So British International Helicopters (BIH), pulls out of Penzance, where it flies back and forth to the islands as it has done since 1964. Now it sells the land to supermarket giant Sainsbury’s. Apparently the only way the company can continue is if this sale takes place. Putting to one side (for the moment) the fact that Penzance does not need another supermarket, being served by no less than Co-op, Tesco and Morrisons (sometimes in multiples!), Penzance is the ideal town from which to fly a helicopter service to the islands (presumably why they put it there in the first place!). Next, it decides it wants to relocate several miles up the A30 to the small village of St Erth. The people of said village rightly say, ‘bugger that!’ and a few days after general feeling is made known through a public meeting, BIH pull their planning application and suddenly there’s talk of re-locating to Newquay airport, (where BIH already have their Navy support and aircraft maintenance services).
Call me cynical but all this smacks of smoke-screen. BIH have withdrawn too easily! They (BIH) would hope, that the furore over in St Erth would detract from the sale of land for an erection of a Sainsbury’s and in some ways it has. Protesting, in the form of multiple banners and signage has occured along the A30 in the proposed new heliport area, while in Penzance, supermarket planning has gone through, almost as a fait accompli, with some councillors and civic leaders zipping up their collective fly and claiming no harm will come to the independent trader of Penzance.
The town is about to get the equivalent of foreign aid turning up with salt water and pirates!
From an aesthetic point of view, is another supermarket a good replacement for a vital transport link on the approach to Penzance?
You’re driving west, down the A30 towards Penzance. What are you greeted with? First off, the stench from McDonalds and KFC; then the unbelievably expensive road signs that wouldn’t look out of place on the M25, coupled with a round-about that defies all road-sense and the Highway Code. Next there’s, Morrisons, Halfords and B&Q and then… Sainsbury’s! But there will be a park and ride to save you the two minute drive into one of Penzance’s ridiculously priced car-parks!
So, the islanders who need to nip back to the mainland will no longer have the closest (and quickest) port of call. A town which is synonomous with the Islands and easy for visitors to access, will no longer have its aerial link. What it will have, is a new shopping ‘experience’ and somewhere for visitors to park their car to get bussed down the road.
Having the heli-link in Newquay is like having the ferry link in Falmouth. Ridiculous! The latter of course, was another outright lie put forth by the ‘great and good’, the former however, looks to be a reality.
The residents of St Erth were right to object – Penzance is where the helicopter should fly from, it’s just a shame that the wheels, or in this case, the blades, of big business are put above the needs of ordinary people.