VISITORS to Scilly could soon get the impression the nine- mile road system of St Mary's is one big golf fairway.
The island's highways and in particular Hugh Town, where traffic can be clogged in high summer, could shortly be home to a fleet of electrically-powered, left-hand-drive golf buggies especially adapted for legal road use.
Ambulance driver Willie Pritchard, 64, and 67-year-old elder brother Michael, an Eastbourne-based property developer, are behind a fledgling island transport enterprise.
"We have investigated with the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) as to road legalisation of these ten-year-old buggies," said Willie. "They are literally off the golf course, bought from a North Wales dealer and cross, five at a time, via the steamship company. We make them legal by adding on all the bits they are supposed to have – registration, number plates, lights and seatbelts to comply with regulations that are already in force regarding motorised vehicles on the road.
"We have a Helston contact who will insure them for £83 a year.
"There is no road tax to pay. The driver has, of course, to hold a full driving licence."
Michael said the buggies retail at £2,300 "as is" and just over £3,000 with a new set of batteries which, if looked after, should last at least 5 years.
He said the buggies create considerably less pollution, are cheap to run and are smaller and narrower than 4x4s.
In bad weather users could either put a coat on and put up with it, or enclose them.
It depended, he said, on how much it was used as to how much it would cost to charge a buggy.
"You plug them in every night and the batteries will only take what they want before cutting off. If you use them quite a lot they will set you back £3 to £5 a week.That is your running cost. Every 5 or 6 years you will have to invest in a new set of batteries .
"I personally have been using a buggy for three weeks and have saved over £50 in diesel. Not having to pay road tax is a significant factor. My Jeep is £200 a year to road tax. I pay over £200 a year insurance and £1.50 per litre for fuel at the moment, which is likely to go up again."
The two-month old business has, to date, six buggies on the island roads with more at their Porthmellon depot ready to go on the market .
"Next year we want to rent them to visitors," said Michael "for, for instance, the wheelchair-bound husband pushing his lady, or vice-versa, who want to get around the island."
The key selling points , said Michael, who embarked on the enterprise "as a bit of fun as it's lovely at this time of year", is cost. "The are also green, no fumes. They do a regulated maximum speed of about 13 miles an hour. We thought, "yes, there is a potential, let's go for it". If we don't sell any,OK – but we've tried."
Buggies, familiar on Tresco, were Yamahas from Devon. We have gone for E-Z-Go buggies made by an American company, Textron. "All are left-hand drive; you only get left- hand-drive golf buggies."
PC Mark Blyth joked: "If there was enough money available we could have one as the police vehicle. From a green viewpoint they're brilliant, a good piece of kit for the islands."