AN £8 MILLION scheme to improve the harbours of Penzance and St Mary's has been approved.
The decision by Local Transport Minister Norman Baker will help to bring closure to an often bitter battle about how the link between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly should be maintained and developed.
The announcement follows a meeting in July between Mr Baker, MP Andrew George, Cornwall Council's transport supremo Bert Biscoe, his opposite number from Scilly, Chris Thomas, and Penzance mayor Phil Rendle.
The scheme involves dredging at Penzance harbour and widening the pier, while improved freight handling facilities will be built at St Mary's.
The money will not be used to introduce rock armour at Penzance.
Announcing the approval, subject to final clearances and European funding, Mr Baker said: "We are putting at least £8 million into this scheme which shows the coalition Government is serious about protecting the livelihood of the Isles of Scilly. Improved terminal buildings will provide better conditions for passengers. Changes to the harbours themselves will ensure new vessels can still access the ports, protecting this route."
Cornwall councillor for the Penzance Promenade ward, Jim McKenna, said: "It is fantastic news and the first step for the regeneration of the harbour and town. I've been really impressed with people's willingness to work together and particularly thank Bert Biscoe and members of Penzance Town Council.
"I very much look forward to developing phase two to ensure we take advantage of European funding, preferably on the scheme consulted on by the town council and the Seafront Forum, which had strong support from the town."
Mr Biscoe said: "This is a crucial step as it will help unlock the complete finance package. Mr Baker's journey with us will now begin to show positive results and lay the foundations for the future evolution of Penzance."
Mr Rendle added: "I am pleased. It is the result of the consensus that councillors from Cornwall, Penzance and the Isles of Scilly have demonstrated to the minister.
"It is the first time he has heard us all speak with one voice and I hope this marks the first stage in the regeneration of Penzance harbour."
Councillor Amanda Martin, chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, said: "The council is delighted that the project to develop the quays at St Mary's and Penzance has moved another step forward to approval; we would like to thank the DfT and Cornwall Council for all their hard work."