Lawyers acting on behalf of Melness Crofters Estate are currently locked in negotiations to bring the first spaceport in the UK to the area – with a potential boom to the local economy worth millions.
Since Monday’s official announcement at Farnborough airshow that vertical launches would come to Sutherland, locals have been absorbing the news.
Residents are are mainly optimistic about the arrival of the UK’s first spaceport – however, concerns within the community have arisen following the potential new arrival.
Dorothy Pritchard, chairwoman of Melness Crofters Estate, said: “Months of waiting and speculation are now over. Members of Melness Crofters Estate will now be entering into negotiations with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
“There will be huge public interest in this project and it is anticipated that going forward there will be many public meetings for interested parties to attend.
“Our meeting on Thursday was all about the board of directors deciding our approach for relaying information back to our members from the Farnborough trade show.
“Everybody is on board now and we are beginning the negotiation stage. We are making progress.”
A boost to the local economy is expected as a result of the spaceport’s arrival. The crofters will receive their letters early next week, and it is understood they will evetually strike a deal to lease their land for the spaceport.
Highland economist Tony Mackay said: “If the project goes ahead, it will undoubtedly be of great economic benefit to the Sutherland economy. HIE have stated that it would create about 150 direct job plus indirect jobs elsewhere. The capital expenditure is estimated at about £400 million. Those are huge numbers in the context of the Sutherland economy.
“The £400 million construction costs would also have a big impact, although virtually all of the equipment will have to be imported into the area. However, there would be a lot of additional business for the local accommodation providers and shops during the construction period.
“The timing is very good because the employment at Dounreay will decline steadily over the next decade.
“The choice of Sutherland for the spaceport is excellent news. However, a lot of hard and realistic work will have to be done to bring it to reality.”
The prospect of secure local jobs emerged as the overriding positive aspect for locals, with many hoping the announcement will help benefit the next generation.
Kate MacKay, owner of the Craggan Hotel in Melness, said: “It’s nice to think for the future of the area that it will be a success. Hopefully for the younger generation it will provide work in the future.”
Eva Mackay, a local resident, said: “It would breathe a bit of life into this old quiet village.
“If it benefits this place and sees the extension of the season in the tourism trade, then it certainly will be a welcome move.”
Angst over the distribution of jobs has been highlighted, with issue over whether or not these will be allocated to those within the local vicinity.
Gordon Skene, owner of the Burr Stores in Tongue, said: “I fear it may be similar to the wind farm developments and employability locally will perhaps be very limited, and that’s just the general feel in the area.”
Local resident Abby MacKay said: “Nobody has said it will destroy the scenery or anything like that.
“Most people have kind of been shocked and kind of wonder why here, in the middle of nowhere?”