Road improvements costing £3 million could come to Unst if the Shetland Space Centre project goes ahead – while the team behind the plans say it would boost local employment and the island’s school roll as well as create a year-round draw for tourists.
The space centre team have also reassured local residents that there will be “no disruption to people in their homes” and that no one will be required to evacuate their houses as a result of space centre activity.
Those behind the plans have been taking part in virtual consultations this week ahead of a full planning application for a vertical launch spaceport and other infrastructure at Lamba Ness in the north of Unst.
Up to 30 rocket launches a year could take place during the day or night once operations are established, with each launch – which would shoot small satellites into the sky – taking around 20 seconds.
The public’s views will be fed into a report which will accompany the planning application, before an environmental impact assessment – which would cover aspects like natural heritage, noise, landscape and historic environment – is submitted.
There are also plans to create a launch and range control centre at the Saxa Vord Resort complex, and to use Baltasound Airport initially to store fuel and equipment storage.
A Q&A responding to local concerns has been published by the directors behind the project and it offers more details about what the impact on Unst could be.
Positive knock-on effects could be £3 million worth of improvements on the “dilapidated” road heading to Lamba Ness, which Shetland Space Centre expects to funds itself.
It also believes there will be a job boost to Unst and the isles in general, with the space centre team wanting to employ locals first, then the rest of Shetland before offering them elsewhere.
Full-time jobs could be created in roles like site managers, technicians, security, wildlife wardens and admin support staff, although the team is unable to give an indication on the numbers of jobs which could be involved.
As a result there are hopes that the local school roll will increase, while there is also a belief that having a satellite launching facility could bring an “increase in tourist footfall for 10 months of the year”.
The team also hope that it could support better broadband provision, an enhanced ferry timetable and also give more justification to the possibility of a fixed link to Unst.
Shetland Space Centre intends to submit its full planning application to Shetland Islands Council in September.