COUNCILLORS on the Isles of Scilly are considering allowing flying on Sundays for the first time in a bid to stop the decline in visitor numbers.
With a fall in numbers going through the airport, Scilly's main gateway, the council – which owns it – discussed a contentious report from consultancy Parsons Brinkerhoff.
The consultants have advocated moving to allow flying on Sundays, and members of the council's transport committee agreed with them, voting to approve the principle of such an innovation by eight votes to two.
The introduction of seven-day-a-week flying should be seen as "an opportunity, not a risk", said Councillor Robert Dorrien Smith, of Tresco.
Pointing to the steady drop in visitors, he warned: "We have a choice: to do nothing, or change the way we do things."
He called for the council to set a time limit for action, telling fellow members they should not miss the opportunity to present themselves as a "forward-looking community". Otherwise, the issue would "waffle on for ever".
Mr Dorrien Smith said as of August airport user numbers were down 27 per cent and throughput had fallen year on year for more than a decade. Failure to act would cost the community dear, he said.
While it had been suggested there was a "possible risk" in changing the operating methods, this had to be set against the reality "that we are facing a very substantial deficit".
To do nothing would "almost inevitably" prolong the decline in visitors seen in the past 10 or 11 years, followed by substantial increases in passenger duties and landing fees.
Sunday flying, he said, would make Scilly accessible for all sorts of business "that currently doesn't come to us", and prophesied that islanders themselves would be "significant users" of Sunday flights.
The cost of Sunday operation was estimated at £74,000 but Mr Dorrien Smith said he wanted "further evidence" of that figure through an independent assessment, adding that he recognised the authority's administrators as being "risk-averse". The council's chief fire officer then revised the cost upwards – by an additional £9,000.
A number of councillors backed Mr Dorrien Smith, James Francis called Sunday flying "a progressive idea" which would attract a younger market, and Marian Bennett said it would allow greater freedom for the islanders.
A final decision will be made by the full council.