The review of St Helena Government’s Housing Waiting List has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the numbers on the Housing Register, says Housing Executive Andy Crowe:
“The old list included people who weren’t in housing need and it had never been updated. We now have a much clearer picture of who really needs housing.”
The number of households on the list has fallen from 71 to 23, following the adoption of the new Housing Register. At about 14% of all households on the Island, this best compares with the south west of England, where average local incomes tend to be low and house prices are generally high. In the UK, there are 1.6 million households on Council waiting lists.
Many Saints applying for housing currently share with other householders and some live in homes in very poor condition. Seven applicants on the new Register are single people and the rest are families. 15 would prefer to live in Jamestown, with Half Tree Hollow the second preference. Their average income is £8500 although a few earn over £15000, and most need one and two bedroom homes.
“What does this tell us? Well, with such small numbers it is difficult to make sweeping statements, but we now have a better idea of who we need to help. We need to manage expectations – we will never get the number of vacancies we need in Jamestown. People who opt only for Jamestown may be waiting a very long time.
‘’Most applicants are in employment, but the combination of wage levels and house prices makes it impossible for them to afford to buy. It is therefore important that we create a local housing market that also caters for low income families.
“We have also contacted all of the households that did not reapply to join the Register, to remind them to do so if they are still in need. I suspect that the number will climb a little from 23, but what we now know makes it much easier to plan ahead.”
St Helena Government and Enterprise St Helena are working closely together to explore options for developing a hotel in Jamestown. Mantis Development has been commissioned to produce design and build costs for two options:
A New Build, or
A Refurbished Option (using existing SHG buildings in Main Street)
We are awaiting the outcome of this design and build work to help determine which option is preferable.
In the meantime, a hotel company (St Helena Hotel Development Limited – SHHDL) has been established to take the project forward. Initially this company will be wholly Government-owned until plans are finalised, at which point shares will be issued to investment partners. Options for the sale of further shares will be considered later in the project. At the same time, the hotel company is seeking initial expressions of interest from suitable contractors for a design and build contract for the hotel. This has been advertised both locally and internationally to provide us with a good field of potential contractors for this work.
SHG and ESH have taken these steps to help secure a hotel for St Helena to augment the existing accommodation offering. This is an ambitious project to achieve in a relatively tight timeframe, but it is absolutely vital when the Airport opens that there is sufficient, good quality accommodation available to cater for weekly arrivals.
In parallel with this, Enterprise St Helena is developing new business support schemes to be announced soon, targeted at local accommodation and hospitality businesses. The idea is to provide tailored packages of support to businesses, including business advice and financing, with a view to increasing local accommodation stock by the end of 2015. Existing and new local accommodation and hospitality businesses will be offered targeted support – to improve the current offering both in terms of quality and quantity.
Susan O’Bey of Enterprise St Helena said:
“This is a crucial project which aims to ensure that the huge investment in the Airport will be maximised. The hotel, which we hope could eventually be locally owned, will go some way towards assuring potential airlines and tour operators, acting as a catalyst for other tourism development on St Helena.”
Councillor Lawson Henry commented:
“It is clear that St Helena has huge potential once our Airport becomes operational, but ours is still an untested market and we have not yet attracted outside hotel investment. This initiative, by both SHG and ESH, will go some way in providing confidence to the market and potential airline services and operators.
“I hope that the hotel will eventually be locally owned, and Saints will have an opportunity to buy into this when the share options are announced. This is what the whole Airport project is designed to do – to bring about opportunities for all Saints – and now we have to take up the mantle. As the Governor said at the Airport ceremony last Saturday: ‘It’s time for change, to adjust to the new realities and to grip new opportunities’. I commend SHG and ESH for taking this brave initiative in the face of continued global financial uncertainty.”
The Health and Social Services Directorate currently uses two older Refuse Collection Vehicles (RCVs) to collect domestic and commercial waste. As of 29 June 2014, one of these vehicles was out of order – and it was thus necessary to bring into service one of the two new RVCs – so as to maintain the necessary volume and continuity of waste collection.
This vehicle has come into service ahead of schedule and ahead of distribution of the new wheelie bins to households and collection points, which will be done shortly. For this reason, the high level bin lifter at the back of the vehicle, which would normally aid the emptying of the wheelie bins, has temporarily been removed from this RCV to make it easier for the operators to load rubbish in the conventional way.
Senior Environmental Health Officer, Georgina Young, commented:
“At times, quick decisions have to be taken in the Directorate, in order to maintain delivery of this vital and environmental significant service to the public.”
A new Head of Planning and Development Control, Martin Hannah (photo attached), arrived to the Island on Tuesday 17 June 2014.
Martin is contracted for three years and his role is to lead St Helena Government’s planning and building standards functions. This involves all aspects of development management, decision making and reporting to the Land Development Control Authority, the review of the Land Development Control Plan and preparation of other development plans. He will also supervise the Building Standards function and the introduction of a suite of modern building standards regulations designed to raise standards of new developments on the Island. Since his arrival Martin has already begun looking at a number of applications for development permission in preparation for his first Land Development Control Authority meeting and also commenced a review of existing protocols and the current approach to planning assessments.
“The commission of the Airport in 2016 will be a transformative event for the Island. Air access will over time improve the economic fortunes of St Helena and enhance the attractiveness of the Island to tourist visitors and investors, but it will also present new challenges and introduce different development pressures. This development pressure should be guided appropriately in the public interest – and a modern and responsive planning and development control function is very important to achieve this.”
Martin’s early priority is finalisation of a master plan for Rupert’s Wharf and to agree upon a shared vision for Rupert’s Valley that is robust and deliverable.
“Rupert’s Wharf is essential infrastructure to serve St Helena’s future sea access. A meaningful and deliverable master plan for the wharf must attempt to reconcile a number of competing demands for land – balanced against the need for developments associated with the new wharf.”
Martin is hoping particularly to bring a balance of commercial and public service experience and skills to the role. He is a Chartered Town Planner with a recent background in regulatory planning on an Island with a Scottish Planning Authority. He will be drawing on that experience to strengthen the existing systems and processes on St Helena.
Martin is positive about his role and about St Helena. He concluded:
“I am honoured to be offered the position as Head of the St Helena Planning Service. Settling in to any new position so far from home and family does take a little time, but I have been made to feel so welcome – and after a couple of weeks of acclimatisation my feelings are very positive about the Island and my new working colleagues. The Island is a unique and special place and I’ve already started to settle into to my new job. I am also looking forward to the arrival of my wife and children who will be joining me soon.”
Martin has worked in the planning and development fields for 25 years. He has worked previously for both urban and rural planning authorities in the UK and Australia, and also worked at a senior level with several UK house building, property and construction groups and has also run his own planning consultancy.
At the Executive Council meeting of Tuesday 24 June 2014 Councillors agreed to reduce the cost of diesel for full time commercial fishermen. This decision will see an exemption on the duty of diesel with effect from 1 April 2014.
St Helena Government is committed to the Island’s fishing industry and in line with the Sustainable Economic Development Plan, supporting the fishing industry is one of SHG’s key priorities.
Feedback from the fishing sector made it clear that the previous support offered (an Income Tax exemption up until 31 March 2014) had not been successful, given the low catches seen in recent months. This duty exemption aims to more effectively tackle the inherent economic issues in the fishing industry where diesel represents a high fixed cost that is difficult to absorb when catches are low.
The current duty on diesel is 27p per litre. A duty exemption based on the latest published fuel prices will mean full time commercial fishermen will now receive diesel at a cost of 65.6p per litre. Based on estimated consumption, this would cost SHG just under £20,000 per annum in uncollected duty.
To mark the construction of the Airport Terminal Building, history was made on Saturday 28 June 2014 in a special Commemorative Stone ceremony at the St Helena Airport site.
To over 100 invited guests, and under clear skies, HE Governor Capes unveiled a Commemorative Stone at the front entrance of the Terminal Building, His Lord Bishop Richard Fenwick blessed the building and a Time Capsule was buried by Prince Andrew School students.
The placing of the commemorative stone, a local basalt rock, marks one of many key milestones of Airport construction. In his speech made on the day (full version attached) Governor Capes spoke of the ceremony as a landmark, one that just over 2 ½ years on since the Airport contract signing between St Helena Government and Basil Read, marks the ‘massive progress achieved by Basil Read’.
Thanking all who have worked so hard on this historic undertaking, particularly ‘the many Saints and the workers from further afield’ Governor Capes spoke of the benefits and challenges to overcome when the Airport becomes operational:
“The big challenge for all of us is to see that St Helena is positioned to fully benefit from air access. Sound economic and social arguments underpin the justification for investing in this Airport. Social gains will come relatively easily – having rapid access to specialist medical care, much easier and quicker journeys to and from the Island by family and friends and, for our sporting enthusiasts, making it possible for St Helena’s sports teams to participate in international competitions.
“The more complex, less easy task, is preparing St Helena to be able to benefit from new economic opportunities. But we can do it. Air access gives us the opportunity to halt the many decades of economic decline. To give St Helena the means to prosper by developing a vibrant economy, to give St Helena a confident, bright future that will reverse the flow of young Saints leaving the Island. That is the goal. That must be the focus for our energy and resources.
“Deon de Jager and his team have shown that – with the right attitude, with determination, with a ‘can do’ mind set – so much can be achieved. That is how this airport is being built.
“St Helena must adopt that same approach to building a new economy. It is happening in the fishing sector. Trevor Thomas and the crew of the Extractor, with determination and a ‘can do’ approach, are showing the way to success.
“It is time for change, to adjust to the new realities and to grip new opportunities.”
Echoing Governor Capes, Deputy Chief Executive for Economic Development, Susan O’Bey highlighted the ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ the Airport will provide to ‘ensure that there is a viable St Helena in the years to come for our children and for our children’s children’.
“A tourism-based economy will provide opportunities to develop our other key assets; as our economy grows and as more and more people come to the Island, the demand for fresh fruit and vegetables will increase as will the demand for freshly caught fish and St Helena coffee.
“The tourists who will arrive on a weekly basis, will expect to have a variety of activities to participate in and places to visit on the Island, they will also expect to stay in good quality accommodation; be it in a hotel, in a bed and breakfast, in an eco-lodge, or in self-catering. These are the many areas where Saints can take advantage of the business opportunities available for innovation and growth.
“We have young people studying to become doctors, vets, airline pilots, engineers, lawyers and journalists. In 2016 we will open an Airport which will be of a world class standard. Let us also have set out a solid foundation for sustainable economic growth which will set us firmly on the path towards a bright and positive future for us all.”
Basil Read Island Director Deon de Jager, Miles Leask from the Project Management Unit and Deputy Airport Director Clare Harris also spoke on project progress and the hard work of all involved.
“The Airport Project is on time, on budget and to specification. We can see today that a tremendous amount of design and construction work has taken place – achieved through a close working relationship with Basil Read, Halcrow, our Project Management Unit, DfID and SHG. Thank you everyone. It has been challenging at times, but we all have the same end goal: an operational Airport in February 2016.”
Tribute was paid to the late Sharon Wainwright for her dedication and commitment to the project and to ensuring that air access brings lasting benefits to the Island.
To ensure the future people of St Helena are aware of this vision and of the hard work of everyone involved in the Airport project, a Time Capsule was buried on the day to give future islanders a snapshot of life on St Helena in 2014. A full list of the contents of the Time Capsule is attached, a list which was placed in the capsule to guide those who will open the capsule in years to come.
The ceremony continued with a presentation from the St Helena Arts and Crafts Association of limited edition site soil souvenirs to Governor Capes, Deon de Jager and Annina van Neel from Basil Read. Guests were also able to purchase these souvenirs while mingling over refreshments and viewing the display of the interior perspective of the Airport Terminal.
Construction of the Permanent Wharf in Rupert’s Valley has begun and will continue for a period of about eight to nine months, weather permitting.
During the construction period all boats and vessels will be subject to a ‘No Go’ area around the immediate construction site. All leisure users will be similarly affected and are asked to adhere to the signage on site.
The restricted offshore ‘No Go’ area (map and coordinates attached) will be marked by yellow buoys, and fishermen and other marine users are asked to strictly adhere to these markers and remain outside of them. A Divers’ Boat and Survey Boat will be at work in this area, marked by the internationally-recognised blue and white flag and red flag respectively.
The Fisherman’s Association, Fisheries Corporation and Argos Atlantic Coldstores have been informed about the restrictions and all affected parties are thanked for their understanding and cooperation during this period.
Students on St Helena will be the first to pilot and help to develop a new learning aid called Storyteller – developed for the International Slavery Museum (ISM) in Liverpool, UK. Feedback from St Helena’s students will influence how the final device works, a device which will be used in the Museum for years to come.
This information-based, interactive device – through photographs, text and audio – allows students to come to their own conclusions about archaeological finds, much as archaeologists do themselves. The device (looking a little like a large radio) allows individuals to interact with information on archaeological artifacts that would usually be displayed in a glass case in a museum.
Leading the project for the ISM on St Helena is Heidi Bauer-Clapp (Doctoral Student in Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA) who recently arrived on Island to kick start the design process. She will be here until the end of July.
“I am very interested in the liberated African heritage of St Helena and the current exhibition at the ISM in Liverpool has gained much international media attention – which is where the design team in Liverpool came up with the idea of using it as a trial subject for this development project.”
The Storyteller learning aid was initially going to be tested in schools in the United Kingdom, but on reflection St Helena seemed to be the best starting point to test the pilot project, with information on the device originally gathered byAndrew Pearson (who previously conducted archaeological investigations in Rupert’s Valley).
Councillor Christine Scipio-O’Dean was instrumental in organising the visit, additionally setting up sessions in all three primary schools plus Prince Andrew School.
About the learning aid, Heidi commented:
“Storyteller is like a radio that also issues reams of information, and it also connects to the internet so you can collaborate and share information at an international level.”
The idea centres around school tours that happen at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. The device will be sent in advance to classrooms, so students can gather historical information on exhibits before seeing them for real, at the museum.
Heidi is also conducting an additional project on liberated Africans in the primary schools, working with year 5/6 students in their history curriculum, with the hope of setting up an exhibition based on student’s work to display to the public.
Executive Council met today, Tuesday 24 June 2014. It has been a little while since ExCo met, so this was a fairly large agenda. There were seven items on the Open Agenda.
The new Chief Secretary Roy Burke was welcomed to his first Executive Council meeting.
The first item discussed was the proposed amendment to the Customs and Excise Ordinance to provide for a duty free shop at the Airport terminal. Duty free shopping is customary at international airports and Council agreed that a Bill for an Ordinance to amend the Customs and Excise Ordinance should go forward to the next formal meeting of Legislative Council. Council also agreed to enact Regulations to provide for exemption of customs duties on goods imported for supply and sale in a duty free shop.
The second item was to again amend Customs Regulations to bring into force the appropriate forms to be completed by persons arriving and departing St Helena. These relate to declaring goods in excess of the current duty free allowances and to declare currency being carried in excess of £6,000. ExCo approved the forms.
The third item was the application for development permission for the new Fire Station to be constructed at Alarm Forest. In attendance were the Planning Officer and the new Head of Planning and Development Control to provide technical advice. Executive Council recognises the need for a new Fire Station as part of the Airport certification process. There were no major concerns with the building, but issues to be addressed include ensuring that rainwater run-off from the roof is managed and that suitable traffic safety measures are in place. The existing bus stop will also need to be relocated.
The fourth item was also an application for development permission for Constitution Hill Road. This road is in need of repair and approval for this was given. It was pleasing to note that certain individuals had given up short strips of land free of charge to create additional road space. Executive Council commended these individuals for their public spiritedness. In granting development permission, Council requested an advisory note from SHG for the repair and maintenance of the Run, as it was recognised that storm water could cause erosion to its fabric.
The fifth item was a request for approval to remove unproductive land from the National Forest Estate. This was approved, as it is important that land not being used for forestry can be released for other developments.
The sixth item was an application to wind up the St Helena News Media Board. This relates to the previously existing media service. The application was approved and any assets realised from the previous Media Board will be transferred to SHG.
The last item on the Open Agenda was a request for approval to register the company St Helena Hotel Development Limited. It is vital for the continued economic development of the Island that there are sufficient hotel rooms for visiting tourists post-Airport. This company would lead negotiations for the financing and construction of a hotel, although it is important to note that this is not giving the go- ahead for a specific hotel and that no monies have yet been allocated. Executive Council gave approval and there will be further information on any hotel development in due course.
On the Closed Agenda there was a recommendation that diesel for commercial fishing vessels be duty free. Executive Council recognises the importance of commercial fishing and was pleased to grant this concession. This equates to a reduction in price of approximately 27p per litre, backdated to 1 April 2014 and to run for initially one year.
The Social Services Section of the Health & Social Welfare Directorate is currently reviewing its existing procedures in order to improve the services it provides.
This, combined with an ongoing recruitment drive, training and other developments means that for the next few weeks it is necessary to prioritise the services available.
With immediate effect, Social Services will:
Operate between 8.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday
Prioritise cases based on assessed needs
The Service will continue to meet the needs of the community’s most vulnerable while developing improved and robust services with key partner agencies going forward. Social Services appreciate your cooperation over the next few weeks.