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Sutherland spaceport project hits turbulence

Words: Roger Milne
Countdown begins for Highlands spaceport / iStock-143175766

Proposals for a multimillion-pound spaceport for Sutherland, designated for land near Tongue known as the Mhoine, has provoked dissent and split a rural crofting community.

Campaign group Protect the Mhoine has been established to fight plans proposed for land at Melness for what would be the UK’s first satellite launch site.

Opponents are concerned about the scheme’s environmental impact, traffic issues, noise and possible damage to archaeological sites.

The land designated for the spaceport is owned by Melness Crofting Estate, a collection of about 80 crofters, but a divide has developed within its own board.

Crofter George Wyper, a director, has voiced his personal opposition to the project, questioning the legality of using land that is subject to crofting rights.

He said: “There is quite a split in the community and a lot of bad feeling about this. There has been no proper public consultation and the estate board has not yet voted on the matter.”

He told local journalists: “It could go to the Scottish Land Court, which could take years to resolve.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) announced earlier this year a funding package of £17.3 million for the scheme, including £2.5 million from the UK Space Agency, and insisted a planning application would be submitted next year.

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Countdown begins for Highlands spaceport

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Image credit | iStock