Ahead of the next stage of bidding to become the UK’s first Spaceport, Argyll and Bute Council has entered a formal partnership with Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC). The newly formed consortium will be led by MACC subsidiary company, Discover Space UK, which was launched earlier this year.
Making the announcement during a visit to the former MoD site on Monday August 10, Argyll and Bute Council Leader, Councillor Dick Walsh said, ‘MACC remains one of five permanent sites being considered by the UK Government. We are delighted to be a part of the Discover Space UK consortium and look forward to taking full advantage of this opportunity. As the only shortlisted site to exceed the criteria for runway length and located away from densely populated areas, Machrihanish has a strong case.’
Creation of a spaceport at Machrihanish would deliver huge development opportunities across the whole of Argyll and Bute. Councillor Walsh continued, ‘With potential for up to 5,000 jobs and multi-billion pound investment in vital infrastructure, this could be truly transformational for the area.’
Discover Space UK officially launched its bid in May with an out-of-this-world video campaign, showcasing the site and attractions of the local area with the help of one or two “alien” visitors.
Chairman of MACC and Discover Space UK Director, Tom Millar said: ‘The launch campaign really put Discover Space UK on the map and positioned Machrihanish as a serious contender in this process. Now we are ready to push ahead and are delighted to be working in partnership with Argyll and Bute Council. Together, we will continue to work closely with HIE who have been massively supportive since the announcement last year. We are expecting an invitation to tender from the UK Government later this year.’
Accompanying Mr Walsh during his visit to the site was Highlands and Islands MSP, David Stewart, who was interested to learn more about the spaceport bid as well as MACC’s ambition for growth. Mr Stewart said, ‘The diversity of the 40+ tenants located at MACC is impressive and there remains unlimited scope for future development. I wish the Discover Space UK consortium the best of luck going forward and as Deputy Covener of the Aviation Committee, I will do everything I can to support the bid.’
HIE also welcomes the news of the consortium and will continue to support the bid as it moves into the next phase. David Smart, HIE’s Head of Business Growth for Argyll and the Islands, said, ‘Machrihanish has the environment, the people, and the ambition to realise the Spaceport’s full potential to deliver economic benefits for the whole country as well as transformational opportunities for the region. By air it is less than an hour to the central belt and international links to the USA and Europe. The area has existing skilled businesses willing to diversify and embrace new opportunities. With all these qualities and more, MACC presents a compelling case for becoming the location for the UK Spaceport.’
The other four permanent sites being considered to host an operational Spaceport by 2018 are Glasgow Prestwick and Stornoway in Scotland; Newquay in England and Llanbedr in Wales. RAF Leuchars is confirmed as a potential temporary facility.
The government plans to use the successful site as a base for tourist flights as well as satellite launches.
MACC is account managed by the Argyll and the Islands Area Team of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). HIE is an ambitious organisation with a unique remit which integrates economic and community development.