A message to the Unst community

This is an update on what the project team has been up to during the Covid-19 lockdown with regards to community consultation. Work has been continuing at pace, although inevitably not as rapidly as it might have during normal times. Unfortunately, much of the work has to be done remotely.

Most significantly from a community point of view, we have been preparing for the exhibition, in just over a week’s time, that is a requirement of our having submitted a pre-planning application notification (PAN) to Shetland Islands Council. Every household in Unst has been sent details of this in two separate leaflets. Ideally, we would have loved for this to have been a series of face-to-face sessions, but unfortunately due the lockdown it is impossible to hold public events. There can be no substitute for physical interaction, but the Scottish Government has put in place temporary measures that allow us and other projects around the country to engage virtually.

To avoid any misunderstanding, this is not our full planning application, which among other things will require a range of studies, including but not limited to natural heritage (including birds), noise and vibration, transport and access and health and safety. When the lockdown has been eased, we will be able to complete all of this work, which will then feed into an Environmental Impact Assessment that will be submitted as part of the full planning application, hopefully in September.  We are bound by statutory process in how we approach this and to deviate would be a clear breach of the planning guidelines, therefore we must adhere to the protocols which we are sure you will all appreciate.

The PAN provides a general description or outline of what Shetland Space Centre is proposing, and during the exhibition we will be able to answer any questions that you might have.

Far from trying to impose any kind of control or limit, we will welcome all and any questions during the three sessions that will form the exhibition. Naturally, some of you will have concerns, and we will address those in an open and transparent way. If you are unable to participate in the exhibition, the leaflets contain details of alternative means of contacting the team.

Our message on this could not be clearer.

We will also welcome any ideas or suggestions that you feel may be appropriate that would enable us to do things better.

It is important that these questions/suggestions are posed as part of the exhibition or via the alternative means referred to above because they will then become a formal element of the planning process and be taken account of as we move to the next stage.

The PAN exhibition is only the beginning of the community engagement – we will continue to liaise with you in the weeks and months ahead. Over the next month or so we will be appointing an education and community engagement officer to ensure that we are contactable and engaged as much as possible.

Apart from our PAN preparations, we are in daily contact with our industry partners throughout the world as well as the UK Space Agency, the Scottish Government and the Ministry of Defence among others building up the case for a sustainable space economy in Shetland. We are also engaged with SIC on a joint approach to elicit support for Unst from the Scottish Government’s Islands Deal, which if successful could benefit both Unst and Uist.

We look forward to welcoming you – and your questions – at the exhibition next week. Please log on, or contact us via the email or phone number provided in the leaflet.