St Helena Airport Timeline
11 May: After a close-run election, David Cameron formed Britain’s first post-war coalition government. Andrew Mitchell, who had sent his colleague Mark Lancaster to St Helena to investigate the case for the airport, was made Secretary of State for International Development – the department responsible for the project.
22 July: Andrew Mitchell announced that the new coalition government intended fund an airport – once conditions had been met. He said:
“It’s time to stop the years of dithering and give the people of St Helena the decision they have been waiting for since an airport was first promised by the Government in 2003.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
It was also announced that new technology – an Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) – would make it possible to shorten the proposed runway length, and make a significant cost saving (thought to shave around £100 million of the previously-quoted £300 million).
In a statement, Mr Mitchell said building a new ship would initially be cheaper, but would not end the island’s “stagnation” and reliance on on British aid – currently more than £20 million a year.
The statement set out conditions covering cost, delays and safety. It also required a raft of reforms to open up the island’s economy to allow investment from overseas and encourage tourism. They would end a ban on non-Saints buying property on St Helena.
28 January: new invitations to bid for a Design, Build and Operate contract were sent out – but only to the previous bidders, Impregilo and Basil Read.
10 June: the deadline for tenders closed. Basil Read had submitted the only bid. Work began to assess whether it met DFID’s conditions.