British International Helicopters (BIH) will discontinue its scheduled service between Penzance, southwest UK, to the Isles of Scilly on 1 November. The company's heliport at Penzance is also set to close.
"The route has run for 49 years, so this is an extremely sad announcement for BIH," says BHI managing director Tony Jones, "Unfortunately, we had no alternative."
The route closure is prompted by a dispute over the sale of the heliport to supermarket chain Sainsbury's. "Legal action taken by [competitor supermarket] Tesco and two private individuals challenging the planning permission [granted by local government] has delayed the sale of the land and the urgently needed capital from the sale is no longer available," says the operator. "BIH has repeatedly stated publicly that the land needed to be sold in a reasonable timeframe to release the capital required to continue the service [from another nearby base]."
BIH says it remains committed to finding a suitable relocation site in west Cornwall. But at the end of 2011, BIH was forced to withdraw its application to relocate the heliport to nearby St Erth "on the back of mounting public and stakeholder pressure". That application cost more than £300,000, it says.
"Since starting this process in 2010, financial pressure on the company has been compounded by the falling number of air passenger visitors to the Isles of Scilly," says BIH. "At the same time, the majority of costs have risen."