Britain’s Cape Canaveral gets lift off! £45million spaceport WILL be built in Scottish Highlands after project bosses reach agreement with local farmers following a dispute
- UK Space Agency’s vertical launch site is set to be built on A’Mhoine peninsula
- Project bosses and farmers rowed over threat to peat ecosystem and rare eagles
- After long negotiations, both parties signed an agreement for lease the land
Plans to build Britain’s version of Cape Canaveral in remote Scotland peatland is to go ahead after project bosses reached an agreement with local crofters following a dispute.
The UK Space Agency in partnership with Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and Highland and Island’s Enterprise (HIE) put forward a plan to create a launch site for rockets to carry micro-satellites last year.
Their plan to build a vertical launch site on the Melness Crofting Estate, on the A’Mhoine peninsula of the Scottish Highlands beat competing bids from other remote Scottish regions for the launch site, which would propel the micro-satellites into low orbit as early as 2021.
However, following rumours of secret deals and strong-arm tactics, many in the remote coastal community of around 150 crofters and farmers opposed the plan.
Plans to build Britain’s version of Cape Canaveral on the Melness Crofting Estate in the Scottish Highlands has been given the go ahead after project bosses reached an agreement with local crofters following a dispute (artist impression pictured)
They say that the area is home to rare birds and insects – like white-tailed eagles and Great Yellow bumblebees – that will be threatened by the development as well as concerns that dozens of acres of rare peat bog would be replaced with concrete.
Three of its seven directors of the Melness Crofters Estate, a company representing 56 local crofters who own the land HIE want to build on, have resigned over how the plans have been handled in November 2018 after 27 of 56 crofters voted in favour of leasing the land to the UK Space Agency, while 18 voted against and 10 failed to vote.
George Wyper, one of three directors who stepped down, said that much of the local crofting community had been kept in the dark about what was involved and the fact that there was a lack of information from the developers.
However, following a long period of negotiation, representatives of MCE and HIE signed an agreement yesterday which allows for HIE to lease the land from the Crofting Estate to build the Spaceport once planning permission has been granted by the local council.
Roy Kirk, HIE’s Space Hub Sutherland project director, said: ‘Space Hub Sutherland development is expected to generate many social and economic benefits for different parts of the region.
‘We have maintained constructive dialogue with the Melness Crofters Estate throughout the process. We are very grateful to them for their input and co-operation and welcome this key stage in the project.’
Their plan to build a vertical launch site (pictured) on the Melness Crofting Estate in the Scottish Highlands beat competing bids from other remote Scottish regions for the launch site, which would propel the micro-satellites into low orbit as early as 2021
The UK Space Agency in partnership with Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and Highland and Island’s Enterprise (HIE) put forward a plan to create a launch site on the A’Mhoine peninsula for rockets to carry micro-satellites last year
Dorothy Pritchard, chairwoman of the Melness Crofting Estate, said: ‘We look forward to continuing our links with HIE, and to working with the launch companies and site operator to maximise job opportunities and community benefits for our area.
‘We know there is a long way to go and that the next step is to go through to the planning stage.
‘Like everyone else, we want to make sure the environmental and safety aspects of the proposed development are thoroughly examined and fully addressed as part of the process.’
However, John Williams, co-founder of the Protect the Mhoine group who are campaigning against the development, said: ‘The A’Mhoine is part of a rare peat bog ecosystem that requires TLC, if it is to survive, for future generations.
‘We believe that a rocket launch site, without adequate environmental protection monitoring, is not tenable.
‘The environmental arguments against this project are relevant, reasonable and powerful.’
The remote coastal community of around 150 crofters and farmers opposed the plan. They said that the area is home to rare birds – like white-tailed eagles (pictured) – that will be threatened by the development
Responding to today’s announcement, the group added: ‘So MCE have signed a lease for the use of A’Mhoine – still without consulting the non-crofters of Melness and have received their 30 pieces of silver.
‘What has happened to their Articles of Association which require MCE to manage the estate in the interests of the community of Melness not just a few of the crofters?’
The Protect the Mhoine group previously threatened to take the UK Space Agency and the Melness Estate to the Scottish Land Court over environmental concerns.
The project, nicknamed the ‘British Cape Canaveral’, will create more than 40 permanent jobs and 400 construction jobs with launches being set for 2021.
The commercial space sector is estimated to be worth a potential £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next decade with funding for the project coming from £17 million from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and £23.5 million coming from the UK Space Agency.
The community also shared their concerns that dozens of acres of rare peat bog would be replaced with concrete
An additional £5m will come from Orbex, a British Rocket Company who will develop technology for the site.
At the time of choosing the site, the UK Space Agency (UKSA), said: ‘Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach in-demand satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets and there is a real opportunity here to capture the growing market for launching an estimated 2,000 small satellites by 2030.
‘The proposed spaceport in Sutherland could create 400 jobs across Scotland and contribute to further growth of the UK’s world-leading space sector.’
Claire Barcham, commercial space director, UKSA, added: ‘The UK government’s Spaceflight Programme aims to help establish commercial launch from the UK and help ensure we play a leading role in the New Space Age.
‘The agreement of the Spaceport Sutherland lease hold option is an important milestone and brings us one step closer to realising this ambition.’
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