12 August 2019
Opposition to Scottish island spaceport
By Catherine Early
Proposals for a space rocket station have raised concern over the landscapes and wildlife of an Outer Hebridean island.
A community group created to oppose a planning application for a spaceport on the island of Uist is urging people to send objections to the local council.
The proposal for the UK’s first vertical launch commercial spaceport was unveiled by local council Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) in June. Located at Scolpaig on the north-west coast of North Uist, it would be a base for satellites to be launched into space, for projects such as telecommunications, space-based internet, or environmental monitoring.
The project is a partnership with QinetiQ, who operate the nearby MOD Hebrides Range. Leader of the council Roddie Mackay said that the economic benefits from the project were “immense”, including 50-70 jobs, and that it had the full backing of the council.
A consultation on the application is currently underway and has already generated nearly 500 objections. The North Uist Conservation Group is concerned that the proposal would damage the coastal wilderness of Scolpaig, and tourism from nature lovers who visit the island to see otters, golden and white-tailed eagles, wading birds and the corncrake.
It is also worried about the impact on the nearby North Uist Machair, a designated Special Area of Conservation, and an area of peatland, which is a carbon sink. The RSPB bird reserve at Balranald is five kilometres from the proposed spaceport, it added.
But Mark Roberts, consultant to the project, said that the space
port would be around 2km by 1.5km. “We don’t want to harm the local
environment, and equally it makes no sense to build more than we need, so
it’s quite minimalist.”