Sutherland Spaceport in Scotland has survived an attempt by Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen and his company Wildland Ltd to halt development of one of the UK’s potential spaceport sites. A ruling published on 20 August by the Scottish Court of Session found against Povlsen, who owns the ASOS clothing empire and is Scotland’s largest private landowner, on every count.
Povlsen’s case was that the Highland Council was wrong to grant planning permission to the vertical launch facility in August 2020, arguing that the decision failed to take into account the risks to the local environment and wildlife. The judge, however, could find “nothing in the appropriate assessment which suggests the existence of any such error”.
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, the Scottish rocket company that plans to launch from the site, was understandably pleased with the decision. “This is extremely positive news for a wide variety of communities and businesses and paves the way for the Pathfinder launch of small satellites from Sutherland Spaceport in Scotland”, he said. “Sutherland is still the only UK spaceport with planning permission and now, with this ruling, the countdown to space launch from the UK can begin.”
As Povlsen reportedly owns land near the proposed spaceport, his objection initially appeared to be in the NIMBY category (‘not in my backyard’). However, Scottish newspapers have also reported a GBP£1.5 million investment in a rival spaceport on Shetland made by Povlsen and his wife via Wild Ventures Ltd, a sister company to Wildland Ltd, so there may be other factors in play. It appears that establishing a spaceport in Scotland is even more involved than the UK Government first thought.