COLCHESTER MP Bob Russell’s lobbying effort has helped secure tens of millions of pounds for an airport on the south Atlantic island of St Helena.

The Government has announced the tiny British overseas territory, which shares its name with Colchester’s patron saint, will get a long sought-after airport.

Last year, island governor Andrew Gurr visited Colchester to press the case for an air link to the 162sq m island, which is currently only accessible by boat.

He received the backing of Lib Dem Mr Russell, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Island of St Helena Group, after hearing it would boost trade and make the impoverished island less dependent on welfare.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the UK had an “obligation” to improve access to the territory, which has a population of just over 4,000.

St Helena, once the home of Napoleon Bonaparte in exile, was named after Helena of Constantinople who, it was once claimed, was born in Colchester and gave birth to the Roman emperor, Constantine.

The Government still has to get an “acceptable contract price” for the project, which will take well over £70million from the international aid budget, before it gets the green light.

Government ministers insisted the “additional short-term costs” were “outweighed by the long-term benefits” if St Helena was able to operate without Government subsidy.

Mr Russell was unavailable for comment.