Securing the first planning consent in the UK for a vertical launch spaceport, for our client Highlands and Islands Enterprise, presented a number of challenges. Those included, for example, there being no precedent decisions to guide the application of planning and environmental regulations and policies, the location of the application site on land covered by European designations, and the need to balance that with the economic benefits that the spaceport would deliver. We were also aware of the close scrutiny that the application was under by the space industry, as well as by supporters, objectors, and national environmental agencies.
Overcoming these challenges meant that we had to work closely with not just our client, but also with a number of specialist consultants, and to interpret and translate information provided by them into material planning considerations. And, in doing that, it was essential that we were robust in our analysis and interpretation of planning and associated regulations, and applied that to address all relevant planning policies (such as those relating to nature conservation, noise, traffic generation, landscape and visual impacts and economic development) and their relationship with other regulations. That included differentiating between the appropriate use of the application site as a spaceport (a material planning consideration), and potential operational impacts (which are controlled by other regulations).
The spaceport received consent, with appropriate environmental mitigation, and it is anticipated that it will create around 60 highly skilled jobs in a fragile rural area, with a further 730 elsewhere in Scotland, and grow the value of the UK space sector as aspired to by both the Scottish and UK Governments.
image credit: NORR/HIE