Spaceport plans for Scottish island are given the green light

We have lift-off! Island’s spaceport gets green light

  • Scottish ministers will not intervene to block the plans for a new spaceport 

Plans for a spaceport have been given the green light after ministers decided not to intervene in the planning process.

Councillors in the Western Isles previously granted permission for a sub-orbital, vertical launch spaceport at Scolpaig in North Uist.

More than 990 people signed a petition opposing the project, but planning chiefs decided the benefits outweighed any potential harm.

The council has now been informed that Scottish ministers do not intend to intervene in the application by either issuing a direction restricting the granting of planning permission or by calling in the application for their determination.

It means the final decision over planning permission for the spaceport rests with the council.

The Outer Hebrides is set to enter the space age as a project to create the UK’s first ever vertical launch commercial space port was unveiled today

The confirmation from the Scottish Government said: ‘Accordingly, you, as determining authority, are hereby authorised to deal with the application in a manner you think fit.’ 

READ MORE: How do the UK’s spaceports compare? As Virgin Orbit’s historic launch from Cornwall fails, MailOnline looks at the other bases vying to win the British space race

Less than a week ago, Friends of Scolpaig urged the Scottish Government to hold a full public inquiry and call in the approval.

They were concerned that because Western Isles Council is the landowner, a spaceport consortium member and the local planning authority, it lacked the necessary impartiality to make an unbiased decision. 

They also fear the spaceport could be scaled up to allow orbital rocket launches.

A report to councillors previously said: ‘It is anticipated that the nature and specification of launch vehicles (LVs) would vary.

‘The LVs anticipated at the site represent the smallest class, with payload weights ranging from 2kg [4.4lb] to 100kg [220lb].’

Concerns had also been raised about the potential impact on St Kilda, a double Unesco world heritage site and vital seabird haven, 40 miles away. 

Western Isles Council had previously agreed to invest about £1million to purchase the land required for the spaceport.

The launchpad is proposed beside Loch Scolpaig at Balemartin and near the MoD’s QinetiQ-managed Hebrides Range.

The Western Isles Council’s planning applications board raised no objection to the scheme for a sub-orbital, vertical launch spaceport at Scolpaig in North Uist

A council spokesman said: ‘This is another important step forward in the plan to establish Spaceport 1 – a suborbital, vertical launch facility at Scolpaig, North Uist.

‘Spaceport 1 will provide an opportunity for the economy of the Outer Hebrides to grow and diversify and will provide much needed local, professional jobs and training opportunities.

‘Prospective launch companies are already looking at establishing an on-island presence. 

Even at this early stage, it is acknowledged by the launch industry that Spaceport 1 – and the Outer Hebrides – has a critical role to play in the expansion of the Scottish and UK space sectors.’

It is anticipated that the first launch from Spaceport 1 could be in late 2024.

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