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Court ruling

Danish billionaire Povlsen loses battle to halt spaceport

Orbex Prime rocket

The Orbex rocket will be launched from a base in Sutherland

Danish billionaire and landowner Anders Povlsen has lost his attempt to stop a spaceport being built near his Scottish highland estate.

Mr Povlsen, listed as Scotland’s richest man, objected to plans to base the facility on the A’ Mhoine peninsula near Tongue which neighbours the Dane’s Kinloch Estate.

Following the Judicial Review, which Mr Povlsen instigated, the judge ruled against the petitioner on every count. 

Among 62 comments from the ruling, the judge said “none of the grounds of challenge is well founded” and ” I shall … repel the petitioner’s pleas-in-law, and refuse the petition”.

Mr Povlsen’s spokesman expressed disappointment, stating that they will consider what next steps may be taken and in the hope that “sense will eventually prevail”. 

Anders Povlsen: raised petition

Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, the Scottish rocket company that will be launching rockets from the site, said: “This is extremely positive news for a wide variety of communities and businesses and paves the way for the Pathfinder launch of small satellites from Sutherland Spaceport in Scotland.

“We’re especially pleased for the crofters of the Melness Crofters Estate, who will be able to protect and develop their community with modern jobs. Sutherland is still the only UK spaceport with planning permission and now, with this ruling, the countdown to space launch from the UK can begin.”

Mr Povlsen, who is the majority shareholder in the online fashion business ASOS, owns more than 200,000 acres of land across Scotland, including Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms, the Strathmore estate at Altnaharra, the 24,000-acre Ben Loyal and the 23,000-acre Ben Hope estate near Tongue.

Tim Kirkwood, chief executive of Mr Povlsen’s Wildland company, said:  “We are surprised and disappointed by the Court’s judgement as our view and that of many people remains that the proposed spaceport will be completely inappropriate for such an environmentally vulnerable area and the protected habitats it sustains.  

“However, the record now clearly states that further work will be required in connection with a Launch Exclusion Zone of unknown extent and that additional development that will require further planning permissions and an assessment of cumulative environmental impact will be necessary before anything is launched from this site. Therefore, hope still remains that sense will eventually prevail. 


“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.  

“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.

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

“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.  

“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.”  

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