Highlands and Islands Enterprise agrees lease option with crofters for spaceport

The owners of land earmarked for a proposed spaceport development on the Moine Peninsula have agreed a lease option with developer Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Highlands and Islands Enterprise agrees lease option with crofters for spaceport

An artist’s impression of a UK spaceport. Image credit: Perfect Circle PV

Representatives of Melness Crofters Estate (MCE) and HIE signed the agreement this week which secures the option for HIE to lease the land once planning consent for the Space Hub Sutherland project has been granted.

HIE is leading the development, with a £2.5 million grant from the UK Space Agency (UKSA), which is also funding two launch companies that plan to use the facility.

Design work and scoping for environmental impact studies are well under way. This will form part of the planning application being prepared to obtain consent in time for construction to start in 2020.

In March this year, HIE appointed architectural firm NORR to lead on producing designs for the space hub. The agency is also working to secure a commercial operator for the facility.

Roy Kirk, HIE’s Space Hub Sutherland project director, said: “Space Hub Sutherland development is expected to generate many social and economic benefits for different parts of the region. We have maintained constructive dialogue with the Melness Crofters Estate throughout the process. We are very grateful to them for their input and co-operation and welcome this key stage in the project.”

Dorothy Pritchard, MCE chair, said: “We look forward to continuing our links with HIE, and to working with the launch companies and site operator to maximise job opportunities and community benefits for our area. We know there is a long way to go and that the next step is to go through to the planning stage.

“Like everyone else, we want to make sure the environmental and safety aspects of the proposed development are thoroughly examined and fully addressed as part of the process.”

Claire Barcham, commercial space director at UKSA, said: “The UK Government’s Spaceflight Programme aims to help establish commercial launch from the UK and help ensure we play a leading role in the New Space Age.

“The agreement of the Spaceport Sutherland lease hold option is an important milestone and brings us one step closer to realising this ambition.”

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