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Emergency services / Board member reassured over emergency response plan for space centre

The space centre at Lamba Nessin Unst is expected to create hundreds of jobs in Shetland and further afield. Image: Shetland Space Centre

A MEMBER of Shetland’s community safety and resilience board has been reassured that all appropriate measures will be in place should there be any emergency incidents at the proposed Shetland Space Centre in Unst.

The board heard on Wednesday that a multi-agency working group on contingency planning for the space centre currently meets every two months.

South mainland councillor Allison Duncan noted that there would be two boat crossings to Unst for mainland based services in case of any emergency.

Local fire chief Matt Mason moved to reassure Duncan, saying that the plan is to “resource the launches appropriately”.

The first satellite launches are expected to take place next year, although the project does not yet have planning permission.

Legislation around space launches in the UK is going through parliament and the sector is set to be governed by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Emergency planning officer Ingrid Gall said the idea is to use existing multi-agency response plans for airports – such as the one in place at Sumburgh – as reference points when working on something similar for the space centre.

In addition there is an expected surge in visitors to Unst to view the first launches.

“It’s how those visitors are managed, how they are supported there, how they are kept safe,” Gall added.

Mason said services are “really working hard to make sure it’s safe for those who are working and visiting” the site.

He said there should be “rigorous safety measures in place” in what will be a highly regulated industry.

He did say, however, that things were at an early stage of planning – but the fire chief did note that the emerging space sector was moving at “real pace”.

The Shetland Space Centre contingency planning working group consists of a range of members from the space team itself, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Air Accident Investigation Branch to Marine Scotland, the emergency services, the council and SEPA.