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Wildland chief executive 'surprised and disappointed' over Court of Session ruling on Highland spaceport

By Caroline McMorran

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Tim Kirkwood, CEO of Wildland
Tim Kirkwood, CEO of Wildland

Managers of Wildland Ltd have said they are "surprised and disappointed" at the Court of Session ruling over plans for Space Hub Sutherland.

Lord Doherty has not upheld Wildland's submission, made at a judicial review, that Highland Council did not follow correct legal procedures in granting planning consent to the £17.5 million development.

Wildland chief executive Tim Kirkwood said the land conservation and tourism company's view, and that of many others, remained that the planned spaceport was "completely inappropriate" for an environmentally vulnerable area such as A'Mhoine in north Sutherland, where it is earmarked to be built.

He said: "At this stage we will take time to consider the ruling carefully and decide whether further steps are appropriate to provide the protection so urgently needed."

Mr Kirkwood continued: "We firmly believe that the area and its social and economic fabric is best served by more sympathetic development.

"Our grave concerns remain about the justification for the impact on such a special landscape by a scheme which we fear is both poorly thought out and based on a weak business plan.

"There is a legacy here that goes well beyond our own interests for the area and we believe we have been right to make this challenge on behalf of our younger generation and their future.

"We need to be far better at assessing and choosing the most appropriate places for this sort of development if their interests are to be met.

Mr Kirkwood continued: "We accept that some members of the community take a different view.

"Whatever transpires we will continue to work with the communities we are part of to improve economic, social and environmental outcomes for all, whether through direct investment in our own estates or though partnership with companies like NC500 Limited which have drawn visitors and wealth to the entire region.

"And while we fully embrace that people and livelihoods are an essential part of regeneration, we will continually and proudly advocate working with nature as the only sustainable way to achieve this.

"Working against nature in such an area will, we believe, prove to be damaging to its long-term economy as well as the environment."

Mr Kirkwood said there was still hope that "sense would prevail" given that the development of visitor facilities at the space hub required a further application for planning consent at which point the cumulative environmental impact would require to be assessed.

He added: "Just months before COP26 focuses global attention on Scotland’s own environmental protection efforts, it is sad that industrial development seems to win out against efforts to sustain the unique Flow Country as a pristine natural environment and potential World Heritage site – an area vital for carbon sequestration and the protection of vulnerable bird and animal species."

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