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Public to view plans for Sutherland spaceport

Words: Laura Edgar
Space / iStock-510853284-(1)

Plans for a spaceport that will launch communications satellites into orbit from Sutherland will soon be available for the public to view.

Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) lodged a proposal of application notice with Highland Council this week.

The notice triggers the start of the process that will lead to the submission of formal planning application for the development on Moine peninsular. It is hoped that the application will be submitted to the council at the end of December.

Roy Kirk, HIE’s Space Hub Sutherland project director, said: “We’ve been holding informal drop-in sessions at different locations for a few months now and delivering presentations to community groups and business organisations, which have been well received. It’s really important for local people to have a chance to find out what the spaceport will mean for the area, and that we listen to their views to help shape our planning application.”

As part of pre-planning consultation, HIE has organised public events at Melness Community Centre on Wednesday 2 October and Monday 25 November, each running from 3.30pm to 8.00pm. They are designed to enable anyone with an interest in the project to find out more, question the design team and developers, and comment on the plans before they are finalised. Details about additional events and copies of the plans can be found here.

HIE commissioned an economic impact assessment in 2018, which concluded that the project could generate approximately 400 jobs across the Highlands and Islands, including 40 skilled positions at the space hub itself.

In addition to a launch-pad complex, the spaceport development would comprise an operations and control centre, launch towers, an assembly building, an antenna farm, access roads, car parking and security fencing.

HIE has approved £9.8 million to develop Space Hub Sutherland, while the UK Space Agency has awarded £2.5 million and a further £5 million is being sought from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. UKSA has awarded grants to two companies that plan to launch satellites from Sutherland – Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Orbex, which has already established a manufacturing facility in the Moray town of Forres.

Melness Crofters Estate, which owns the land on which the launch site will be located, signed a lease option agreement with HIE that came into effect on 1 August this year. HIE anticipates that there would be up to 10 launches a year from Sutherland, with the first taking place in the early 2020s.

Image credit | iStock