In June 2019, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) sought an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Scoping Opinion from The Highland Council (THC) for the development of a space hub on the A’ Mhòine peninsula, North Sutherland. Seeking a scoping opinion is a way of a developer or applicant asking what they need to include in an EIA before they submit a planning application.
HIE submitted a scoping report to help the Council form a view. In this they have said that the site would be to launch small satellites and cargo loads into orbit. At this stage, they are proposing that the site would include two launch pads, antenna farms, a control centre, security fences, vehicle access and parking. The EIA submitted with any application will allow the impacts of the proposal to be fully assessed.
In July 2019 we commented on the scoping report and highlighted the highly sensitive nature of the site. The site boundary presented at the scoping stage overlaps and is adjacent to the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar wetland, as well as the Ben Hutig and A’ Mhoine Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The North Sutherland Coastal Islands SPA is also within close proximity. It is therefore critical that impacts on these protected sites, which are designated for their internationally and nationally important bird, mammal and habitat interest, are avoided. This is an unusual proposal and it is essential that sufficient information is submitted to allow impacts to be properly assessed.
Due to the nature and size of the proposal it is a ‘Major Development’ and the applicant must notify the Council before they submit an application and carry out public consultation. HIE submitted this notice in September 2019 and is to hold a number of community engagement events and invite public comments.