why???!!!

  15. Phil August 4, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Well, Tesco would say that wouldn’t they?
    If BIH say that Tesco’s judicial review of Sainsbury’s planning consent was one of the reasons they decided to close the route, then it’s a fair bet it was one of the reasons!
    Any half-wit can see that Tesco didn’t want any more competition and that was the real reason they called for a judicial review.
    To now tell us that it was trying to save the helicopter service is laughable. There is no ‘misunderstanding’ whatsoever!

  16. Kath August 4, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Surely as a councillor, Sheila Thomas should be supporting the local food suppliers. If people like her had done so we would probably still have the wholesale shop as an alternative to the Co-op.

    • Sheila Thomas August 4, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Kath, please get facts before writing drivel. the wholesalers closed BEFORE I became a councillor however I am sure the owners would be willing to support my claim that I was probably 1 of their better customers, not like a large number of households/businesses on Scilly that do all their shopping on the internet. I am Scillonian by birth and in my childhood I remember at least 8 different family grocery shops we had on St Mary’s that have disappeared, so am a firm believer of “use it or lose it” which is why I support the Co-op , however there are some items I cannot get there so have to buy on the internet. Just put in perspective I shopped at Tesco’s perhaps once every 6 – 8 weeks and my average spend was £90. Tesco’s won’t miss me but if everyone who felt strongly about the demise of the helicopters took action, then we can show them that the people of Scilly do care and are very worried about the future of our islands.

      • Steven G August 5, 2012 at 10:52 am

        Sheila, if, as they claim, Skybus can meet the demand left by the stopping of the helicopter couldn’t the increased passengers (who would otherwise have flow to Tresco) through St Mary’s airport help the Council solve the shortfall in the airport budget?