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European red tape delays airport's vital runway improvement project

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 01, 2014

The new terminal building at Land's End Airport

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Red tape has forced further delays in projects to update facilities for planes and passengers on the Isles of Scilly and the most westerly point of Cornwall.

Work to resurface Land's End airport and to refurbish the terminal buildings at St Mary's have been put on hold once more, it has been announced.

The Council of the Isles of Scilly and the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company say they are awaiting evaluation reports from the European Commission before public funds can be released for the projects.

The work on the runway at Land's End is being carried out to solve the problem of flights being cancelled because of waterlogging at the St Just airfield with travellers having to fly from Newquay.

Last winter, the airport was closed for 56 days and this winter it has not been open since December 27. It remains closed until today when another inspection is due to take place.

Originally, after consultations last summer, it was hoped that the £1.8 million project to upgrade and resurface the runway at Land's End would take place in December.

This followed the opening of a £1 million renovated passenger terminal at Land's End last April which vastly improved facilities.

However, in January, after costs had risen, it was announced that the work had been put back to next month, with March 10-24 being earmarked for the two-week slot when the work would take place. Now however, as the project is funded through a combination of private and public funding, State Aid legislation requires specific approval before the public money can be legally spent.

A spokesman for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company said: "Until we know the European Commission's decision we can't say when the works will be undertaken, but they will be timed to minimise disruption and avoid peak travel periods.

"We are not planning to close the airport for runway works for two weeks in March as originally planned because we are still awaiting the funding decision.

"Given the forecast of more rain in the coming days we have informed passengers that we will continue to operate via Newquay Cornwall Airport until Saturday and are reviewing the situation daily."

The news has caused consternation on the islands, where transport links to the mainland is a vital issue for residents and visitors.

In October 2012, the helicopter service between Penzance and Scilly came to an end, leaving the islands connected to the mainland by Skybus flights and the seasonal passenger ferry, the Scillonian.

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