St Helena’s new housing boss has written of his excitement at the challenge of making sure Saints can afford to live on their own island – a week after it emerged eight families were known to be facing homelessness.
Alan Crowe has started an internet journal about his new job improving existing housing, and “developing new homes and even new communities.”
But he promises he won’t be imposing UK practices when he arrives on the island later in November.
“The UK model has failed,” he writes, “with house prices way beyond the means of all but a few first-time buyers, homelessness rising fast and ‘affordable rents’ condemning many to the poverty trap.
“The most exciting part of the job is that there is a blank sheet of paper when it comes to housing legislation and housing management. St Helena has very little of either.”
He acknowledges that locals might be wary of an unknown face. “Who is this guy? How is he going to tackle years of decline successfully?”
The trick is to meet both local housing needs and demand for luxury accommodation, and managing land use, which affects prices and housing costs. “Shielding housing prices from the ravages of inflation is the way to make housing affordable for local people in perpetuity.”
A reader of The Guardian has warned that global warming and rising sea levels could mean “islands like St Helena will disappear.” Click the pics to see it happen (with thanks to photographer Johnny Clingham of the St Helena Community website).
Boots on, everyone: it’s approaching high tide in Half Tree Hollow. Or so one reader of The Guardian website thinks.
An article praising St Helena’s airport has triggered a bewildering online debate, with one troubled contributor claiming it could make the island sink beneath the waves.
The brief opinion piece on www.guardian.co.uk suggests that Napoleon could have done with an airport during his exile on the island.
It’s not clear what the Emperor of Longwood might have done with it, given that aeroplanes hadn’t been invented in 1815.
But several readers complain that air travel to St Helena will add to global pollution – with dire consequences for Jamestown. A reader called bytzer warns:
“With even more emissions of greenhouse gasses, islands like St Helena will disappear as the polar ice melts and sea levels rise.”
Another reader, PetetheTree – who’s actually been to St Helena – points out that this is unlikely to happen. Most of Europe would be swallowed up before the water lapped at the top step of Jacob’s Ladder.
The Guardian piece does acknowledge environment issues: “It must at least be possible,” it says, “to have modern communications without concreting over the flora and fauna whose diversity astonished Darwin.”
Millions of tonnes of concrete are to be poured all over the last known refuge of the St Helena earwig – which may or may not be extinct – but it isn’t the threat to a host of unique invertebrates that has got Guardian readers fired up.
Some worry about the US Air Force taking over the island. And Sludge asks, “Does this mean Argentina will claim it?”.
Others see the airport as a sop to Lord Ashcroft, who once flew over St Helena in his private jet and promised to support the case for air access. A writer calling himself theonionmurders says:
“Surely the Tories are building this simply to allow Ashcroft’s private jet to refuel on its way to the UK so he can vote in crucial Lords debates.
“Why no mention of this obvious bondoogle simply to satisfy the whims of a Tory grandee?”
A bondoogle is a card trick, but the writer may actually have meant to write “boondoggle”, which is “a scheme that wastes time and money”.
Note: The airport is costing around £250 million in its first ten years. Lord Ashcroft’s donation to the Conservative Party was £10 million.
“I wonder if this will spell doom for the weekly Cape-Town-St Helena-Ascension-Falmouth run of RMS St Helena, a relic of a once-healthy mail boat industry. But I’ve just checked and I see they no longer include Falmouth (when did that happen?).”
Er, never. Avonmouth, Cardiff or Portland, maybe – but even the legendary Falmouth Packet mail boats couldn’t have done the Cape-to-Cornwall run in a week.
One writer voices concern that aircraft could affect migrating birds on St Helena, possibly confusing it with another St Helena off Australia – or maybe muddling migratory birds with migratory workers.
Michael Moore, who once wrote a poem for the BBC about St Helena, called No Island Is An Island, doesn’t give a flying wotsit.
“Migrating birds? All they ever do is come over here, take the jobs of indigenous birds and live off state benefits.
“Besides, the only flying things of importance in a modern, thrusting, global economy are the ones whose fossil fuel consumption is helping destroy the planet.”
Another writer also criticises the Guardian for ignoring environmental concerns.
MiskatonicUniversity – for it is he – says it shows that “tackling global warming is as live an issue as witches blighting crops by stirring their tea backwards.”
An article on the BBC News website reports that Saints are divided over whether St Helena should have an airport. An unnamed islander doubts whether Saints will reap the rewards: “We will probably end up cleaning toilets.” Read it here.