Please Note: The Society planned to update a comprehensive history of St Helena on this web site. Meanwhile, below is the Wikipedia entry on the history of St Helena written by one of our members in 2007.
British Overseas Territory, 2002-Present
Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and the same year the British government published a review of the Dependent Territories. This included a commitment to restore the pre-1981 status for citizenship. This was effected by the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, which restored full passports to the islanders, and renamed the Dependent Territories the British Overseas Territories. The St Helena National Trust was also formed the same year with the aim of promoting the island's unique environmental and culture heritage. A full census in February 1998 showed the total population (including the RMS) was 5,157 persons.
In a vote held in January 2002, a majority of islanders (at home and abroad) voted in favour for an airport to be built. The island's two-floor museum situated in a building near the base of Jacob's Ladder was opened the same year and is operated by the St Helena Heritage Society. The Bank of St Helena, located next to the Post Office, commenced operations in 2004, inheriting the assets and accounts of the former St Helena Government Savings and the Ascension Island Savings Banks, both of which then ceased to exist. In April 2005 the British Government announced plans to construct an airport on Saint Helena to bolster the Island's economy, and reduce the dependence on boats to supply the Island. Impregilo S.p.A. of Milan have been selected as the preferred tender to design, build and operate the airport, which is currently expected to be open in 2012/13, although final UK ministerial approval was still not been given. The following December, DfID announced they and the "Treasury are in continuing discussions about issues of concern regarding access to St Helena. As a result, there will be a pause in negotiations over the St Helena airport contract". This is widely interpreted as meaning the project is in abeyance, probably for a number of years until the UK's economy recovers. In March 2009, DfID announced the launch of a new consultation on options for access to the island. In a parliamentary debate in which DfID were accused of delaying tactics, the ministry accepted the conclusion in their 2005 Access document but argued good fiscal management required this to be re-reviewed. In December 2008, the British Government decided not to go ahead with the long-promised airport.  If and when the airport eventually goes ahead, the Royal Mail ship will cease operations when flights begin.
A census held in February 2008 showed the population (including the RMS) had fallen to 4,255. In the first half of 2008, areas of the cliff above the wharf were stabilised from rock falls with netting at a cost of approximately Â£3 million.
On 14 August, about 200 tons of rock fell from the west side of Jamestown severely damaging the Baptist chapel and surrounding buildings. Plans are in hand to net the most dangerous sections of the mountains either side of Jamestown over the period to 2015 at an estimated cost of about Â£15 million.