£6m upgrade of airports 'on the way to implementation'
TWIN multimillion-pound improvements and upgrades at both ends of a vital transport link between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland are well on the way towards implementation.
Last week councillors on the islands were told that runway upgrades and surfacing, new lighting, navigational aids and reconfigured/refurbished terminal upgrades at St Mary's airport would start either this winter or the spring of next year.
Mitigating risk and "bad weather windows" had been allowed for.
At the mainland end of the aerial link, the hard surfacing of the Land's End airport runway – for which the Islands' council has been supporting the steamship company's owners – is likely to take place over three weeks in September.
"Things have moved quite rapidly forward in that we submitted our business plan to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) at the end of May," said investment manager Diana Mompoloki.
"They appraised it positively and it was endorsed on June 27. To go through appraisal in three weeks is pretty amazing. They (the funders) completely buy into the need for this project. ERDF would really like this to go ahead."
Land's End, which between October and March, lost 521 hours' operations due to waterlogging, would be first of the two operations.
"If this happens on time and to budget, and is in place before the autumn rains come, it will be a fantastic achievement," said Councillor Richard McCarthy. Overall, a pot of some £6 million ERDF money is being split between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly.
The former's 50 per cent intervention rate of £1.2 million is to be matched by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. The islands have 100 per cent funding for their ERDF £5 million.
"These are really big figures," said finance officer Ian McCulloch.
"This is a huge capital subsidy coming in. It is absolutely fantastic news."
There is no longer concern about the proximity of the terminal building at St Mary's to the operations area.
It was said preparatory work was being carried out regarding the citing of the batching plant in order to mitigate its impact.
Council chairman Amanda Martin said: "We have to explain to the community that this is the price we pay for a very, very necessary outcome.
"Even if there is disruption, noise and everyone thinks it's the most loathsome thing in creation, it's for a very short period of time."