As the team of four from Land Registry sets off for St Helena, I want to try and bring the mission to life. This is such a unique project, in such a unique, unspoiled part of the world; it seemed like a golden opportunity to start our journey by writing the first of a series of weekly blogs.
So where is St Helena and why is this mission so special? To start with, St Helena can be found as a dot on a map in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. It startled me to discover that it is actually 1,200 miles from the nearest landmass. I will find it extremely hard to imagine what that sense of remoteness means to the island until we actually arrive there on 17 October. At the moment all I know is that it means that there are no mobile phones.
I wanted to learn more about the island’s history. Aside from knowing it was used as the place of Napoleon’s exile for six years after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, I knew very little. Thanks to some very useful briefings by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I now know that St Helena is one of 19 British Overseas Territories, and is administered as part of the group which is formed of Ascension Island, Tristan de Cunha and St Helena. It is our second oldest British Overseas territory and is an important stopping off point for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa. It is a small island of volcanic rock measuring approximately 10 miles by 5 miles and has a population of approximately 4,500. Its geographical remoteness defines the life and culture of the island, and the unique lifestyle of the inhabitants has remained very much the same for generations.
To encourage investment and jobs, the UK government took a decision to build an airport on the island, which is due for completion in 2016. This will bring massive change to the people, the island’s culture, economy and environment. It will also bring – vegetables! They aren’t currently grown on the island and have to be imported by RMS St Helena, the ship which will take us to the island from Ascension.
It’s against this interesting backdrop that Land Registry was asked to visit the island and make an assessment of its land registration system. The main aim of the mission is, once having understood its current state, to suggest improvements to the system, taking particular account of the island’s methods of identification of land parcels, security of its data and access to electronic information.
Understanding these requirements is critical to the success of the visit. No two projects are the same, and there is never a “one size fits all” solution.
I’ve got the tremendous job of leading the scoping visit on the ground, as part of a 4 person team which has been put together specifically for this mission.
I’ve spent my 36 year career at Land Registry working in several offices in a range of operational and non-operational roles. As well as my current role as Head of International Relations, I’m also a land registration advisor to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. I’ve recently returned from a similar 10 day mission for the United Nations in Moldova.
Dr. Andrew Trigg
Before joining Land Registry as our Chief Geographic Officer, Dr Andrew Trigg worked for Ordnance Survey for 9 years and has a vast amount of experience working on overseas projects.
Len Craig and Tracey Salvin
Len Craig has similar experience of developing a system for another similar sized island territory and Tracey Salvin is a multi-disciplinary expert with a strong background in operations as well as training, business development and requirements gathering.
I expect the team to get out there and talk to people. I want them to develop relationships with the local experts in order to define what challenges the island’s registration system currently gives them and identify potential solutions. We will meet all the relevant stakeholders including the Chief Magistrate and the staff from the Registry of Lands as well as planning officers and members of the island’s population. Once we are back, we will feed back to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of International Development who have a keen interest in the work being done on the island.
After leaving the island, the team will prepare a report on its findings, and recommendations. Until the visit has taken place, it’s difficult to know what future projects might arise or when but with a mission of this scope and importance it’s guaranteed to be interesting and a great development opportunity for everyone involved.
Next week, read more about our journey, first impressions and life as temporary inhabitants on Ascension Island.