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18.10.08

Isles of Scilly Link Project

Please find below a copy of a question received from Neil Plummer to be answered at County Council on 7 October 2008 by Matt McTaggart, Strategic Planning and Transport Portfolio-Holder:-

I realise that links between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland are an important economic and strategic service to maintain, however, in many ways the Islanders still live in a feudal society – many tenants will never have the same rights as those on the mainland.

The Scillies are owned entirely by the Duke of Cornwall and sub let by the Duchy of Cornwall and it is often alleged that this estate is a private business.

This being said, I believe that the people of Cornwall and the taxpayers are being asked to fund the Isles of Scilly Link Project i.e. public money is being spent on subsidising the private business of the Duchy of Cornwall at a disproportionate level, especially when the Duchy of Cornwall is recording high levels of income.

Will you identify how much the Duchy of Cornwall will fund the Isles of Scilly Link Scheme, including the percentage of the total to be spent and why this total is justifiably so low when the Duchy of Cornwall is a private business earning very high levels of income?

I have heard that the grant from state tax payers is £23.84 million but would be interested to know how much the Cornwall County Council taxpayers will be contributing.

I am not criticising the need for the Link Scheme but only that the Duchy of Cornwall being the main beneficiary to their business should pay more towards the scheme, especially when they make so much profit each year.

Reply: David Whalley (in the absence of Matt McTaggart)

The Isles of Scilly inhabitants do not live in a feudal society. The Duchy of Cornwall is regulated in law by Acts of Parliament and the Duchy tenants have the same rights as those on the mainland. The only exception relates to some of the off islands and ‘The Garrison’ on St.Mary’s where the Government decided for heritage purposes to retain the land in a single ownership.

Of the 1150 residential properties on the Isles of Scilly only 350 are owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the 70% majority is in freehold ownership.

The £23.84m proposed funding for the harbour works at Penzance and St.Mary’s has been conditionally approved by the Department for Transport. This is a central government investment to sustain the community and economy of the Isles of Scilly and West Penwith.

If the Duchy of Cornwall was to contribute capital to the project for St.Mary’s quay improvements its only source is the Treasury. The Treasury would seek a return on that investment requiring increased harbour dues and costs to Duchy tenants. This would be contrary to the fundamental reasons for the project.

The Duchy of Cornwall operates the St.Mary’s harbour at a loss. It subsidises the harbour from its revenue accounts for the benefit of all islanders not just the 30% who are Duchy tenants.

The current development stage of the project is estimated to cost £1.5m. Of that the Department for Transport will (on Full Approval) reimburse up to £0.75m, Duchy have committed £0.5m and Penwith District Council £0.1m. The County Council has committed £0.15m and at the Executive on 5 March 2008 approved Prudential borrowing to fund the DfT contribution until it is reimbursed. The Duchy of Cornwall is therefore the second largest funder, after DfT, contributing 33% of the development cost.

The County Council Executive has approved no funding towards the harbour works which is why the design team is working hard to ensure the cost of the works is within the DfT budget. The County Council has approved the principle of Prudential borrowing towards the capital cost of the new vessel for which the interest and capital payments will be recovered through the charter of the vessel to an operator, secured through competitive tender.

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