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News / Temporary 80-bed accommodation block for space port staff given planning go-ahead

An aerial view of the Saxa Vord site.

PLANNING permission has now been granted for a temporary two-storey structure containing around 80 accommodation units for space port staff in Unst.

The location in question is the former games court at Saxa Vord.

Each modular unit would consist of one room functioning as a kitchen, dining room and bedroom, and a separate bathroom.

The planning permission, given to SaxaVord Spaceport, is for a period of five years.

It comes ahead of the anticipated first rocket launch from the spaceport next year. Groundwork is underway at the Lamba Ness peninsula.

In the accommodation application determination planning staff said the development would “support the creation of sustainable economic development opportunities and will promote employment opportunities, community benefits and rural diversification”.

There is an acknowledgment, however, that the “design, scale and massing of the proposed accommodation block would be at odds with the character of the area”.

The planning decision adds: “In weighing the benefit of the scheme to the local economy against its visual impact, and with consideration of the temporary nature of the visual impact and the application’s compliance with the development plan in other matters, it is considered that the benefits of the scheme outweigh the harm.”

The sports field in question has not been used for years, which was previously reserved for use by RAF staff staying at Saxa Vord, and is said to be no longer fit for purpose.

SportScotland was consulted during the planning process and it said the loss of the site can be justified, considering there is also a pitch at the local leisure centre.

Earlier this year SaxaVord Spaceport CEO Frank Strang said the ultimate aim with the site is to demolish the existing accommodation and build a hotel, which could house people working on the space project.

Strang had turned the former RAF camp into a holiday resort after buying Saxa Vord from the Ministry of Defence in the early 2000s, but it has been closed to visitors as space centre activity ramps up.

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