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Space / Further delays in Saxa Vord spaceport planning decision

The SaxaVord space port is expected to host the first vertical satellite launching the UK late in 2022. Image: Rory Gillies for SaxaVord (UK) Spaceport

A DECISION on whether the planned space port at Saxa Vord in Unst will get planning permission has again been delayed.

It had been anticipated that the application would go before the council’s planning committee on Monday (21 February) after Historic Environment Scotland withdrew its objection to the development on the site of Second World War radar station at Lamba Ness.

However, when the planning papers for Monday’s meeting were published earlier this week the Saxa Vord item did not appear on the agenda.

A spokesperson for SaxaVord UK Spaceport said the SIC has now confirmed to them that the application will not be on the agenda on Monday, and has given no clear indication when it will be discussed.

The proposed space port at Saxa Vord is seen as a key development for the UK’s space ambitions, while US defence company Lockheed Martin, a partner in the project, is required to deliver the UK government’s Pathfinder project in 2022.

SaxaVord UK Spaceport’s chief executive Frank Strang said it would be inappropriate to comment in detail at this point “as we still have a live planning application”.

But he added: “SIC is acutely aware of the economic benefits that the space economy is bringing to Unst and the North Isles and how important Shetland is becoming to the UK and global space industry.

“We, as a company, cannot do any more to expedite the opportunity and I am glad to say that all the statutory hurdles for a formal planning consent have been mitigated or withdrawn. We have waited 14 months for a decision; we can wait a few weeks more.”

The council’s development director Neil Grant said: “This is a complex planning application and recently there has been great deal of information flowing between the applicant, ourselves and statutory consultees. We are working hard to ensure this is presented to the Planning Committee for a decision as soon as possible.”

The delay comes as those behind the project prepare for a rare ministerial visit to the isles.

The parliamentary undersecretary of state for Scotland Iain Stewart is due to visit Shetland later this week and is expected to visit the SaxaVord spaceport site in Unst to highlight the growing interest in orbital space innovations and the government’s space strategy.