Optimism after ferry link debate

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Local MP Andrew George said he was ‘very encouraged’ after he led a Parliamentary debate yesterday on the future of the Isles of Scilly Ferry Link project.

George called the debate to highlight the continuing need for future investment for the improvement of the Isles of Scilly Ferry Link and urged the Minister to ensure that the funding window remained open for the project.

George’s debate will reassure those who fear that the funding for the future Isles of Scilly Ferry Service might be lost.

The Minister, Paul Clark MP, emphasised that his Department was fully supportive of the Ferry project. This had recently been endorsed by his Ministerial colleague, Sadiq Khan MP, who had confirmed to Mr George a recent agreement to increase Departmental funding for the scheme to £36 million. The Minister said “I remain fully supportive of your efforts to bring this scheme to a speedy conclusion.”

In December, Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee rejected an application from the Council’s own Transport Section to develop a freight yard and passenger terminal attached to South Pier in Penzance. George had previously cautioned that this proposal may not be ‘politically deliverable’. The submission and subsequent rejection of the Battery Rocks proposal means that time is running out for the original funding window from Government and there are widespread concerns that the entire £57 million project might be in jeopardy.

However, in the course of the debate, George drew the Minister’s attention to the urgent need for investment to be made available for the improvements to the vital ferry link between Scilly and the mainland. George emphasised the ferry link’s dual role as a vital transport lifeline for those living on the islands and as an integral part of West Cornwall’s tourist infrastructure.

George asked for reassurances from the Minister and from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat front bench representatives that the agreed funding would not be withdrawn after the forthcoming General Election.

The Minister confirmed that there was no absolute deadline for the final full approval submission (which had been expected by early February 2010). Both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives indicated their support for the project, though they made clear that these could not be copper-bottomed guarantees.

George said: “This is a good day for the Isles of Scilly Ferry Link. The importance of the project has been given a major boost with a significant debate in Parliament.

“What we now need is a rapid review of the remaining element of the project. Those who believe that English Heritage can simply be bludgeoned into submission will only prolong the delay. Those who want to and can engage constructively to produce a workable solution should be encouraged to come forward. We now need to move and move fast.”