British Seek To Change St. Helena, Napoleon's Place of Exile, To Resort
Napoleon's imprisonment in 1815 and his death six years later gifted St Helena its place in history and cemented the island in the popular imagination as a byword for isolation.
But the British Government has had a belated change of heart over its remotest prison colony and is seeking to turn the outpost of Empire into a modern-day paradise island, fit for five-star tourists.
Pitted against them is an alliance of conservationists concerned the island's unique biodiversity will be sacrificed in pursuit of a development model heavy on golf courses and jet-liners but light on environmental planning.
On one side is the Government's Department for International Development, determined to bring mass tourism to the tiny, beautiful but very broke South Atlantic island by building, at taxpayers' expense, an international airport, equivalent in size to Birmingham International, on one of St Helena's most environmentally sensitive areas.
Pitted against Whitehall are conservationists, historians and many islanders, fearing St Helena's already precarious wealth of indigenous plants and wildlife, and its exceptionally rare and largely untouched historic buildings dating from Napoleon's time, will soon be lost in the Government's push for mass tourist cash.
St Helena, a mountainous volcanic outcrop just 10 miles by six, has always been celebrated for its remoteness. It is 1,200 miles from Africa, 1,800 miles from South America and 700 miles from Ascension Island, the next nearest land. The island is the deeply eroded summit of a composite volcano, which lends St Helena its extraordinarily dramatic topography.
[Editor's Note: This is a very short excerpt from a much longer piece. See The Independent for more.]
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