Argyll and Bute could become the UK’s launch-pad to the final frontier, with the Machrihanish Airbase down to the last five permanent sites being considered to host the country’s first ever spaceport.
Reacting to this news, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Dick Walsh, said: ‘’The council welcomes this news, which is a great boost not just for Campbeltown but for the whole of Argyll and Bute. We are confident that the site offers unique areas of competitive advantage over the others, particularly in terms of its size, over 1000 acres; the length of its runway, the longest in the United Kingdom at over 3km; the location, away from major centres of population, which is a key consideration; the distance from congested airspace and, crucially, the ability to expand.’’
The former RAF base at the southern end of the Kintyre Peninsula is ideally located for a polar orbit satellite launch, with nothing but open sea to the west. Following a buyout, the site is now owned by the local community through the Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC), who have already unlocked some of the development potential of the site by attracting Scotland’s first on-shore salmon farm and a wind tower producer as well as hosting a car rally last year.
Councillor Walsh continued: ‘’We have been working closely with MACC and HIE over the past few months and look forward to lending further support as we continue to put a strong case forward for the site. Our main focus as a council is on creating jobs, growing our economy and attracting more people to Argyll and Bute. A spaceport would do just that, and really put the area on the global, or even interstellar, map.’’
MACC Chairman, Tom Millar, said of today’s announcement: ‘’We are delighted with the announcement and truly believe that our site is the clear choice of the remaining candidates for the first UK spaceport. We have now registered a new spaceport operating company in anticipation of the next stage and will be continuing to push forward with our bid in the coming weeks. This is a huge opportunity for MACC and Campbeltown Airport.’’
Douglas Cowan, HIE area manager 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 local regeneration. The airbase previously housed 2,000 military personnel and utilities are still on-site to support extensive operations. By air it is less than an hour to the central belt and international links to the USA and Europe. Campbeltown has benefitted from a £50 million investment in the fabric of the town and associated infrastructure. The area has existing skilled businesses willing and able to diversify and embrace opportunities for new technology. And there is further and higher education capacity in Argyll to specialise in aeronautical/space requirements. With all these qualities and more, Machrihanish presents a compelling case for becoming the location for the UK Spaceport.”
The UK government is pushing for a spaceport to be up and running by 2018, particularly focussed on making space travel commercially viable, with new rocketplanes being developed to take ordinary people into space.
An operational spaceport would provide the UK and its neighbours with a vital piece of infrastructure for the European aerospace industry.
The ‘Cape Campbeltown’ spaceport would be a huge boost to the local and national economy. Not just the skilled jobs it would bring, the opportunities for hi-tech supplies and services and the boost to tourism, this new spaceport would signal a clear intent that the UK is embracing industries of the future, helping drive forward innovations in science, technology and the economy, and boldly going where no-one has gone before!
Note: The other four permanent sites being considered are Glasgow Prestwick and Stornoway in Scotland; Newquay in England and Llanbedr in Wales. RAF Leuchars is confirmed as a potential temporary facility.