In June 2019 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the local council, submitted a planning application for phase one of a spaceport on North Uist to launch ‘sounding’ or research rockets. The proposal includes a launch pad, tracking radar pads, vehicle access and parking. As well as being the developer and applicant seeking planning permission, the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is also due to decide whether the project should go ahead in its role as planning authority.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Scoping is a way of a developer seeking opinion on what they should include in an EIA before they submit a planning application. In July 2018 RSPB Scotland responded to a scoping consultation for a larger development, which encompassed the current application site and included two launch pads and other infrastructure.
The current application is for a smaller site than the scoping site and states it is for phase one phase of four. However, it does not set out what the subsequent phases would involve. The applicant has not submitted an EIA or a detailed assessment of the environmental impacts.
This is a novel proposal in a UK context. It is our view that due to the nature of the proposed development and its location within a highly sensitive area, an EIA should be required at this stage.
We have objected to the application due to a lack of an EIA or sufficient consideration of impacts on protected wildlife sites, habitats and species.
It is particularly important that sufficient information is submitted to allow the impacts on nearby Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which are sites designated for their internationally important bird interest, to be properly assessed.