The project to build new vessels which will provide sea link services for Scilly in the future took another step forward this week following the response from the Department for Transport (DfT) on how it wants to see the project delivered. This follows the allocation of £48.4m of Levelling Up Funding for the vessels announced by the Government in October 2021.
In a letter to the Council, the Maritime Minister, Robert Courts MP, welcomed the continued commitment shown by the Council and its partners in developing the full business case for the project which had been submitted to the DfT in June 2022. He confirmed that the Government remains fully committed to the successful delivery of new vessels for the Isles of Scilly and highlighted the need to follow an approach which will minimise the possibility of any financial viability issues or unforeseen delays in bringing the new vessels into service.
In setting out the approach he would like the Council to take, the Minister recognised the work that the Council and its partners, particularly the Steamship Group, have already undertaken to get the project to this stage and gave a commitment to work with the Council to understand these costs and where appropriate, include them in a development grant that he intends to make available to the Council to ensure it has the resources to continue to lead the delivery of the project.
In responding to the letter, the Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, Councillor Robert Francis, whilst disappointed that our bid wasn’t approved, welcomed the clear direction and commitment to provide further support to the Council to deliver the project:
"Whilst this represents a significant change to the approach originally proposed by the Council and its partners, it provides further confirmation of the Government’s commitment to ensure these vessels are delivered and the future of the sea link services secured.
When I met the Minister recently to discuss the project, I took the opportunity to stress the need for Government help to ensure the existing sea link services are supported prior to the new vessels being introduced.
I also raised with the Minister some of the challenges a project of this scale presents for a small council. The response has been very positive with a commitment from the Government to provide development funding to allow us to continue to work to put in place the plans the Minister requires.
The Council will now work with its project partners and the various government departments on the next steps based on the approach set out by the Minister. Further detail on this will be taken to the next meeting of Full Council in September for members to consider."