Space Hub Sutherland plans not called in by government

Image source, HIE
Image caption,
An artist's impression of Space Hub Sutherland

Scottish ministers have decided not to call in plans for a satellite launch site in the Highlands.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) wants to build the site on peatland near Tongue.

Highland Council had received 457 objections to the plans and 118 representations in support of them.

A council planning committee approved of the plans at a meeting in June and referred its decision to the Scottish government.

Scottish ministers have said the proposals for Space Hub Sutherland on a site on the Moine Peninsula do not require a decision at national level and should be dealt with by Highland Council.

There have been proposals to launch small satellites into space from the complex.

The impact on the environment and risk to human health are among the reasons for objections.

Local community councils have supported the project because it is expected to create new jobs.

Among the Highland Council officers' planning conditions is a requirement for launches to be limited to 12 per year.

Reasons for this include the amount of plastic and metal debris falling into the sea during rocket launches.

Twelve launches per year would see an estimated five tonnes of carbon fibre reinforced plastic and seven tonnes of metal alloy dropping into the sea each year, according to the officials' report.

Image source, Norr Consultants Ltd
Image caption,
An artist's impression of the entrance to Space Hub Sutherland

HIE has said by the year 2024 the space port would support 177 jobs across Scotland - 139 in the Highlands with more than 40 of these posts in and around the launch site.

HIE has approved up to £17.3m in funding towards designing and building the space hub. HIE would contribute £9.8m, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority £5m and the UK Space Agency £2.5m.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is involved because of its work to help create new jobs to replace those lost from the eventual closure of the Dounreay nuclear power site near Thurso in Caithness.

Designed by Norr Architects, the facility would comprise a launch control centre, a single launch pad and associated infrastructure, including roadways, fuel storage, office premises and antennas.

Orbex, a UK company building rockets for carrying small satellites into space from the site, described the approval from Highland councillors in June as "landmark".

It said the first orbital spaceflight from the UK had come "a step closer".

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