Historic Environment Turns Down Shetland Space Centre Plan for Construction

28th May 2021
RAF Skaw Radar Station

Shetland Space Centre plan for construction, backed by many supporters, including a local billionaire, faces serious obstacles. Historic Environment Scotland, later referred to as HES, has refused to grant Shetland spaceport a construction permit because the current plan endangers a facility of vital historical importance. The area hosts a former radar station that was crucial for the UK’s defence during WWII.

Shetland Space Centre Plan of Further Action

According to Shetland Space Centre’s CEO, Frank Strang, SSC will ‘vigorously contest’ HES’s decision. He adds that such a decision came as a great surprise because, in the last 50 years, HES has done nothing to preserve such a vital historical heritage.

Besides, Shetland Space Centre has plenty of supporters, including Scotland’s largest landowner, Anders Holch Povlsen, who has invested over £1.4 million in Shetland spaceport construction.

Moreover, Shetland Space Centre can potentially create 140 new job opportunities in the area and annually inject almost £5 million into the country’s economy. Next, the facility can create an additional 70 jobs in Shetland alone and add £2.9 million more to the gross economy.

Such financial claims are backed up by factual data. For starters, Shetland spaceport already has potential residents lining up to use this vertical launch site. American giant, Lockheed Martin, wants to use the centre for 30 UK Pathfinder launches a year.

Despite such obvious benefits, HES is not convinced. The organisation claims that the Skaw radar station is ‘remarkably well-preserved” and must not be destroyed for Shetland spaceport construction.

HES points out that the station was one of the first radar stations built in Scotland. Right after Nazi Germany invaded Norway, the UK had to reconsider its defence policies. Skaw became one of the first facilities warning about air raids. HES believes that the station tells an important story of Britain’s dedication while fighting in the Second World War.

HES adds that Shetland Space Centre plan application did not make any effort to minimise the damage on radar station buildings. Shetland spaceport construction would destroy a large portion of the currently preserved Skaw buildings.

To date, HES lists Skaw as a scheduled property, which means that construction without HES’s consent would result in a criminal offense case. Shetland Space Centre plans to oppose this rejection and is in the right to do so. However, even if the local authorities would be minded to give Shetland spaceport a permit, the construction will still be delayed.

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