Danish billionaire reaches agreement over flights from Highland spaceport

Fashion tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen, who is also Scotland’s richest billionaire owns Eribol Estate near the £17.3 million project in the Flow Country near Melness in Sutherland and raised a legal action over Highland Council’s approval, citing its impact on protected areas.

Orbex, a spaceflight company, plans to use the site to launch its Prime rocket, which will carry into orbit small, commercial satellites, from the A’ Mhòine peninsula.

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HIE has forecast that the space port, which would be the UK’s first vertical launch facility, will create 61 jobs in its vicinity and 250 in the region.

An Orbex rocket similar to those which will blast off from the spaceport.

Mr Povlsen, a Dane, is the largest shareholder in Asos, owns the clothing empire Bestseller and is believed to have a net worth of more than £6billion. It is said he owns more of the UK than the Queen and the Church of Scotland combined.

His company, Wildland, lost the case but stated that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) over Space Hub Sutherland.

HIE say that until at least 2029, it would operate the site using a single launch pad and restrict launches to 12 per year as provided for by its planning permission.

Wildland also agreed not to object to planning applications or variations submitted by HIE for minor changes which were not part of plans to increase launches or extend the spaceport’s footprint.

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne Holch Povlsen

The parties confirmed their commitment to work constructively on opportunities for sustainable economic and community development in and around Tongue, Melness and Skerray.

A third signatory to the memorandum was Braesgill, a sister company to Wildland, which holds a sporting lease with Melness Crofters Estate.

David Oxley, HIE director of strategic projects, said: “We’re very pleased to be entering into this agreement with Wildland and Braesgill.

“We have lots of ambition to make Space Hub Sutherland a key driver of the local economy, boosting the community by creating jobs, attracting investment and supporting research opportunities. At the same time, we are determined to be a committed custodian of the natural environment around the launch site and a good neighbor within the community.

Up to 12 launches year will take place at the Highland Spaceport

“This memorandum of understanding sets out a framework for HIE, Wildland and Braesgill to pursue our individual initiatives, while building a relationship that recognizes we have common goals too.”

Tim Kirkwood, CEO of Wildland Limited, said Wildland supports local investment and development, creating jobs and opportunities in its growing conservation and tourism business.

He added: “We owe it to future generations that the wider unspoiled landscape and the nature that thrives on it, has every opportunity to be protected.

“So, we’re glad to have had the matter of the planning consent thoroughly reviewed.”

Melness is in one of the remotest parts of the Flow Country.

In February, Mr Povlsen’s architects revealed that he plans to restore the historic facade of Edinburgh’s former Jenners department store.

Under the proposal, the former 17,000sqm department store in Princes Street would be turned into a 96-bedroom boutique hotel, with a bar and restaurant, above overhauled retail areas, according to planning documents submitted to the council. The three-storey, top-lit grand saloon at the heart of the Victorian Renaissance Revival style building would also be restored.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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