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Danish billionaire’s lawyers given date for challenge to Highland spaceport decision

The plans for a spaceport in Sutherland were given the go-ahead by the Highland Council in August 2020.
The plans for a spaceport in Sutherland were given the go-ahead by the Highland Council in August 2020.

Lawyers acting for a Danish billionaire owner of Topshop have been given a date for their bid to overturn a decision giving the go ahead for the UK’s first spaceport.

Anders Holch Povlsen, 48, wants a Court of Session judge to stop the construction of the proposed Sutherland Space Hub, the UK’s first vertical launch facility.

His legal team have launched judicial review proceedings at Scotland’s highest civil court, asking a judge to consider a decision made by Highland Council to approve planning permission for the project in August 2020.

A procedural hearing in the matter was scheduled to take place on Thursday at the court.

However, the proceedings were cancelled after lawyers for Mr Povlsen’s company Wildland Limited and Highland Council told officials they were ready to proceed to the full hearing.

Clashes in Space Race

Mr Povlsen is Scotland’s largest private landowner. He owns the clothing empire Bestseller and is believed to have a net worth of more than £6 billion.

The businessman is the largest shareholder in online fashion retailer ASOS. In February 2021, the company bought Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire – which included Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge – in a deal thought to be worth £330 million.

Mr Povlsen objected to the development in Sutherland on environmental grounds and later announced that he had invested more than £1.4 million in the rival Shetland Space Centre.

His company Wildland Limited lodged a petition for judicial review against Highland council’s decision to approve the scheme.

The Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) project at A’Mhòine, near Tongue, in Sutherland, is expected to create more than 200 jobs, with satellites being launched from the station.

Highland Council received 457 objections and 118 representations in support of HIE’s planning application.

Wildland’s judicial review petition passed the permission stage earlier this year – this means the court believes the challenge has “a real prospect of success”.

The company has concerns over the spaceport’s impact on “environmentally vulnerable protected areas”.

The three day hearing is scheduled to take place over three days from June 8 2021.

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