Plans for Scotland’s first spaceport have been cleared for take-off by the Scottish Land Court.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise has been given the go-ahead to use land owned by crofters as part of its plans to build the spaceport.
The judge ruled that the £17.5 million development is in the public interest, citing its ability to create “meaningful and desirable employment opportunities” in the local area.
Space Hub Sutherland (SHS) has been three years in the making, with the UK Government announcing A’Mhoine as the site of the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport in July 2018.
The decision follows the news that an objection by Wildland Ltd owned by billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen was thrown out. Mr Povlsen’s comapany has since confirmed it will not be appealing the decision.
SHS is on track to becoming the UK’s first spaceport, with an inaugural flight launching from the remote peninsula in 2022.
Moray-based rocket maker Orbex is finalising a detailed planning application for a new factory in Forres. The company will employ hundreds of workers as it prepares for regular commercial launches from SHS.
Chris Larmour chief executive of Orbex explained the ruling was a landmark legal decision in favour of the project.
He said: “We were always hopeful that this would be the decision, bearing in mind the enthusiastic support from the majority of the crofters.
“SHS is still the only UK spaceport with planning permission, and with the recent Judicial Review ruling and now this positive Land Court decision, it’s all systems go and we can look ahead to the first UK Pathfinder launch from SHS.”
Committee hopeful for community’s long-term future
SHS has been backed by the Melness Crofters’ Estate (MCE), the committee of local crofters who own the land in the area.
Dorothy Pritchard, chairwoman of MCE said: “This is fantastic news for the long-term future of our community, and we welcome this decision from the Land Court today to grant the change in land use.
“It’s all systems go now for building the Space Hub, and we look forward to working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Orbex in the coming weeks and months ahead.”
MCE are hopeful this will create opportunities for the local community following the decommissioning of a nearby former nuclear power plant.
She added: “The job creation that comes as a direct result of the Space Hub and additional knock-on opportunities in the future will ensure that our community thrives for generations to come.”