Cautious Welcome For St Mary’s Quay Funding

St Mary's Quay

St Mary’s Quay

There’s been a cautious reaction in Scilly to the government’s decision to fund a large proportion of improvement works at St Mary’s and Penzance quays, with island politicians claiming there’s still more work to be done before funding is finalised.

Transport Minister Norman Baker says the government is putting at least £8 million into the St Mary’s scheme, which shows that the Coalition government is serious about protecting the livelihood of Scilly.

That’s not the whole sum needed. The rest of the cash is expected to come from the European Regional Development Fund.

The islands’ MP Andrew George says he’s “absolutely delighted” and it’s time crack out the champagne to celebrate.

He accepts that the European Union still needs to commit to its share of the funding but he’s convinced that won’t be a problem.

And he hopes it will now give the Steamship Company confidence to move forward with a replacement vessel over the coming years.

Cllr Dudley Mumford, who formerly chaired the Transport Committee and worked on the failed Route Partnership scheme from 2003, believes that the current St Mary’s project is better than the original plan, which proved controversial because of the height of the sea wall.

The quay will be extended pier by 23 metres to allow more options for a future Scillonian III replacement.

He says he is delighted that the DfT has agreed to provide the cash but he won’t be celebrating until the European money is secured, he says.

Council Chairman Amanda Martin is also not taking the scheme for granted until the ERDF money has been confirmed.

She says she’s very pleased with the announcement, especially as so much work has been put into the scheme on the islands, but added that “the race isn’t over yet, but it’s a good milestone on the way.”

Penzance councillor and Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Dick Cliffe, is welcoming the funding.

But he feels this is a “stop gap” and “third prize” compared to the £62m that was on the table with the original Route Partnership scheme, which included a replacement vessel.

Cllr Cliffe, a leading member of the FRIST transport campaign group, says it’s hard to make a case for spending millions of pounds on quay modifications when we don’t yet know what the next islands’ ferry will look like.

Andrew May, the Chairman of the Steamship Company, says the increased depth of water will make a difference even before the Scillonian III’s replacement is on the route.

The quay extension at St Mary’s and dredging at Penzance will mean fewer timetable changes caused by lower tides, he says. When the water was deeper at Penzance, in the 1970s, the company only had to deal with low tides at the St Marys side.

The planned work will bring new passenger facilities, including a new booking office, and improved cold storage facilities food.

The St Mary’s work is likely to start around April and will last between 8 and 10 months.

The Duchy of Cornwall has said that no heavy construction can be undertaken during the busiest times of the year, such as the weekend of the World Pilot Gig Championships.