Cleared for blast-off... crof ters say they’ll back space­port

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Paul Ward

IT is the out of this world pro­posal which is more Cape Wrath than Cape Canaveral.

But stel­lar plans for a space­port in the north of Scot­land al­most failed to take off af­ter wary lo­cals or­gan­ised a cam­paign group against it.

Now, how­ever, it seems all sys­tems are go for the blast site on the A’Mhoine penin­sula in Suther­land af­ter it was given ini­tial back­ing by crofters on the pro­posed land.

The re­mote lo­ca­tion was cho­sen by the UK Space Agency ear­lier this year as the site for ver­ti­cal rocket and satel­lite launches.

Crofters feared its ef­fect on the en­vi­ron­ment, roads and croft­ing rights. A meet­ing last week, at­tended by ten peo­ple, re­vealed that they would share in an an­nual £70,000 in lands rents in a move which would also cre­ate hun­dreds of jobs.

This week, Mel­ness Crofters Es­tate (MCE), which owns the prospec­tive launch site, held a bal­lot of crofters, with 59 per cent vot­ing in favour of work­ing with High­lands and Is­lands En­ter­prise (HIE) on the project.

In to­tal, there were 27 votes in favour, 18 against and one spoiled bal­lot pa­per.

HIE said the out­come means the £17.3mil­lion project can now move to the next phase, fo­cus­ing on safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. A for­mal plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion is ex­pected to be sub­mit­ted to High­land Coun­cil by the end of next year.

MCE chair­man Dorothy Pritchard said crofters still want to see the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact kept to a min­i­mum.

She added: ‘MCE held a bal­lot that re­sulted in sup­port for pro­gress­ing dis­cus­sions to reach a heads of terms.

‘This sim­ply means we are happy to con­tinue dis­cus­sions with HIE, work to­wards a con­clu­sion on the heads of terms and ul­ti­mately the land lease.’

Miss Pritchard said it would be a mat­ter for HIE to demon­strate a sen­si­tiv­ity to­wards safety and the en­vi­ron­ment.

She added: ‘While those who voted in favour see many lo­cal ad­van­tages with po­ten­tial jobs to the area and the op­por­tu­nity for our young peo­ple to get in­volved in this ex­cit­ing in­dus­try, like those op­posed to the de­vel­op­ment we will want to see this done in a way that the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact is kept to a min­i­mum and that all safety con­sid­er­a­tions have been ad­e­quately ad­dressed.’

HIE project di­rec­tor Roy Kirk said: ‘The cre­ation of a satel­lite launch cen­tre in Scot­land is a unique and ex­cit­ing project.

‘We are grate­ful to the Mel­ness crofters for agree­ing to work with us as we progress plans to make our vi­sion a re­al­ity in Suther­land.

‘We firmly be­lieve the space­port will open up op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­nesses that want to be­come in­volved in the grow­ing space sec­tor.’

He added: ‘As part of our next steps, we’ll be step­ping up our com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mak­ing sure lo­cal peo­ple know what the space­port is likely to mean for them.

‘It is un­der­stand­able that peo­ple have con­cerns as well as hopes for such an in­no­va­tive ven­ture, and we will be mak­ing sure there are op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet and dis­cuss all the is­sues, from jobs and other eco­nomic ben­e­fits, to safety and the en­vi­ron­ment.’

‘A unique and ex­cit­ing project’

All sys­tems go: Most lo­cals back plans for the rocket launch site

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