Quiet Optimism Over Quay Projects After Meeting With Minister

Improvements to St Mary's quay were discussed

Improvements to St Mary’s quay were discussed

The Chair of the Scilly’s Transport Committee is ‘quietly optimistic’ that the government will now fund our quay improvements, along with dredging and rock armour in Penzance.

Cllr Dudley Mumford led a delegation of islanders for a 60-minute meeting called by the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin in Falmouth yesterday. The minister arranged the talks to discuss improving our mainland transport links.

Dudley attended the meeting along with Council Chief Executive Barry Keel, Economic Development Manager Diana Mompoloki and Steamship Company Chairman and Chief Executive, Andrew May and Jeff Marston. MP Andrew George and Cornwall Council officers also joined the discussions.

From Radio Scilly

Cllr Dudley Mumford on the meeting with the Transport Minister

Dudley says he’s grateful for the time the minister gave the group and he felt that Patrick McLoughlin listened to their views.

The project, if funded, will allow for rock armour and deep dredging of Penzance Harbour and a quay extension at St Mary’s. Those changes will allow the Steamship Company more scope for their replacement vessels. Improved freight and passenger facilities at St Mary’s would form part of the scheme too.

Both local authorities want the Department for Transport to agree their share of the funding, around £4m for each side. If the government doesn’t release the cash, a similar amount of European cash will be lost.

Andrew George says this point was clearly expressed to the minister.

There’ll be more meetings with DfT officials over the next ten days to finalise arrangements as the deadline for the European Union fund is looming.

The Council also outlined the importance of funding for St Mary’s airport improvements and the hard surfacing of Land’s End runway to avoid the waterlogging that grounded planes this winter.

But Dudley says the issue of a subsidy allowing a year-round boat service was not raised with the minister. He says they didn’t have time as the focus was on the infrastructure projects, and Andrew George says it would not have been appropriate, as no formal proposal has been tabled for the minister to assess.

Marian Bennett of FRIST, the group campaigning for a subsidy, isn’t pleased.

She says the Council didn’t stand up and take the lead provided by the findings of the Scottish report, with a strong and united voice.

And she says that the Council appears more adamantly against the idea of a ferry subsidy than the minister himself, adding if the Council “stood together with the community and fought our corner” she has no doubt that we would eventually win the day.

Marian says the government talks of no subsidy until market failure, meaning market failure of the transport operator, when what they should be talking about is market failure of our economy, which is the tourism industry. This is what will happen first, she says.

Last night a DfT spokesman said that their policy has not changed. There won’t be any operational subsidy from government while a commercial operator is on the route.

And after yesterday’s meeting Patrick McLoughlin said that finances remained tight and he believes that grants for the infrastructure improvements are effectively a subsidy.

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