Legal challenge from billionaire landowner Anders Holch Povlsen to block Sutherland Space Hub fails at Court of Session
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A legal challenge to overturn Highland Council's decision to grant permission to a spaceport in Sutherland has failed.
Billionaire landowner Anders Holch Povlsen (48) challenged the local authority's decision on environmental grounds.
The businessman went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh in a bid to halt the building of the Sutherland Space Hub (SSH) on the A'Mhòine peninsula.
Lawyers for Mr Povlsen believed the August 2020 decision failed to take into account the risks to the local environment and wildlife populations.
The action was raised by Mr Povlsen’s company, Wildland Limited. Its advocate Malcolm Thomson QC told judge Lord Doherty earlier this year that Highland Council didn’t follow correct legal procedures.
However, in a judgement issued at the court on Friday, Lord Doherty rejected the submissions made to him by Mr Thomson.
He wrote: “I am not persuaded that the respondent has erred in law.
“I am not persuaded that the respondent did not apply the correct test. In my opinion there is nothing in the appropriate assessment which suggests the existence of any such error, and there is nothing in the report of handling which causes me to conclude that the report led the respondent into any such error.”
Mr Povlsen is Scotland's largest private landowner. He owns the clothing empire Bestseller and is believed to have a net worth of more than £6 billion.
Mr Povlsen is the largest shareholder in online fashion retailer ASOS. In February 2021, the company bought Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire – which included Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge – in a deal thought to be worth £330 million.
The businessman objected to the development in Sutherland on environmental grounds and later announced that he had invested more than £1.4 million in a rival spaceport on Shetland.
His company Wildland Limited lodged a petition for judicial review against Highland Council's decision to approve the scheme.
The Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) project at A'Mhòine, near Tongue, is expected to create more than 200 jobs, with satellites being launched from the station.
Highland council received 457 objections and 118 representations in support of HIE's planning application.
The company has concerns over the spaceport's impact on "environmentally vulnerable protected areas".
During proceedings, Mr Thomson told Lord Doherty that evidence showed that the council didn’t properly consider the impact that people visiting the site could have on the local environment.
He said that proposals for visitor facilities and the site’s launch exclusion zone would not do enough to protect wildlife.
Mr Thomson said the proposed space site is located close to an “area of environmental protection” but the council hasn’t properly considered how to mitigate the damage that visitors could cause to the area.
Lawyers for Highland Council told the court that the local authority had properly considered the impact that the port would have on the environment.
Lord Doherty agreed with the submissions made by the council and concluded that it had followed proper legal tests.
He said that none of the grounds of the challenge were “well founded”.
He added: “Development of the visitor facilities will require a further application for planning permission. At that stage the cumulative environmental impact of SSH and the visitor facilities will require to be assessed.”