Isles of Scilly council forced to raise landing fees at St Mary airport
Bosses at a tiny island airport dependent on tourism to make ends meet say they have been forced to increase fees to secure its future.
The airport at St Mary's on the Isles of Scilly has suffered a downturn of just over a fifth in visitor numbers in the last five years. The island's unitary authority, which owns the airport, said fees and charges to transport operators had not plugged the gap in finances and they must now go up.
A spokesman for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which operates Skybus, the only scheduled airplane service to the islands, said: "The company is not in a position to comment at this time."
Dudley Mumford, chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly transport committee, said it was a tough decision.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"We regret the need to increase fees at the airport," he said. "But have had to make this difficult decision in recognition of the importance of creating a financially viable, fully functioning and safe airport and to ensure that we secure the long-term viability of our air links to the mainland."
He added: "The council is engaging with aviation experts to review our costs and advise on any savings we can make and any additional income streams available".
Mr Mumford said the increases to fees and charges would ensure that it was properly financed, managed and maintained in the future.
The decision means the fee to transport operators for landing each passenger will increase by £1.50 and landing fees increased by £2 per tonne – which means a rise of £6 for Islander aircraft, one of the commonest sights on the runway, which weighs around three tonnes.
This means that the gross charges for landing each passenger will go up from £7.42 for 2012/13 to £9.22, while the landing fee charge for an Islander plane will increase from £36.10 to £43.31.
Mr Mumford said the airport's income and resources had "steadily decreased" in the last five years as passenger numbers fell by 21%.
He said there were insufficient funds available to finance improvements to the airport, including essential work to replace the runways.
The councillor added that, although the authority was actively working to secure funding to replace the runways and improve the airport, there was no guarantee that grants would be forthcoming.
A spokesman for the Isles of Scilly Council said borrowing the money would still have a financial impact.
"The grant funding needed to improve the airport and runways is a significant capital subsidy," he said.
"If the full £6 million required for these works were borrowed over 20 years, this would result in a repayment totalling £9.1 million.
"This repayment would mean that the council would have to increase its revenue from landing fees by £460,000 per year."