Prospective MP Says Retailer Wants Islands Foothold Through New Helicopter Route

Derek Thomas

Derek Thomas

A major retailer is keen to back a new helicopter service to Scilly so they can use it deliver their products and increase their foothold on the islands.

Derek Thomas, the man who hopes to be Scilly’s next Conservative MP, believes a route could be running by next season.

Scilly’s MP Andrew George says the two new, 14-seater AgustaWestland aircraft that have been offered, won’t by ready in time.

But Derek is confident that the involvement of the shopping giant, who will be sending a delegation to Cornwall in the near future, could secure the service.

Andrew George has been part of the discussions on re-starting a rotary service since BIH pulled out. He says the retailer’s approach has not been mentioned in the meetings he has attended.

Derek says his plan makes the route viable without the need for government cash and any investment by the retailer isn’t just a “PR exercise” but a serious business proposal.

Business Analysts from PriceWaterhouseCoopers have presented their report on route options to interested parties.

Derek says everyone has been waiting to see what the set up and operating costs will be, and the likely income, adding that the report is “hugely positive.”

He’s sent a copy to the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin to support a request for government help, if needed, over the first three years.

He says that the Minister is fine with that, but the clout of a retailer partner means underwriting might not be needed.

Andrew George also says subsidy or a public service obligation is no longer central to discussions. He believes a route operator would request start-up support for infrastructure instead.

That, he says, seems fair as the Steamship Company has received grant-aid for their Land’s End runway hardening.

Both Derek Thomas and Andrew George say heliport sites convenient for the transport networks in Penzance have been identified.

In April, Derek reported that islanders that he spoke with on a visit were not looking for a replacement helicopter service but just want to get to the mainland “quickly and comfortably when they need to.”

He says he’s not changed his view, but believes the route will be important for both islanders and the economy of Penzance.

He also rejects suggestions that he’s going public about the plans to try and score political points ahead of the election.

Derek says he’s been involved in the project for 18 months and there was a feeling that the proposal was not moving forward quickly enough.

But Andrew George is unhappy that the business report has been passed on by the Tory candidate. He says it is private and has not been published as Derek Thomas states.

The MP says he will contact the Minister personally to make sure he has correct information.

An announcement on the retailer is expected before the end of the month



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