Mhoine group concerned at 'one-sided' view of spaceport project
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An organisation that opposes the plan to build a spaceport at the Mhoine in north Sutherland has criticised MP Jamie Stone and a local pressure group over their support for the project.
Protect the Mhoine (PTM) maintains that the politician and Space Port United Residents (SPUR) are presenting a "one-sided view" and that many of the statements they have made are in need of clarification.
In a statement, the group said members were “very frustrated” over the situation and also concerned as the £17.3 million spaceport planning application is due to go before north councillors shortly.
It said: “Inaccuracies and omissions abound in recent coverage of the Space Hub Sutherland project and many facts have yet to be reported. With a planning decision now possible before the end of the month, it’s time to clear up confusion.”
The group is urging all those involved in making the planning decision to “think very carefully about the facts in this case”.
Among the claims challenged is the assertion by both Mr Stone and SPUR that the project has the full support of local people.
PTM argues that the majority of locals have not been part of the detailed discussions and have not had an opportunity to vote. It also said that “many people” living locally were now afraid to voice a view.
The group goes on to challenge the claims that the spaceport will be carbon-neutral; that its location has been chosen to avoid deep peat; that the Mhoine is not part of the Flow Country; and that there will be no adverse impact on wildlife sites.
It also addresses the claim that more than 40 jobs will be created, stating: “The reality is that information about jobs provided in the planning documents is contradictory... the truth is that in between launch events the site will be largely dormant and the promised local jobs have not been accurately identified or specified.”
PTM also casts doubt on a claim that business tycoon Anders Holch Polvsen, whose company Wildland Ltd objected to the development, said he would not stand in its way if locals were in support.
“What Wildland actually said is that if they were a lone voice of objection then they would not stand in the way of the development,” the group’s statement said.
“It is absolutely clear that they are not a lone voice and a significant number of the local and wider community and statutory consultees share concerns about the space hub project.”
Tongue resident Scott Coghill, founder of SPUR, has organised a petition calling on Mr Povlsen not to stand in the way. Mr Coghill said recently it had been signed by more than 500 people, all local to Sutherland and north Caithness.
He said the majority were in favour of the project due to the economic boost it would bring.
Earlier this month Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, reiterated his support for the spaceport, saying it could create 250 local jobs.
It is understood the planning application will go before a special meeting of Highland Council's north planning applications committee this Friday.
"I absolutely support this planning application and hope it goes ahead," Mr Stone said. "It has the full support of local people. It could create 250 local jobs in a part of the Highlands that needs an economic boost.
"Many of us have studied the plans in some depth – it is not going to be an eyesore. Actually, it's really discreet."
Mr Stone added: "I would not be backing the spaceport if I believed it would be a complete disaster for our environment, but the evidence has convinced me that the site will be carbon-neutral and that the rockets can be powered by biopropane."