Quay Projects Go-Ahead ‘Too Close To Call’

harbourmasters officeWork to extend and redevelop St Mary’s harbour look unlikely to happen this summer, according to the project leaders of both the Penzance and Scilly schemes, which are linked.

Diana Mompoloki of our Council and Tim Wood, who is overseeing the mainland scheme for Cornwall Council, both agree that the two authorities are working hard and well together.

A mainland official visited St Mary’s on Wednesday to prepare the business case for the Department for Transport. Every aspect of the scheme needs to be justified.

But there are mixed views over whether the project will go ahead at all.

Tim remains positive, whereas Diana feels it’s too close to call.

She’s worried that Cornwall Council’s planning will be disrupted by their elections in May, the resignation of their chief executive and preparations for dualling of the A30 at temple.

And that means the tight European funding timeline could be missed.

The current EU programme ends in 2013 so any contracts for the work need to be signed this year and the work completed within a further 18 months.

Cornwall Council will need to drive the project, as our Council hasn’t got legal authority to manage transport schemes. And they’d have to stand guarantor for up to £400,000.

Cornwall Councillors would be unlikely to want to risk losing more cash after the failed Route Partnership Scheme and some of their councillors see Penzance quay works as mainly benefitting Scilly.

Tim Wood is hopeful that the DfT could underwrite that amount.

Our islands’ Council chairman says he want to visit Penzance to try and bring consensus on project plans. Mike Hicks wants the Penzance scheme to include rock armour, to protect passengers from waves ‘overtopping’ in storms.

But some Penzance residents object, claiming it’s ugly.

The mainland scheme may not include any of the passenger facility improvements proposed under the Route Partnership, which Mike wants them to consider.

Instead Penzance may focus on dredging, with an initial major dredge and then on-going works.

Diana says the material in Penzance harbour is already starting to have an impact on current Scillonian III sailings, and plans for a future vessel, with a deeper draught, will make dredging in Penzance essential.

But she says this is expensive and that could be passed on to harbour users like the Steamship Company and it’s customers.

Tim Wood doesn’t think dredging costs will be an issue as Penzance is set to join a Cornwall Harbours Board. Harbour income would be ring-fenced for future maintenance so there would be funds available.

There still remain hurdles to overcome. The project can’t go out to tender until the government agrees the business case. And Cornwall can’t commit fully until there’s Whitehall approval.

On the positive side, both Tim and Diana both feel that the DfT are supportive and do want to give the scheme money, as long as the funds can be justified in time.

The future of the scheme will be clear when ministers announce whether they will fund the programmes at the end of March.