PLANNERS have recommended that the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport is given lift off.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) wants to build the controversial £17.3m satellite launch site on peatland on the Moine Peninsula near Tongue in Sutherland.
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.
The planning officer’s report - which has recommended approval with a raft of conditions - report says:”The proposed development is unique and if permitted could be one of the first developments of its kind in Europe.
“However, as with all applications, the benefits of the proposal must be weighed against potential drawbacks and then considered in the round, taking account of the relevant policies of the Development Plan.
“The development has attracted a large number of objections from across the world but also a level of support has been demonstrated.
“Consultee comments have been addressed in the report and subject to a number of conditions and development of the proposals in accordance with the required conditions there are no outstanding objections to the proposed development from consultees.
“This is a scheme that will be significantly regulated by other authorities including SEPA, SNH, Marine Scotland, CAA and the UK Space Agency.
“The proposal has a number of challenges in terms of access, landscape and visual impact and environmental impacts where there will be residual significant effects.
“The development also has a number of benefits, not least the potential economic benefits. The applicant has committed to a range of mitigation in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report. With application of the required mitigation, it is considered that, on balance, the development can be considered to accord with the polices of the Development Plan.
“It is considered that the proposal accords with the principles and policies contained within the Development Plan and is acceptable in terms of all other applicable material considerations.”
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.
Scottish Ministers have also confirmed that they must be notified if the council is minded to grant permission and could call it in.
There are also spaceports planned in the Uists in the Outer Hebrides and Unst in Shetland and the Scottish Government wants an “overview”.
“This direction is given to assist in providing an overview of applications for spaceport development in the planning system. This direction does not commit Scottish Ministers to calling in the application, but it does reserve their right to intervene,” said the letter from the government.
Quelle: The Herald