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Scilly Isles airport charges frozen with budget set for target 93,000 passengers in 2014-15

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: March 01, 2014

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HOW to ensure St Mary's airport pays its way in recession while its charges don't defer is the balancing act facing the island council owners of the facility.

Setting fees and charges last week for 2014-15, after what was called "a bumpy year", the transport committee heard the arguments for and against charge hikes.

The discussion took place against the sensitive and stark issue of loss and a warning from committee chairman Chris Thomas: "The airport must not be a burden on the island ratepayers."

Last season's 108,000 passenger expectation was a significant – 17 per cent – over-estimate, the final figure being 90,000. The airport's financial shortfall, as a result, was £137,000.

Authority chairman Amanda Martin warned: "I will not support a cut. We need to support our airport."

Steve Sims said by not increasing charges they would be "treading water and making it worse in the long term".

He said the airport had to be "safeguarded".

Mr Sims suggested an increase in line with inflation. The council's senior airside operations manager, Howard Cole, had recommended a 3 per cent rise.

However, it "greatly concerned" Robert Dorrien Smith that they were talking about a rise of any kind.

Referring to "11 years of declining numbers" he said they should embrace a "symbolic" reduction rather than increase or, failing that, a freeze.

He suggested the budget be tied to an estimate of 96,000 passengers, not the predicted "rock bottom" figure of 90,000.

Gaz O'Neill thought it "beyond ridiculous" to contemplate an increase, while Colin Daly was "uneasy" about such a notion and James Francis, calling for charges to be kept down, said they ought to issue a "flying is in good order" message to encourage passengers.

Mr Francis said: "One of the weapons we have in our locker is that there seems to be a large hike in terms of overseas travel. This allows us the opportunity to not increase."

Marian Bennett said promotion of the islands "leaves a lot to be desired".

It was unanimously agreed that the budget should be set for a target of 93,000 passengers for 2014-15 with all charges frozen.

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