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Spaceport supporters put pressure on tycoon Povlsen

By Caroline McMorran

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The planned £17.5 million space port will see rockets carrying satellites fired vertically into space from a site in north Sutherland.
The planned £17.5 million space port will see rockets carrying satellites fired vertically into space from a site in north Sutherland.

Supporters of a controversial plan to build a spaceport in north Sutherland are piling pressure on one of its most high-profile objectors, business tycoon and landowner Anders Holch Povlsen.

Tongue resident Scott Coghill, founder of Space Port United Residents (SPUR), has organised a petition calling on Mr Povlsen – whose company Wildland Ltd has lodged an objection – not to stand in the way.

It has been signed by more than 500 people, all local to Sutherland and north Caithness, according to Mr Coghill, who claims the majority are in favour of the project due to the economic boost it will bring.

The move follows a letter to Mr Povlsen from Dorothy Pritchard, chairwoman of Melness Crofters’ Estate (MCE) – on whose ground at A’Mhoine the space port is to go. Mr Coghill said the petition was to “ask Wildland to step back from acting against our local project”.

A Wildland spokesman said: “We have always been consistent with our concerns about this scheme and are one of a great many objectors. As a neighbour who will be impacted by these proposals, it is our intention to be heard.

"We are supportive of new satellite technologies and the benefits they can bring, but we do not support industrial-scale development on wild land.”

Dorothy Pritchard, chairwoman Melness Crofters Estate
Dorothy Pritchard, chairwoman Melness Crofters Estate

In April, Mrs Pritchard said she had written to Mr Povlsen on behalf of MCE with the backing of all seven of its directors.

“It was an appeal to him to reconsider and to put the case for the spaceport,” she said.

She pointed out that a ballot of MCE members had shown that the majority were in favour of the project, which could create up to 250 jobs.

The three community councils in the area – Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra; Tongue; and Durness – all support the spaceport.

Ms Pritchard said that there was more support for the scheme after its design was made public and that most of the objections came from individuals and organisations outside the area, such as the environmental group Extinction Rebellion.

“The plan is extremely sympathetic and low-key,” she said. “The development will be a world-first, carbon-neutral site, and there will also be peat restoration undertaken.

“A lot of people who were on the fence changed their minds after seeing the plans. It is not going to be a big, ugly, industrial facility.

“Satellite technology is not going away. It is an integral part of most people’s everyday lives.

“Is it not better to have satellites launched from a carbon-neutral site, by a rocket powered by biopropane, which leaves no space debris, and in the future may be reusable? A site which will mitigate against its own, very small, carbon footprint. This is surely a unique selling point as well as a better option for the environment.”

She told Mr Povlsen: “We are seeing Dounreay being decommissioned and the oil industry contracting. These are the jobs which have kept younger people in the area, so who is going to provide new jobs and halt our ageing demographic?”

Ms Pritchard advised anyone interested to examine the planning documents and see just what a “well considered piece of work” the development was.

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