La protestation des acteurs économiques s'organise sur l'île, relayée par la presse britannique, sur le "mur de silence" autour des problèmes rencontrés pour l'ouverture commerciale de l'aéroport, reportée depuis maintenant 4 mois sans nouvelles ni délai. Les rumeurs les plus folles circulent sans possibilité d'infirmer ou de confirmer ici leur réalité: problème insoluble ou recherche d'une alternative ? Même les résultats partiels des études en cours sur les statistiques de vent ne sont pas publiés ... Restons optimiste et wait and see ...
Voici l'article original du Guardian
Voici l'article original du Guardian
How wind shear could affect flights in St Helena
St Helena islanders want compensation over unusable new £285m airport
Isolated UK outpost in South Atlantic expected to attract tourists but runway is deemed too windy to land planes on
It was due to herald the end of St Helena’s status as Britain’s most marooned but populated island outpost, but instead the airport has become a runway to nowhere, on course to take off as the
government’s biggest overseas aid fiasco.
The airport cost £285m to build and was due to open on 21 May, intended to boost the economy of the British overseas territory. Instead the opening has been delayed indefinitely after it was discovered that the wind shear was so severe that commercial planes cannot land, leaving the isolated South Atlantic island without a clear economic future and the taxpayer facing a multimillion-pound bill.
There are now demands from the island’s 4,000-strong population for compensation and the St Helena legislative council this week passed a motion calling for an independent inquiry into the catalogue of errors, including where responsibility lies.
Leading figures on the council this week demanded the release of further information from the UK government over when it knew there was likely to be a serious problem with unpredictable and dangerous wind speeds if Whitehall went ahead with building the airport.
The international development secretary, Priti Patel, has responded to the criticism by saying she will establish a panel of experts to look into how the airport can be made to work.
“Clearly some decisions were not up to scratch, but this is not a postmortem. It is about finding a solution,” a government source said. Ministers are resisting offering any compensation to those that made investments on the basis that as many as 30,000 tourists would fly to visit the remote but beautiful island.
As a stop-gap measure, the Department for International Development has also agreed to an extension for RMS St Helena until next year. Built in 1990, the boat, which makes a four- to five-day trip from South Africa, had been due to be decommissioned but will continue as the island’s rusty lifeline.
Although plans for an airport have been circulating in Whitehall for over a decade, DfID was warned of the risk of high winds in a Met Office report commissioned in October 2014 and completed in January 2015. The report, sent to the St Helena government, warned of alarming wind speeds, but the site for the airport had been chosen three years before that report.
In 2011, the then foreign secretary William Hague and the then international development secretary Andrew Mitchell nevertheless pressed ahead with the runway construction claiming it would be value for money, even though it was deemed high risk. After the construction of the airport, tests proved the wind shear was indeed dangerous.
Some St Helena residents, represented by a 49-strong council, claim the fiasco means they have lost tens of thousands in modernising now empty hotels, eating into their savings. But the UK government-appointed governor of the island, Lisa Phillips, insisted in a letter to residents that ministers will not help out. She wrote: “I need to be clear that the St Helena government cannot be held liable for any losses for any businesses that anticipated a definite start date for operations. This was not in our gift and our communications have always stated this risk.”
The chairman of the legislative council’s economic development committee, Henry Lawson, in a speech at the council this week called for an independent inquiry. “So much has been done to gather information about the wind conditions that exist at the airport, but sadly, much of this was after the runway has been laid and one has to question how such a monumental project can be carried out without doing these extensive tests before,” he said.
“Who was responsible for approving the final runway design with the current alignment without first carrying out the necessary tests to ensure that aircraft could land safely from the approach that the runway was constructed for, taking into account also that the design of the runway is to enable landings from two approaches?
“The question therefore, is why were there no further studies carried out into the severe weather conditions and the amount of turbulence that was known to exist before the final design and alignment of the runway was finalised?” Lawson added.
In Britain, the Labour peer Lord Foulkes has taken up the issue and is pressing ministers to explain the sequence, and logic, of its flawed decision-making. He has asked the chair of the public accounts committee, Meg Hillier, to call in the relevant ministers. The investment in the airport has already been condemned as likely to be bad value for money by the National Audit Office.
Foulkes says “islanders feel they have had to reply on leaks of information, giving the impression to islanders that they are facing a wall of silence. The latest panel of experts means further indefinite delay”.
Lord Ashcroft, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative party who resigned from the Lords last year, has obtained a copy of the internal Met Office report. He said: “Why was the Met Office report only commissioned when the building work for the new airport was in its final stages, ie far too late to relocate the runway if it highlighted insurmountable problems?
“Why was the Met Office report not immediately made public – or, at the very least, shared at once with ‘relevant parties’ so that they could make contingency plans?”
Hazel Wilmot, the owner of the Consulate hotel on the island, has written to Foulkes to complain of the costs of expanding her hotel: “Had I known, I for one would not have embarked on the costly planning exercise, with architect’s fees, nor would I have proceeded with the major renovations at the hotel, employed extra staff to cope with the expected influx of tourists, purchased stock, fixtures, fittings, equipment and the like.”
Whitehall sources suggest some of the complaints of lost income are questionable, but Patel, known for her determination to root out waste from her department, has a jumbo-sized mess to clear up.
• This article was amended on 22 September 2016. An earlier version said Lord Ashcroft had taken leave of absence from the Lords. Ashcroft resigned from the Lords last year.