Council Giving Up Lease On St Mary’s Airport

airport may 2015The Council is giving up its lease on St Mary’s airport, which could pave the way for the facility to be run by a private company.

But one councillor is furious that the discussions were held in a secret session where the public were excluded.

In a press release issued yesterday, the Council said they will surrender the lease, “to enable the exploration of other delivery options or sources of income.”

They say this, “will ensure the future viability and financial security of this important function.”

Council Chairman Amanda Martin said: “As things stand the ongoing investment required to safely operate the airport is not possible using the current model. This is why we have decided to seek a more effective and viable solution.”

And Cllr Ted Moulson, the Vice-Chairman of the Transport, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee confirmed that this, “will provide an opportunity for an independent operator to explore running alternative extra routes and expand operations.”

But in a separate statement, Cllr Gordon Bilsborough says he does not share the “delight” of the Chairman and others that the airport lease is being surrended to the Duchy of Cornwall.

He says he has “strong reservations” about this decision and feels there should have been a “meaningful consultation exercise” beforehand.

Gordon wanted the future of the airport to debated in an open session at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday, because any decision will affect most people on the islands.

He says he challenged Chief Executive Theo Leijser’s recommendation that it be held behind closed doors, but was “heavily out-voted.”

Gordon says in his opinion, the Council’s decision to refuse to debate the airport in public “makes a bizarre mockery of its alleged commitment to openness and transparency.”

He believes that, given the will, a solution to the problems could be found without the Council losing complete control of the facility but said that Mr Leijser, who led the debate, thinks otherwise.

“I can only hope that he and those who supported him are proved right, but I doubt it,” says Gordon.

The Council also announced that the airport is finally being removed from the ‘Special Attention’ notification, issued by the CAA in October 2013 after failing to operate to the standards required by the regulator.

27 Responses to Council Giving Up Lease On St Mary’s Airport

  1. Adrian Davis September 26, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Well Adam HEART WAS in there fighting!
    This policy decision, driven by the SMT, was taken through Council after three ‘confidential’ meetings, a decision which I questioned as we ALL know the importance of the Airport to us all..
    I firmly believe that there should have been wider consultation before possibly losing some control of our only means of year round travel.
    HEART may be dormant outside the LA but we are few inside( Remember there are 3 vacancies in the LA– and we DO need help still)) so our influence is small but as I am under a second Standards complaint. I consider we are having some effect!

    • Adam Morton, St.Martins September 28, 2015 at 7:42 am

      Sorry but it says Gordon’s “challenge”to Leisjers “recommendation””was heavily outvoted” ,no other information. Recommendation implies that it was not essential, nor can I believe that all the information in all thee meetings was that sensitive. I don’t think a consultation is necessary or wise but I do think it is important we see business conducted in an open and accountable manner if we are to have any faith in the LA. I can see no encouragement to fill the remaining seats if any attempt at this is subject to a standards complaint! I don’t actually think it would be a bad thing for the Council to hand over the airport for the right deal but with £5m of public funds invested , I think we are due some accountability.

      • Gordon Bilsborough September 28, 2015 at 11:20 pm

        I simply wanted the debate to be open to the public in line with the Council’s so-called policy of “Openness and Transparency.” This was disputed by Theo Leijser’s recommendation but I was heavily out-voted by the Members. I believe democracy must be paramount. Need I say more???

      • Morris September 29, 2015 at 12:10 am

        Well said, it seems that the SMT have developed a silo mentality that seeks to keep only the favoured few in the know, it really isn’t good enough. I can only guess who has raised the standards complaints however I imagine it might be a device they have utilised in dealings with at least one other organization on the island.

  2. CK Truffle September 26, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I wonder if at the heart of this is the unwillingness or inability of the council to cope with the proffessional management requirements imposed by the CAA? I suspect that there is more going on here than we, or quite possibly even our councillors are being told.
    Something seems a bit odd; perhaps the next audit will shed some light on what is going awry?
    It really does seem that the council has lost the trust of the community, we can certainly forget about openness and transparency.

    • HG September 26, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Why should a council be running an airport? Of course it would be run better if managed by a dedicated airport company, like almost all other airports!

      Ditto the water & sewerage system – get SWW in. The Council should not be running these services in this day and age of technicalities and risk.

      • Linguine September 26, 2015 at 5:32 pm


        I wonder how many SWW customers would rush to endorse your remarks?
        The problem isn’t the council running the airport and water it is those who are currently running the council.
        The Senior Management Team is just poor at conducting the functions of the authority and ultimately that is the fault of the chairman and vice chairman who should be capable of assessing what is best for the wellbeing of the community and ensuring that is given a higher priority than a stance which is expedient in the short term for the SMT. It will not be long before the chief executive moves on, he is no fool and he will be well aware that he has ridden his luck long enough.

        • HG September 26, 2015 at 7:45 pm

          Imagine our Council never ran the water or the airport. Now imagine that in that alternative universe it was proposed that the Council should take on St Mary’s water and airport.

          Well, I can imagine the response. The Council should not be running these things – there’s a reason why all other local authorities in England don’t… and when you consider that ours is tiny compared to the others, it makes it even more ridiculous.

          • Linguine September 26, 2015 at 11:57 pm

            you are obviously right why would the council want to take on the roles especially as they would obviously have to buy out two private companies that were making a healthy profit from a tiny customer base. Why didn’t I think of that.

          • HG September 27, 2015 at 10:12 am

            There is no scale of economy, that’s why it is not particularly profitable to run a small water/sewerage system or a single small airport on an island the size of St Mary’s – it doesn’t matter that it’s a monopoly!

            By being part of a larger organisation (eg SWW / one of the country’s airport businesses) things improve as those organisations would have the specialists at hand (no expensive consultants needed to be brought in, the experience, the financial backing, etc, to make things work.

            For someone who always likes to take a dig at the Council, why on earth do you feel that the Council should be all-big? Surely if the Council is so incompetent you’d want it to have the smallest remit as possible?

          • Linguine September 28, 2015 at 9:14 am

            You argue against your own position, if there. Is no economy of scale and NO profit why on earth would SWW or any other mainland based company want to take it on thjey are definitely not charities!? Equally with the airport, it is not some prized route hub! It is likely that the only two organisations that could run it are the IOSSC as a transport monopoly or the council running it in the best interests of the community. The council can be an effective structure for both essential community assets, they are just obviously in one hell of a mess at the moment.

          • HG September 29, 2015 at 7:56 pm

            You didn’t bother reading my second paragraph did you? There are no economies of scale when run just on their own – the situation is improved by them forming part of a wider system/organisation.

          • Linguine September 30, 2015 at 8:14 am

            I read it considered it and discounted it as it assumes that a large commercial mainland based company will absorb (for example) our water business as a magnanimous act of charity which would be completely out of character. They have shareholders who demand profit and returns on investment.

  3. Pete September 25, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Stand by for sky high prices.

  4. Jenny G September 25, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Interesting timing of the announcement. Same week as our elected MP does a surgery visit to the Islands. Who pays the over spend on the development works?. Or will it a historical debt passed on each year like Treliske Hospital. Smoke and mirrors, nothing new.

  5. Peter September 25, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Given that without reliable transport, living in Scilly is untenable, is this announcement the biggest happening in Scilly for many years? I think we need more investigative journalism here please. There are so many questions rattling through my brain. Here are a few. Forgive me if I’m being stupid and the answers are obvious or in the public domain.
    1. As the council just spent millions on re-furbishing the airport, is giving up the lease a stroke of genius or utter stupidity? Who paid for the re-furb ultimately: locals or Europe (mind you, still public money whatever its source)? Is this money wasted or will the re-furb somehow make the surrendering lucrative?
    2. When commissioning the re-furb, did councillors know that the intention was to surrender the lease? If not, what changed?
    3. What happens if the Duchy does not wish to use the land as an airport?
    4. What happens if no one wants to take over the airport?
    5. Does the council have an operator lined up? And should it, or not?
    6. If, which I doubt, the Duchy wanted to extend/rebuild/modify the airport, in order to make it “viable”, would it need to seek planning permission from the council? Would the council give it?
    7. Is this announcement effectively an admission by the council that operating an airport on St Mary’s is financially non-viable? if the answer is that it’s not such an admission, and an airport is theoretically viable, then can we conclude that this is an admission by the council that it has managed the airport incompetently?
    8. What will be the impact of this uncertainty on the present and prospective carriers? Has this just destroyed any hope of a competitor for Skybus’s monopoly? Will they, or even Skybus, regard St Mary’s Airport as too risky?

    Cllr Moulson is reported as saying this “will provide an opportunity for an independent operator to explore running alternative extra routes and expand operations”. This makes no sense, unless we are not being told something. Who runs the fabric of the airport has nothing to do with who runs the routes to and from it… does it?

    Or could I hope that his talk of alternative routes, which must mean from more distant airports, and thus using larger planes and thus requiring a runway extension and probable realignment, may finally indicate the progress that I have been arguing for ad nauseam on this site as the only hope for saving Scilly economically? I can’t see Ye Olde Duchy agreeing to allow they new-fangled flying machines on their land though.

  6. Adam Morton, St.Martins September 25, 2015 at 7:22 am

    What happened to HEART at this point ?How is the public going to believe the Council with no fact to go on?.Because it looks like another dodgy deal behind closed doors just like the TIC. There’s nearly £5m public money invested in that airport . I would suggest that airport operators are about as common as ATCs and Trust port operators!
    So its surrendered the lease to the Duchy and then oh what a shame – the Council got outbid by the SSco who will “reluctantly take it on for the good of the community”!!!!!!!

  7. Monopoly September 24, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Strategic planning at its best. Refurbish the terminal building at vast expense ( half a million over budget) and then hand it over to someone else. What a shower!
    As Alan Hicks said, you just couldn’t make it upl
    Just which company do you reckon will take it on? I reckon we can all guess.

  8. Nobby Nobbs September 24, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Good idea, By giving the lease back to the Duchy, it puts the council in a better position to renegotiate the lease (should they wish to renew it). It also gives other providers the opportunity to make a bid, hopefully another provider with other airports and the experience of operating an airport professionally. This would allow other airlines to operate and perhaps provide the much needed routes to London/Manchester etc.

    All in all this is a good thing.

    As for Cllr Billsboro moaning about lack of transparency, he should remember that the council voted (that’s a democratic process) to discuss this in private because of commercial sensitivity and the fact that it involves peoples jobs etc.

    • Morris September 24, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Spoken like a true believer, you are the member of a most exclusive club.

    • Gordon Bilsborough September 24, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      To Nobby Nobbs. I recall that the Council’s major reshaping exercise, which involved virtually all the Council’s staff, was carried out at open meetings. Secrecy and democracy are not natural bedfellows (unless they have something to hide).

  9. Jenny Green September 24, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Good idea. First the TIC out of local authority control, then the air port, next the school, water and waste, the care services and so on. Then the community will no longer have to pay over inflated pay to local authority senior officers, as they will have nothing to be boss of. No other small village or town in the country with a population of 2500, have 70k plus a year public employees to administer their services. If there were, then the country would be bankrupt in 4 weeks.
    Looking at this story in another way. Lease running out, lets fire a shot across the Duke of Cornwall limited company’s bows before a rent review of the land is due.

    • Ian T. September 24, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Following on from your thoughts, Jenny, it supports what I have said for years that the islands should be admninistered by Cornwall. No doubt there will be the usual responses to this but it has got to happen sooner or later.

    • Linguine September 24, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      No risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water then!?
      If the current feeble administration was up to it, having a unitary authority would be recognised as the huge advantage it always used to be.
      Unfortunately a lackluster group of four or five councillors wielded the hatchet without any plan for what would follow. They still have no idea and are floundering around in utter chaos.

  10. Allan Hicks September 24, 2015 at 9:59 am

    You couldn’t make it up, just as passenger numbers are increasing, give it away ???

  11. Alec hicks September 24, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Cost of getting to and from Scilly going up then

  12. High Lanes Drifter September 24, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Anybody want to buy some family silver?