New Airport Working Group Set Up

St Mary’s Airport

Councillors have agreed to tackle the falling passenger numbers and diminishing cash reserves at St Mary’s airport by handing over strategic control of it to a new working party.

Until now, the General Purposes committee, which looks after services such as waste, roads, sewerage and water on St Mary’s, has been in charge of the airport.

But members agreed at last Thursday’s Full Council meeting that airport will now be overseen by the new management group, which will answer to the Transport committee.

Cllr Dudley Mumford said it’ll mean a lot of work and difficult decisions but members need to grasp the nettle. The airport is estimated to run out of operational cash next year.

Strategic Investment Manager, Diana Mompoloki told the Council that the group needed to make fast decisions in order to deal with the serious state of airport finances. She says even if the airport picked up traffic from Tresco following the withdrawal of the helicopter service in November, the “trend is still down and we need to manage that.”

Diana said either landing fees need to rise or airport costs need to be reduced.

Airport consultants, Parsons Brinkerhoff, feel that a monthly meeting, devoted to finances and drumming up new business, offers the best solution for the future.

But Cllr Fred Ticehurst, who Chairs the General Purposes Committee, wasn’t happy that previous Council committee decisions were being overturned in creating this new group. He wanted to defer the decision, to give members more time to look at the options, although he did back the plan in the end.

There was also debate about which Councillors should sit on the new group.

The consultants proposed that the following elected members would serve: The Chair and Vice Chair of Policy & Resources, the Chair of General Purposes, the Chair and Vice Chair of Transport and the Chair of Planning & Development.

Cllr Ticehurst wanted the Vice Chair of General Purposes on the working party. He also felt there should be stronger representation of tourism and someone from Tresco airport on the panel, although Cllr Gaz O’Neil, who will sit on the group as the chairman of Planning and Economic Development, pointed out that he is also Vice Chair of the Tourist Board.

In the end, those additions weren’t included in the final proposal and Councillors voted in favour of the setting up the new working group, composed of the members recommended in the report.

During the meeting, Cllr Marian Bennett expressed concern over raising landing fees.

Afterwards, she told Radio Scilly that she is worried that increasing fees would affect tourism as it provides operators with an excuse to charge higher fares.

She says it may be advisable to subsidise the airport in the short to medium term and that could be achieved through efficiencies in other areas, in the interests of the economy.


6 Responses to New Airport Working Group Set Up

  1. phil October 3, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I see now rather worryingly they are looking at subsidising the airport as it has been mentioned by others above why has it come to this before alarm bells started to ring?
    However if they do need to inject some cash into the airport why not use the 100+K of the council tax budget that goes on sea fisheries although as it was mentioned on Radio Scilly just after this years bills hit peoples door steps that sea fisheries recieve no money from the council tax as their money come from central government…………….

  2. Simon October 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Jon, Lands end is run by The IOSSC and therefore it’s not just the Lands End footfall which supports it, but Newquay, Bristol, Plymouth and of course the scillonian 3. So you could say that the boat is subsidising Lands End Airport.

    I agree with you on the Landing fees though, The company would not be able to absorb any increase and would HAVE to pass it on in some form to the customer and it raised landing fees could discourage any new operator from setting up. However if the airport had not come under council control whoever was running it may have had to increase the charges as it is pure business economics (unless of course they found another way to increase revenue which our council singularly have failed to do)

  3. Neil Farmer October 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Surely the signs of problems should have been seen years ago – there must have been a forward plan for improvements/maintenance etc that some one was in control of, and not wait till the runway needs fixing, the helicopter ceases, tourism falls off a cliff because of the recession, and the warning of the airport running out of cash next year. At this rate by the time the working group gets a grip of everything – there will be nothing to grip. Sorry – we love Scilly and have been 12 times in the last 30 years by boat and helicopter with our family – but from the outside it looks like something is now going wrong with the transport infrastructure to and from the Islands

    • Adam Morton,St.Martins October 3, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      I would just like to say its still perfectly possible to travle to scilly as before either by air or by boat in summer.Yes BIH is finishing but 99% of people can make the journey as befor on Skybus.
      Wether many can or choose to afford it is open to debate.Locals cannot travle by boat in winter but this has been so for many years now.So far as council operations are concerned I doubt they are much more inneficient than usual, its just that with many feeling the recession in real terms,the councils opperations are coming under closer scrutiny, in part aided by this site which allows people to keep up with events that would have gone un noticed in the past.

  4. Jon October 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    How is that Lands Ends airport, which is smaller and without the footfall of helicopter passengers, is able to remain solvent AND reinvest in development and facilities when St Marys airport has been allowed to completely fail as a business model?

    Also, if the airport operators put up landing fees it isn’t an “excuse” for operators to raise prices; they would either have to absorb the cost or pass it on to customers as in any other walk of life where taxes rise.

    If the airport hadn’t been allowed to fail under Council control then landing fees wouldn’t have to go up.

  5. Paul Downes October 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    I was just wondering why it was felt necessary to employ an american international planning/logistics firm of consultants in order to come to this conclusion and how much this exercise cost.