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      Uist and Benbecula News

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The Scolpaig spaceport in North Uist is taking a step closer to reality with formal moves to obtain airspace bans on civilian flights to allow rocket launches.

The proposed airspace changes during launch activity will deem the skies above North Uist as a Danger Zone. QinetiQ is managing the application as ‘change sponsor’ on behalf of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Formal consultation is now underway, with a drop-in event planned for Hosta Hall on Wednesday, April 17.

A Comhairle spokesperson explained: “As a rocket launch poses a risk to aviation, it is necessary to separate launch from all other aviation activity through the establishment of Special Use Airspace in the form of a Danger Area. 

“The new Danger Area will be activated around the time of launch with other airspace users notified to ensure that they remain clear of the area for their own safety and the safety of others. The airspace change process is the mechanism through which Danger Areas can be established.”

Next month’s drop-in event will run from 1 pm to 7.30 pm, and members of the QinetiQ team will be present to answer any queries on the proposal. The consultation period will run until Friday, May 24.

“Feedback is welcomed and is an essential part of the airspace change process, as it helps to develop the final airspace design and associated procedures,” continued the Comhairle spokesperson.

“It also enables the sponsor to gain a better understanding of stakeholders’ operations and how they might be impacted by the proposed airspace change. Any impacts will be considered and mitigations developed as appropriate to minimise any identified adverse impact(s).”

Feedback on the proposed airspace changes can be submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority via the Citizen Space website’s questionnaire.

The Airspace Change Manager (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) can provide hard copies of the consultation documents and the feedback questionnaire. Copies can also be collected from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Balivanich Council Offices, Isle of Benbecula, HS7 5LA.

Completed questionnaires may be returned by email or post to the Spaceport 1 Airspace Change Manager at the Comhairle Offices in Balivanich.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar granted the spaceport planning permission last year in the face of strong local opposition. Moves by the campaign group Friends of Scolpaig were unsuccessful in their bid to have the Scottish Government call in the planning decision for review.

The spaceport near Scolpaig, Balemartin, is being developed by a consortium led by the Comhairle, the landowner and the planning authority.

The development involves the construction of a sub-orbital vertical launch spaceport that includes an access road, fencing, a launch pad with a demountable launch tower, and water and liquid storage tanks with associated services and infrastructure.