The return of the popular helicopter service between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly has drawn a step closer thanks to European Union (EU) funding worth almost £2m.
The plug was pulled on regular flights between the Penzance and Scilly seven years ago, with the operators blaming rising costs, falling passenger numbers and a land dispute over its heliport site at Eastern Green.
It was a loss for tourists, who found the 15-minute trip extremely convenient, but it was a much bigger blow for the residents of the islands, who relied on the helicopter to get to the mainland quickly, including for medical emergencies.
In a recent press release Penzance Heliport Ltd said preparation work had begun on building a new base for the aircraft, backed by a £1.8m grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). An added bonus is that the new heliport is just 200 metres from the previous site.
The remainder of the £4.3m project costs are to come from private investment, with the Tresco Estate and the Dorrien-Smith family, who live on and manage Tresco, the largest investors.
Flights are expected to restart in spring 2020.
Robert Dorrien-Smith, of Penzance Heliport Ltd, said: “This European funding, alongside the record support from islanders, visitors, businesses and agencies on the islands and further afield, shows the importance of Penzance heliport to the future growth of the Isles of Scilly.”
Cornwall council’s cabinet portfolio member for transport, Geoff Brown, said: “I welcome this news which will enhance passenger choice in travelling to and from the Isles of Scilly and improve resilience on the route.”
The chairman of the Isles of Scilly council, Robert Francis, said: “Excellent transport infrastructure is vital to the social and economic future of our islands. Today’s announcement will further strengthen our island transport links for a thriving island community.”