In February, Shetland Islands Council granted planning permission for the proposed SaxaVord Spaceport, located on the Lamba Ness Peninsula in the northeast of the island of Unst in the Shetland Islands. Other Scottish spaceports have also been proposed for Sutherland in the Highlands and at a site in the Western Isles.
The proposed developments on Unst are relatively modest in terms of their footprint on the ground, comprising of a gatehouse, three launch pads, a satellite tracking station, two hangar buildings, an administration building, pyrotechnic store and hazardous materials store – and a wildlife hide – on a site of about 198 acres (80 hectares). But this masks a much larger environmental impact resulting from the space launch activities which are planned at the site.
To carry out spaceflight activity in the UK spaceport and launch operators must be licensed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Shetland Space Centre Limited has applied for such a licence to operate a vertical spaceport from Unst.
As part of their licence application, spaceport and launch operators are required to submit an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE). The purpose of the AEE is to ensure applicants have adequately considered any potential environmental effects of their intended activities and, if necessary have taken steps to avoid, mitigate or offset the risks and their potential effects. The AEE for the Saxavord Spaceport has been prepared and submitted on behalf of the operators by ITPEnergised (an international consultancy), whose job is to present the development in the best possible light – highlighting the benefits and playing down the impacts in order to ensure that a license is issued for the spaceport. It should be noted that even as the public consultation on the Assessment of Environmental Effects was ongoing, work had begun on construction of the spaceport. Read more