Plans to launch satellites into space from a site in North Uist cause conservation row

North Uist.
North Uist.

Plans to launch satellites into space from a site in North Uist in the Outer Hebrides threaten a “pristine section of wild Atlantic coastline”, say conservationists.

Local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is working with Ministry of Defence contractor QinetiQ and others on the project planned for Scolpaig.

The council says the site would help boost the isles’ economy and could create up to 70 jobs.

But North Uist Conservation Group has raised objections.

Retired civil engineer Angus MacNab of the group said:”It’s one of the most beautiful stretches of the Western Isles. It is a pristine section of wild Atlantic coastline and if this goes ahead the vista will be destroyed. It will be an industrial landscape. The area is full of rare and endangered wildlife too.

“There have been a lack of consultation whatsoever by the council with the local community of North Uist. We are the closest property to the scheme and we have had no information of the reality of what is being proposed here. There have been various figures being banded around over the number of jobs it will create but they are unsubstantiated.”

The campaigners said the land would be lost to concrete structures and have also raised concerns about the potential impact on St Kilda.

The conservation group is calling on islanders to send written objections to the local authority.

Public information meetings on the plans are due to be held in mid-August.

A council spokesman said:”The comhairle is aware of some concerns regarding the proposed Spaceport at Scolpaig but is also aware of much support in the community.

“The comhairle is committed to public information meetings.

“The planning application has been lodged with the comhairle, and will be determined in the usual public way, with the opportunity being given for all interested parties to make representations.

“The planning process itself is inherently consultative, as it gives the requisite levels of detail of the proposed development, and invites comments on them. The application will be determined in the same way, and using the same professional standards, as any other planning application.”

Consultation events have been confirmed as follows:August 15 – Carinish Hall, 10am – 8pm. August 16 -Lochmaddy Hall, 9am – 4pm. August 30 – Carinish Hall, 12pm – 8pm

The council has agreed to invest about £1m to purchase the land needed and test launches could be carried out later this year.

QinetiQ, which operates the nearby Ministry of Defence Hebrides Rocket Range, is a partner in the project.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and consultancy Commercial Space Technologies are also involved.

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