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‘No hanging about’ as work starts on St Helena’s eco resort

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Oberoi website
The Oberoi hotel group’s website: a prospect of things to come for St Helena tourism?

Shelco’s architect is heading to Delhi next month for detailed talks with the luxury hotel group it wants to run St Helena’s newly-approved eco resort.

Jeremy Blake’s meeting with the Oberoi group, whose hotels have been rated among the best in the world, is a sign that there will be “no hanging about”, in the words of Linda Houston.

The developer’s representative in Jamestown told Saint FM local entrepreneurs with “fantastic ideas” can start planning their own spin-off businesses, now that planning consent has been given.

Addressing planning conditions will be Shelco’s main task for the rest of 2012, she said.

“Without meeting those we can’t actually proceed with the development, so over the next nine months our priority will be to work with the Planning Department to get these conditions signed off as soon as possible, by March next year at the latest.”

That includes producing detailed environmental and construction plans that answer public concerns.

Shelco also needs to set out how it will meet exacting standards for buildings and the proposed golf course.

Other early work includes:

  • a topographical survey of the landscape in Broad Bottom – from August;
  • putting up fencing around the proposed wirebird sanctuary, to keep out predators – from September;
  • clearing invasive scrub and flax – no date set;
  • surveying buildings on the Shelco site, ready for renovation by islanders – immediately;
  • dog-proofing the site to protect grazing sheep, as part of the plan to improve wirebird habitat – “eventually”.

The first phase of construction work will include laying out the golf course.

“After that, we then will start to work on the hotel,” said Linda. “We hope to start the hotel in 2014, so a lot of work behind the scenes will be going on and a little bit will be seen on island, but the big things won’t really happen until 2013.”

Some outside consultants will be brought in to help meet the planning conditions.

Shelco’s team is expected back on the island this year – “probably in October, but we haven’t confirmed that yet.”

Linda is due to leave the island at the end of June.

In the meantime she is having regular site visits with potential contractors, checking out neighbouring landowners, and looking into logistics – such as how to get materials to the island.

She returns to the island “on a permanent basis” in 2013.

“So for the next six months or so there’ll be a little bit of coming and going and then you’ll start to see a very regular team as we start to build up the programme.

“And of course, once construction starts, there’ll be an awful lot more activity going on then.”

Asked when negotiations would start with potential construction firms, she said: “I’m not quite sure, but if we’re aiming for 2014 then it’s pretty soon, isn’t it? Conversations are going on as we speak.”

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