The Government has finally given Cornwall Council the news on it’s part of the funding for the replacement ship and associated works for the Isles of Scilly. I am afraid from the Councils, the Isle of Scilly and probably half of Penzance this is terrible news. The Government has said it will not fund it’s side of the project.
The replacement project only worked if all 3 partners funded this project. It means there is now not enough money for the project to work. More concerning is the Convergence money is now lost too, as this was needed for other elements to be released.
I expect the full impact on this decision will not be fully felt for a few days until the numbness has subsided for those in favour of the project. Of course, if you were against the project in the first place, then sales of bubbly might see an increase in and around Penzance.
Personally, I am not sure where this leaves Penzance and the Isles of Scilly, but I do think it will be very rough until something (if anything) is worked out.
Below is the official statement from Cornwall Council that was released 20 minutes ago
“News that the Government has decided not to fund the Isles of Scilly Sea Link Project has been greeted with disappointment and dismay by members of the Route Partnership who say Ministers are missing the opportunity to safeguard the future of the vital sea link.
The Route Partnership, which includes Cornwall Council, the Council for the Isles of Scilly and the Duchy of Cornwall, has been working with the Government on proposals to safeguard the future of the sea link between the Isles of Scilly and the Cornwall mainland since 2002. The bid, which includes proposals for both the harbours at St Mary’s and Penzance, together with a new vessel, has been designed to overcome the growing problems which are threatening the operation of the service in the future.
The sea link is responsible for carrying 45,000 passengers (90,000 trips) and 13,000 tonnes of freight to the Isles of Scilly annually (35% of all passengers and 95% of all freight) and is essential for the continued social and economic wellbeing of the 2,200 Islanders.
The Route Partnership has been waiting since January for final approval from the Department for Transport in order for Cornwall Council to let contracts for the harbour works, the building of a new combined passenger/freight vessel and appointment of a private operator to run the new service from March 2013. The tenders are due to expire on 31 March and earlier this month the Partnership warned that time was running out for the Government to reach a decision.
The Partnership has already reduced the costs of the scheme by £26 million and on March 16 Cornwall Council agreed to borrow an additional £5 million, with an additional £700,000 coming from the Convergence programme. This took the level of local contributions up to £26.75m – 43% of the £62.05 m required for the scheme.
Graeme Hicks, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Transportation and Highways, is angry and disappointed by the Government’s decision not to fund the scheme. “We were asked by the Government to develop this scheme and have done everything we can to reduce the costs and increase local funding over the past few months” he said. “The proposed scheme was a comprehensive one which would have enabled improvements to be made to the harbours in both Penzance and St Mary’s as well as providing a new vessel. The decision not to provide funding is a huge missed opportunity and I am very disappointed by the Government’s short sightedness.
“I am also disappointed by the lack of support from the local MP” he added. “This made it much more difficult for us to make our case to the Government and is, I am sure, one of the reasons for this decision.
“Developing this project for the Government has already cost more than £5million and we will need to look at the detail of the Government’s announcement before deciding what future action to take. “
“Cornwall Council and the other members of the Route Partnership have done everything they can to ensure this project goes ahead” said Philip Hygate, Chairman of the Route Partnership and Chief Executive of the Council of the Isles of Scilly. “It is very disappointing that the Government has decided not to support this project which would have allowed £12.75m of EU Convergence funding and a further £15m from Cornwall Council towards the overall cost of the project.”
“The community on the Isles of Scilly have watched this project being developed over the last eight years with growing anticipation that this would, when implemented, safeguard the service for years to come. I am devastated that having come so close to delivering this project, the Government has decided not to support it” said Councillor Mike Hicks, Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly.
“This is a very sad day for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly” said Cornwall Council Leader Alec Robertson. “This decision means that there is now no funding available to deliver improvements to the sea link. The European funding will now be reallocated to other projects within the programme and the opportunity for the Council to borrow funding to support the project has been lost”.
“However the need to maintain a sea link remains and it will now be up to the Government to ensure a solution is delivered”.