Decision on Isles of Scilly helicopter service in autumn

British International Helicopter on Tresco. Pic: D.Sims
Image caption The firm hopes to get planning permission for a supermarket at its present heliport

British International Helicopters says it hopes planning permission for a supermarket on its heliport in Penzance will be granted by October.

Helicopter flight operations to the Isles of Scilly would then move to Newquay.

A director of British International Helicopters (BIH) told BBC News earlier on Wednesday the company would not be taking bookings after 31 October.

BIH director Peter Sorby has now said the company is taking winter bookings.

Not subsidised

Mr Sorby originally said it would be wrong to take bookings from people expecting to fly from Penzance then ask them to pay extra to fly from Newquay.

Now he has made it clear that BIH has been taking winter bookings since the start of May.

The helicopter firm has never made any secret that the millions it would gain from selling part of the heliport to Sainsbury's supermarket are vital for its future.

The money would be used to buy new helicopters and to bid for contracts to fly passengers to and from oil fields.

Mr Sorby said that did not mean everything would shut down if the planning permission was not granted.

BIH first wanted to go back to Land's End airport where it started life 40 years ago.

Locals living nearby were unhappy and the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which owns the land, rejected the idea.

'Vital link'

BIH has now obtained the hanger at Newquay, though flying from Newquay to St Mary's and Tresco on the Isles of Scilly will never be the preferred option. It is more costly and takes longer.

Unlike flights to Scottish islands, the Cornish journeys are not government subsidised. They can only keep going if they are financially viable, unless the coalition government steps in.

BIH said it was determined to keep going and knew the helicopters were a vital link for the Isles of Scilly.

However the company insists much depends on how planners view the supermarket proposals for the present heliport.

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