Was St Erth Ever Really an Option?

Planning has the habit of causing all sorts of trouble by placing villages, towns or whole areas on apposing sides at a moments notice when planning applications are submitted. Penzance has had its unfortunate share with first, the Isle of Scilly sea-link, supermarkets and now the heliport.

Late last week news came that British International Helicopters (BIH) were pulling their planning application due to overwhelming opposition. Now, to many people this hardly comes as a shock. For me, it was not if, but when they pulled their application. My view is they would have pulled it on environmental grounds etc, and not just local opposition. In many cases large local opposition is more a hindrance, than problem.

When the application for Sainsbury’s was heard at the recent Strategic Planning Committee I ask for that application and the new heliport be heard at the same time. I was told no, this could not be done, as you will have to judge this application (the supermarket) on its own merits.

You see many felt the play of selling the land at the current location and moving it to St Erth was nothing more than a ruse. The company have been mightily rewarded from the sale of the heliport land, but I believe their aims never really included this new location. For want of better words; ‘they were going through the motions’ for the capital from the sale. It would have been almost impossible for Sainsbury’s to get the planning if it had been said this would lead to the end of the heliport in Penzance.

Whilst many believed the heliport would never move to St Erth, this could not be proved; so in planning terms it could not be taken into consideration.

No doubt those residents of St Erth will be overjoyed at this decision, and the from their viewpoint it is the right decision. However for West Cornwall, and namely Penzance it is a disaster. As the helicopter service has gone; along with all the money that came from those users of the service.

I really don’t believe flights operating out of Newquay Airport is a financially viable option. Again, I believe this is nothing more than going through the motions to make it look like saving the service. No doubt in a week or so news will be this idea is to costly and it is thrown into the bin like the St Erth plan.  This will allow BIH to walk away with the money in the bank.

It could be seen a morally wrong, but in planning terms there is nothing that can be done.