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25/02/2021

Ismail Mohammed: My view on... Saint Helena Island

Working on a small island with little contact with the outside world, planner Ismail Mohammed must cope with some unusual challenges

Saint Helena is a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic Ocean, and is described as one of the most remote places in the world, being 1,200 miles west of the closest land mass of the Angolan coast.

Although the island’s planning system is based on the UK system, it works very differently in practice. As much of the island is an environmental oasis, there is considerable resistance to development and the challenge is to strike the right balance between economic growth and environmental protection.

"The challenge is to strike the right balance between economic growth and environmental protection"

Any development will have some effect on the natural environment, and the expectation from the environmental lobby is that there should be a full EIA undertaken to assess the impact of all developments. Being so small and remote, there is real knowledge shortage on the island in this area, making such assessments particularly difficult.

There are currently several major development projects in the pipeline, including the landing of fibre-optic cables and the development of wind turbines. Getting these developments through the planning process has been challenging, but has been achieved through a close working relationship with both international agencies and local people.    

Ismail Mohammed MRTPI is head of planning and building and chief planning officer for the Saint Helena Government. He previously worked for Buckinghamshire County Council.

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