North Uist resident living ‘small step’ away from proposed spaceport critical of ‘giant leap’ forward in isles project

The comhairle say the spaceport development could provide between 50 and 70 jobs.

A man who lives only 900 metres from a proposed spaceport in North Uist has strongly criticised a lack of consultation and information on the project.

Retired civil structural engineer Angus MacNab has lived in North Uist for 25 years and his home at Scolpaig in the north-west of the island is the closest residence to the proposed first phase of the spaceport, from where it is planned to send small satellites into orbit.

In June, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar bought the site – a 700-acre hill farm in a National Scenic Area. They are also a partner in the consortium behind the development, and earlier this month they submitted a planning application for the project.

The comhairle say the development could provide between 50 and 70 jobs, and last week the plans received a cautious welcome from local councillor Uisdean Robertson.

However, Mr MacNab, who is a member of the North Uist Conservation Group formed to oppose the spaceport said: “There has been absolutely no consultation with the community about this during all the time it has been in the public domain. There has also been a complete lack of meaningful information about what this spaceport actually comprises.

“There have been a couple of artist’s impressions, but the overall scale, the number of rockets that will be launched, and the true scale of the buildings, has all been minimal.”

Mr MacNab also questioned if, given the involvement of the comhairle, the whole project could be pursued in a “fair and legitimate” way. Holding consultation events after the land had been purchased and a planning application submitted is unacceptable, he added.

“The consortium have also changed what was intended to be phase one,” he added. “This means that instead of launching one sounding [test] rocket they will launch up to 10 per year, so they are moving the goalposts.”

In response, a spokesman for the comhairle said: “The comhairle is aware of some concerns regarding the proposed spaceport at Scolpaig but is also aware of much support in the community. The comhairle is committed to public information meetings.

“The planning application has been lodged with the comhairle and will be determined in the usual public way, with the opportunity being given for interested parties to make representations.

“The planning process itself is inherently consultative, as it gives the requisite levels of detail of the proposed development and invites comments on them. The application will be determined in the same way, and using the same professional standards, as any other planning application.”

Consultation events have been confirmed as follows: 15th August in Carinish Hall between 10 am and 8 pm; 16th August in Lochmaddy Hall, between 9 am and 4 pm. There will be a follow-up consultation on 30th August in Carinish Hall between 12 noon and 8 pm.

Article by Michael Russell.