Efforts to create an “eco friendly” tourist resort in St Helena have cleared another hurdle, with the signing of a new agreement that promises work and housing for islanders.
The scheme involves a luxury hotel and spa, a golf course and tourist chalets at Broad Bottom – one of the prime breeding sites of the island’s vulnerable wirebird, which is found nowhere else in the world.
The population of the bird – also known as the St Helena Plover – has now risen above the official “endangered” mark, but the St Helena National Trust has warned that its numbers could fall because of future tourism developments.
The government says the resort must be built “in an environmentally highly sensitive way with a focus on blending with the countryside and its ecology, and having a low carbon footprint.”
The St Helena Leisure Corporation Ltd (Shelco) still has to gain formal planning consent for the development. The UK-based company must then apply for an “immigrant landholding licence” before it can buy land for the resort.
The government says it is “not in any way obliged to grant development permission.”
Its statement says:
“By providing up-market tourist accommodation with ‘green’ environmentally-friendly credentials, the Shelco project could become an important component of the current work to develop St Helena’s economy.
“The agreement includes a commitment by Shelco to use its best endeavours to employ a St Helenian workforce, while providing appropriate training and housing for its employees.
“Similarly, in operating the resort Shelco has committed to endeavour to source food and consumables from St Helena.”
An agreement to progress the resort project was signed by then-governor Andrew Gurr in May 2008, after legal advice over objections to the scheme.
An updated contract was signed on 10 April 2012 to fit in with reforms to the island’s policies and laws, required by the UK government in return for funding for the airport.
They include a new land development control plan, approved by councillors on 22 March 2012. Three weeks after the decision, details have yet to be made public.
Once the Broad Bottom planning application has been submitted – along with a study on its likely impact on the environment – islanders will be given 28 days to make comments on it. The detailed scheme must fit in with special policies laid down for building at Broad Bottom.
It will then be considered by the planning board in a public session. Consent will only be given with a “comprehensive” set of strict conditions.
The process is closely modelled on the long-established system in the UK.
Shelco has been pressing for the chance to invest in St Helena for more than a decade, since it first offered to build an airport for the island. The contract for that project eventually went to South African firm Basil Read, which started construction work in January.
A copy of the new memorandum of agreement is to be placed on the SHG website.
New planning rules protect island – but what are they?
Wirebird: endangered species consultation (scroll down for St Helena National Trust view)
St Helena Government