22 June 2020
Space Hub Sutherland recommended for approval
BBC News


A 3D image of the proposed launch pad complex

Highland Council officials have recommended councillors give planning permission for a space port.

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

Council officials have said launches should be limited to 12 per year.

Among the reasons for this is the amount of plastic and metal debris falling into the sea during rocket launches.

Twelve 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.

Councillors on Highland Council's north planning applications committee will consider the proposals for Space Hub Sutherland on Friday.

An artist's impression of the entrance to Space Hub Sutherland

The local authority has received 457 objections to the plans and 118 representations in support of them.

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

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

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.

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