Proposed World Heritage Site status on the cards for Sutherland Spaceport area

2nd Aug 2022
Proposed World Heritage Site status on the cards for Sutherland Spaceport area

In light of recent news that an application to have the Sutherland and Caithness Peatlands allocated World Heritage Site status, do the Sutherland Spaceport plans fly in the face of this and the UK government’s Net Zero promises?

When the plan for the Sutherland Spaceport went to public consultation, it faced huge public opposition mostly on environmental grounds, including protests by Extinction Rebellion. The majority of those opposing the plan did so on the basis that it would involve the removal of tonnes of peat that is more effective in capturing carbon than the Amazon rain forest.

Plans to have most of the peatlands in the region allocated as a World Heritage Site have now progressed to the next stage and it is expected that the “Flow Country”, as it is known, will be officially put forward by early 2023 following an extensive public consultation.

One of the reasons why this process has been delayed was that the “Flow Country” boundary had not been clearly defined and there were questionable efforts put into excluding the proposed launch site from the Flow Country boundary definition, when the location is clearly and definitively a physical part of the Sutherland peat fields included in the World Heritage Site application.

One other issue that has come under criticism is that Highlands and Islands Enterprise are involved in both the Sutherland Spaceport and the World Heritage Site application, leading many to believe there is a major conflict of interest. It would not be in the interest of HIE to have the Sutherland site included in the application.

It is also noted that the launch site received significant objections on the basis that it could put the peat fields at risk of a huge fire across the potential World Heritage Site as was seen back in 2019.

5,700 hectares of Flow Country destroyed by fire:

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