Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Jamestown St Helena: 20/20 Vision

In prime position at meeting at the Consulate Hotel, Jamestown

Towards the end of our recent visit to St Helena my wife and I attended a meeting to discuss the 20/20 Vision for Jamestown, a bulky document, costing £30, which I suspect few had read. The audience was large by St Helena standards - well over 100.

Wharf Area Jamestown

The document's purpose was to set out possible changes by 2020 when, with the completion of the airport, still scheduled to open in 2016, Jamestown's historic role as the access point for the island will have come to an end. The author, off the island at the time of the meeting, seems to envisage Jamestown as a kind of up market Las Americas, and the wharf area perhaps as a cut-down version of Cape Town's Victoria and Alfred waterfront!

Among the most troubling proposals was that the Castle, the historic seat of the Government of St Helena, should become a hotel.

Jamestown Castle

At the end of what turned out to be a rather bad tempered meeting a vote was taken. Not a single hand was raised in support of the document. I was told by someone in the know that I would be shocked at the cost of the project - certainly I gather far more than £100,000. I was also confidently informed by a number of residents that nothing would happen anyway, certainly not before the completion of the airport: gossip and rumours are the only things that move fast on St Helena.

I certainly hope that the Government of St Helena and the Department for International Development will tread very carefully when making plans for this unique and largely unspoiled Georgian town. The recent destruction of historic buildings and steps on the wharf do not inspire confidence, particularly since the new facilities created there will be surplus to requirements when all freight handling moves to Ruperts Bay. p.s. all the photos enlarge if clicked.