A planning application has been submitted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to The Highland Council for a vertical launch space port on a remote part of Sutherland. The proposal is to build a facility to launch satellites into orbit and includes a new road across the peatland, a launch operations control centre building, a launch pad and other infrastructure.
RSPB Scotland has objected to the application as the it has not demonstrated that the development would not adversely affect the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area (which is a protected area for internationally important populations of birds) and Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Area of Conservation (which is protected for its amazing peatland habitat). We are especially concerned that there are still a number of unknown impacts from the proposal and the mitigation the applicant has said they will carry out to balance the negative impacts has not been detailed or secured. As well as the actual launch activities, a large number of visitors are expected to be attracted to the area to view launches. This increase in people, and the measures needed to make sure they stay a safe distance from the launch site, would be very damaging to this sensitive area and its wildlife.
RSPB Scotland is very aware that this is a novel development for Scotland, and indeed the UK, and a substantial amount of work has gone into preparing the application and consulting the public and interested organisations. We recognise that it would have the potential to create jobs in this remote part of Sutherland and we have not objected without very careful consideration of the application and EIA.
However, we believe that our most precious areas and at risk birds must be protected for future generation and the current application does not assess all the risks fully or properly demonstrate how they ensure these impacts will be mitigated.
The Highland Council is now consideration the application. We will review our comments in light of any new details submitted by the applicant.