Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Debate Still Rages Over Possible Penzance RoRo Ferry Terminal Decision

Cornish Council Refer Planning Bid Back to Committee
Shipping News Feature

UK – The argument over the siting of a ferry terminal in the Cornish coastal town of Penzance looks as if it is set to continue unabated. Yesterday Cornwall Council decided that they would resubmit the controversial “Option A” which places the facility for both freight and passenger traffic to and from the Isles of Scilly in the existing town harbour. They have found against alternative plans proposed by local interest groups. Scillonians want a reliable ferry service and really don’t care where their lifeline is based on the mainland. The options available allow for various vested interests in Cornwall to be completely divided on the subject.

Local businesses seem to be firmly in favour of “Option C” in which the freight and passenger traffic would be split over two sites, freight outside the town and passenger in the harbour area. To an outsider that appears to be a totally impractical solution for a port based ferry service aimed at getting vehicular based traffic; cars, profitable for local businesses, coming into the heart of the town whilst keeping freight trucks at some distance to offload freight for transhipment.

A group known as the Friends of Penzance Harbour also support the two centre option and claim to have not only a petition against Option A signed by 1200 members of the public, but also evidence that English Heritage still object to aspects of development where listed building status is involved. The sea wall where the rocks stand is listed and assuming the Council proceeds to have this designation lifted or amended more delays can be anticipated.

Option A would mean that a small but well loved area of beach would be lost in the development. The Battery Rocks form a part of the scheme proposed by the Route Partnership group but development has been objected to fiercely by many locals as they constitute one of the most memorable sites in the area. They take their name from the gun emplacement installed for protection against the French in 1739 and are thought to be the site of an even older defensive position dating to the 16th century.

The Penzance options in full to date are:-

Option A Use of the Harbour and extension onto part of the beach.

Option B Now abandoned but formerly as Option C but with different buildings proposed for use as a passenger terminal.

Option C The Harbour to be used for passenger traffic. Vehicles delivering freight to be offloaded elsewhere and the goods packed into containers for shipment. This option was controversially dropped by the Council last night. All the Councils plans and minutes can be accessed here.

In addition there is an alternative humorously known to local planning officers as “Option F” which allows for the fact that the town of Falmouth, already a local ferry site, is lobbying enthusiastically for the revamped Scilly Isles service. With this option come extra costs and time constraints, Falmouth is over forty miles further than Penzance by sea.

A point of concern for many locals, both on the mainland and in the islands, is that whatever new scheme is adopted the intention is to replace the two ageing existing vessels currently plying the route with just one, larger ship. Should she be subject to a breakdown the worry exists that during the peak months this could radically affect trade on Scilly and during the winter perhaps keep the Isles short of essential supplies.

The contract to run both air and sea ferry services will expire in 2012. It is currently held by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company who say both services will continue unimpaired until that time. The current service is not Roll On Roll Off whereas a RoRo vessel is a likely option for the replacement.

With none of the parties involved wishing to move from entrenched positions and some unwilling to comment it seems that another time consuming and expensive Public Enquiry might be, once again, the only way to resolve a tricky local transport infrastructure matter.

Find This Route for Freight to the Scillies plus all other RoRo and Freight Ferry options within the UK Here and for your International Ferry needs try Here.