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Council / Spaceport team ‘delighted’ as SIC confirms it is minded to approve planning application

Council chief executive Maggie Sandison says there are ‘great opportunities’ for Shetland in the space industry

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

THE PROPOSED spaceport in Britain’s most northerly island is in line to receive the go-ahead from Shetland Islands Council’s planning department.

The council said it is confident the SaxaVord Spaceport application can now be dealt with under delegated authority – without being considered by elected members – as there are no longer any unresolved objections from statutory consultees.

A spokesperson said Shetland Islands Council intends to notify Scottish ministers that “we are minded to approve the application with conditions” once documents are ready to be submitted to the government next week.

Due to the nature of the application the Scottish Government requested that the council notify ministers if it is minded to approve the application. Only after 28 days will planning permission be able to be formally granted.

Unresolved objections from statutory consultees on a major development would have triggered a requirement for a report to the planning committee for determination.

Frank Strang, CEO of SaxaVord UK Spaceport, said: “We are delighted that Shetland Islands Council has indicated that it is minded to approve our application to build the UK’s vertical launch spaceport at Lamba Ness in Unst.

“We look forward to receiving confirmation of approval within the next few days and will have further comment to make at that point.”

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison said there are “great opportunities” for the isles from the emerging space industry.

“We have a view that this does have a really significant benefit for Shetland,” she told Shetland News.

Sandison pointed to the job creation as well as the positive impact a spaceport could have on existing businesses.

She described it as “critical infrastructure for the UK” – and suggested it would give extra weight to the idea of a tunnel to Unst.

This is a subject the council raised with UK minister for Scotland Iain Stewart last week, who visited Shetland and took time to view the spaceport site.

Sandison added that it would be important to involve young people in a future space sector in Shetland.

“Space really inspires young people,” she said, adding that it could attract some Shetland people to stay in the isles, or return home, instead of moving away.

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said it was a “huge day for Unst and a momentous day for Shetland”.

The news is another boost for the spaceport, which plans to host Britain’s first vertical satellite launch later this year at Lamba Ness.

Historic Environment Scotland recently withdrew its objection for the spaceport development taking place on the site of the former RAF Skaw radar base.