St Mary’s Airport Running Out Of Cash

Councillors will be asked to take action to save St Mary’s airport tonight.

The Council’s report describes the ongoing financial situation as ‘grave.’ Around £4.5m in grants to pay for runway resurfacing, new low visibility navigation systems and airport remodeling has been sourced.

But the airport is rapidly running out of cash to fund day-to-day operations.

Three years ago there was £786,000 in the airport reserves, but that’s nearly all been used and there’s just £20,000 left today.

Some Councillors claim they’ve only recently been made aware of how serious finances are, although they appear to have forgotten that they voted to cap landing charges at the airport last October, claiming this would place an unfair burden on the operators. The state of the reserves was clearly spelt out at that time.(

Falling passenger numbers and flights cancelled due to fog and cross winds have taken their toll on finances. This year’s shortfall, before the BIH closure, will be £150,000 and that means the airport account will be drained by next Spring.

Council rules require the airport to break even on its own, without subsidy from the ratepayer.

Airport Consultants Parson Brinkerhoff say that the current committee system is part of the problem. They feel it slows decision making and there’s little attention paid to developing customer service, money making ideas and new routes.

Councillors recently agreed to split the airport’s control between two Council committees; General Purposes and Transport Strategy.

Tonight Councillors will be asked to scrap the recent changes and support the consultants’ advice to put a single transport committee in charge of all aspects of the airport. It will be devoted to the airport and will meet monthly.

Councillors will still be represented on it, with seats around the table for the Chair and Vice Chair of the Policy and Resources committee, the Chair of Planning and the General Purposes Chairman.

Officers from the airport, air traffic control, fire service, finance and economic development will make up the staff representation.

One Councillor told us tonight’s meeting could be challenging as some members and officers who currently have a say on airport operations may be against relinquishing their roles.

If the proposal is rejected, it’s unclear how the airport will continue to trade in the long term, as it will run out of money early next year.

In August passengers were down 2,472 from the same month in 2011. That’s a 15% reduction, while July was down a quarter, year-on-year.


12 Responses to St Mary’s Airport Running Out Of Cash

  1. Pat Hicks September 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Yes i know there’s no excuse for me not to know. and also i sometimes cannot be bothered as you think does it really matter. can i make a difference.. i really feel sorry for some of the councillors they must feel they’r banging there head against a brick wall. . but there’s alot of people that do not have internet ect. and do not know who the councillors are also.

  2. jonnym September 30, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Pat, the Council’s website has a very comprehensive list of the Councillors and their contact details…

  3. Lawrence Upton September 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I made no environmental case. It has been made. Where I spend much of my time, in suburban Surrey, the environmental case is often rejected as if one can refuse to believe in human-made environmental change as a way of making it untrue. Here that position is quite popular because, I believe, so many want to drive despite the good public transport links AND to feel good about themselves!
    I take it as proven that air travel is worse for the environment than sea travel, causing sea-level rise and uncertain weather; though whether that is true of the aging Scillonian I am far from sure. It still remains pertinent because Scillonian III is nearing the end of its life, if only ON enviromental grounds.
    On that basis I would see far more point in developing the sea connection than the air connection with Scilly.
    Of course, if you disagree, then you disagree.
    I am old enough that, while I may regret the effects of climate change, I shall not live to see the worst. I do though feel for the youngsters on Scilly and on the mainland.
    Nothing any of us do will make much difference; but that applies to everything. There is an ethical dimension. Someone has to start. Scilly has more to lose than many places. I am writing from on top of a heap of chalk that’ll be above water if the whole of Greenland loses its ice. But the weather won’t be good.
    If you disagree with my conviction, you disagree. This is not the place to debate that; but that is where I am coming from.
    I am sorry if I was unclear.


  4. Peter September 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve been pondering Scilly’s problems since my post yesterday, trying to think laterally, and taking on board subsequent postings. Not sure I follow the environmental case from Lawrence. Scilly has changed since we first visited 25 years ago, and so have the needs of tourists, but has Scilly changed enough and should it change more in order to stay in the tourism game (as diversifying seems unlikely: into what? flowers? kelp-harvesting? shipbuilding)? Yes, we love the tranquillity, but we old fogeys are a dying breed. Tresco’s hooray Henrys make me cringe and I think they are a very limited market who will follow fashion and bail out when somewhere more trendy appears. Mass tourism, no, as it would kill the goose that lays the egg, but some seriously aggressive marketing with a big tourism company might work in solving several problems. I’m talking easyJet here: re-build the airport, build small modern-styled hotels…, re-brand Scilly. Oh, hang on, there’s the Duchy of Cornwall refusing to change… Ah well… Scilly does indeed go underwater after all.

  5. Lawrence Upton September 28, 2012 at 9:40 am

    LONG term investment in sea transport is likely to be the only sensible thing because of the disproportionately deleterious effects of air transport on the environment.
    Whether that’s as serious as the effects of all the people who drive to Penzance by car, I don’t know. Both are problematic.
    I say that unaggressively, I hope, and only in the same spirit that Scillonian advise us to keep both feet on the deck and that Skybus insist we strap in. If we don’t behave sensibly, we may die.
    I do know that I accept the broad assertion of human-made climate change and that, even though that change may be warmer in general, it is unlikely to be very nice for Britain. The gulf stream is slowing and the jet stream moving.
    Also, Greenland and Arctic ice are melting faster than anyone has publicly predicted; and in a few generations the Scilly archipelago may be very small; and most people will have descendants — living in boats perhaps.
    It’s happened before and the some signs are visible in the geology.
    I love Kittern Hill on The Gugh: Kittern Island anyone?
    As with London’s airports, so with St Mary’s International; we should be phasing them out.
    I’ll believe in a technological fix when it’s operational. In reality, the world is “going technical”.

  6. Adam Morton,St.Martins September 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Diversify into what? that isnt hit by the same issue,namly cost of transport.Its only the holiday trade that drove prices up in the first place.I dont think the airport should be run by councillors,its indefencible not to have seen this coming though concidering they work for free maybe not surprising.An increase of £1 per passenger per flight should cover it but show the sums so people can see its not to just fund annother paper pusher.

  7. Peter September 27, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I’ve posted twice before on this subject. We are regular visitors who love the islands. Each day I look at the Scilly Today site expecting to see news of some big initiative by Scilly councillors or even by some unofficial maverick group or individual, but, no, all we read about is cricket matches, craft fairs or whatever. Is anybody on the islands going to wake up and do something?! No helicopters, Scillonian on its last legs, Skybus withdrawing routes, airport approaching financial meltdown, and you guys are re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. You are a tourist economy shortly to be without a method of transporting tourists to your businesses… Hello… anybody there…?

    • Adam Morton,St.Martins September 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm

      I think you’v bin reading the more interesting stuff!I like your Titanic analogy.Two biggest employers in scilly Council & IOSSco if you work for either thers no problem their both going great.Ther’s just not enough people seriously affected yet! No ones going to support a maverick group coz they’v all got shares in the co or made their pile allready.Seriously, doggy doo on the foot path is as animated as it gets! Im afraid I cant strech to a few million for a ferry just now .All those actually affected are fully aware and there !probably all 50 odd of them!

    • IanT September 28, 2012 at 8:29 am

      There does seem to be a lot of complacency about the situation. No transport = No tourism. No tourism = No Scilly. Apart from one or two councillors nobody appears to be saying or doing anything. What appeared to be the hot issue at last night’s Council meeting? Whether the CEO should be paid for his ‘overtime’..! And, surely, that was only a smoke screen generated by him to divert attention away from more important matters like the school.

  8. Stuart September 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Perhaps it would make more sense for the council to close the airport down and invest in an all year round boat service using a high speed boat that could do the journey in an hour.

  9. Stavropol September 27, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Unfortunately, it is another indication the island economy is in steep contraction. A serious issue for a near one trick pony economy. We won’t see too many properties selling at asking price. We only pray this bad time ends quickly and businesses learn quickly not to rely on tourism and DIVERSIFY!

    • IanT September 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      You won’t see many properties selling at asking price because they are way too high. Mainland prices have dropped considerably in recent times but Scilly prices have remained ‘silly’. I appreciate that some owners could find themselves in negative equity but that has, and is, a common occurrence on the mainland. Gone are the days when Scilly properties sold like hot cakes often without even being advertised. If you want to sell you have now got to get real.
      As to the airport’s problems, where are the councillors banging on the door of 10 Downing Street demanding subsidies? It all seems a bit like the Titanic where, apparently, the band played as the ship went down.