Work has officially begun on the new Penzance Heliport that will become the helicopter gateway to the Isles of Scilly.
The first turf was cut on the site at Jelbert Way in a ceremony this week (Mar 18). The new heliport is adjacent to the previous heliport site and will reinstate direct helicopter flights between Penzance and the islands of Tresco and St Mary’s.
The turf was cut using Cornish shovels by Mayor of Penzance Cllr Dick Cliffe, Cornwall Councillor for Ludgvan Simon Elliott, Chair of Ludgvan Parish Council Cllr Roy Mann and Robert Dorrien-Smith, who is leading the project.
During the event, West Cornwall-based Symons Construction was named as the main contractor responsible for building the £4.3 million heliport. The company will now begin mobilisation work.
Helicopters will fly between Penzance, Tresco and St Mary’s year round from spring 2020, operated by Sloane Helicopters. Tickets go on sale this summer.
Robert Dorrien-Smith, who is behind the project, said: “Today is a momentous occasion not just for the islands, but for west Cornwall.
“Today marks the start of the project that will once again make Penzance the proud home to one of the few scheduled passenger helicopter services in the world, with all the benefits to the local economy that entails.
“We also begin work to reinstate the much-missed third leg of the Isles of Scilly transport system, working together to deliver the resilience, choice and connectivity the islands need to achieve growth now and in the future.”
Penzance Heliport says the new service will help extend the visitor season on the islands and make access to essential services easier for islanders throughout the year.
It is estimated that it will help unlock £31 million of private investment in the Isles of Scilly, stimulate £10 million of economic activity in west Cornwall and provide around 30 permanent jobs. The heliport will also make use of local materials including sustainable timber, Cornish granite and native planting.
Penzance Heliport has been awarded £1.8 million of European Regional Development Funding to support the project. The remainder of the project funding is from private investors.
The new Isles of Scilly helicopter service, provided by leading operator Sloane Helicopters, will take to the skies in spring 2020. Passengers will fly from Penzance Heliport aboard the state-of-the-art AW139 helicopter, arriving on the islands of Tresco or St Mary’s in just 15 minutes.
It will mark a welcome return of a regular helicopter connection to the islands. British International ceased their operation in 2012 and while Isles of Scilly Steamship Group reintroduced a heli-link last May, it announced in February that it was closing the service owing to a “lack of demand”.