A Moray-based rocket builder has ignited a war of words with an environmental organisation over its heavy investment into a Shetland spaceport.
Wildland Limited, which is owned by Danish billionaire and landowner Anders Holch Povlsen, announced last week they would be investing £1.43 million in the Shetland Space Centre project.
At the start of this month, the conservation firm had asked for a judicial review into the decision to award planning permission to a rival scheme at A’Mhoine in Sutherland, citing the potential environmental impact.
Following the news of the investment, Forres-based spaceflight company Orbex, who run a rocket manufacturing plant at the Sutherland site, issued a statement suggesting Wildland’s support of the Shetland project meant they had changed their mind.
The statement, from an Orbex spokesman, said: “This investment by Wildland and renowned environmentalist Anders Povlsen is a massive vote of confidence in Sutherland spaceport.
“We’re absolutely delighted that Wildland and Mr Povlsen have completely reversed their position, and now fully agree that small, sustainable spaceports like Sutherland can peacefully co-exist with wildland environments, avian sanctuaries and marine mammals.
“We look forward to a much larger investment in the spaceport at Sutherland, which has many fewer environmental constraints, in due course.”
‘We have been clear about this’
In response, however, Wildland CEO Tim Kirkwood said no such reversal had happened, adding that his firm has had no contact with Orbex in the past and were not approached ahead of the statement’s release.
He said: “Wildland has no plans to, and neither have we been invited, to invest in the spaceport at Sutherland, which is currently subject to a pending judicial review.
“Wildland and Mr Povlsen have not, as the Orbex statement inferred, reversed their position, having always been supportive of satellite technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and appropriate development.
“We have been clear about this in the past with partners and stakeholders. We see the investment as a vote of confidence in the potential for the space industry in Scotland and will be glad to welcome its success.
“It remains to be seen if small spaceports can peacefully co-exist with wild land environments, avian sanctuaries and marine mammals.
“For the reasons stated, however – a good location, ex RAF base and predominantly brownfield site – the Shetland Space Centre on Unst looks to be a promising prospect for such a development.
“Wildland is currently making much bigger investments in the Tongue and Melness area based on enhancing and working with the intrinsic natural capital.”