Plans for spaceports unveiled by UK government

19 May 2016

Plans to develop the UK’s first commercial spaceports were contained in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

The plans would feature in a new Modern Transport Bill intended to “put Britain at the forefront of the modern transport revolution” create new jobs and fuel economic growth.

Between 2014 and 2015 the government held a public consultation on selecting a spaceport site. Six sites were shortlisted including Newquay Cornwall Airport.

Shortlisted sites are to be invited to present detailed spaceport design proposals with a view to having a spaceport in place by 2020, providing up to 100,000 jobs. 

The port would enable the launch of commercial satellites and tourist flights into space, and aim to help the UK gain 10% of the global space market by 2030.

UK law firm Bond Dickinson cautioned that while the plans opened up exciting possibilities, any plans would be subject to detailed assessment of environmental risk.

Richard Guyatt, partner at Bond Dickinson, said: “Consent for a spaceport will require careful assessment of the many environmental impacts of a spaceport and a viable business case for commercial space operations.”

The proposal could be considered under the Planning Act 2008 and is likely to be designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). 

“The potential noise impacts will be a vital consideration and some form of Parliamentary authority is needed to allow the scheme to operate, to give the operator protection from nuisance claims,” said Guyatt.

Being considered under the 2008 Act would mean any developer would have to engage in “meaningful” local consultation and show the spaceport would bring significant local benefits for employment and the economy, he said.

As well as the spaceports the bill would include new laws governing driverless cars and the operation of drones.

The speech also mooted a new Digital Economy Bill, which would give every household a legal right to a fast broadband connection.

New laws would also help telecommunications providers build the infrastructure needed for faster broadband and better mobile networks and enable consumers to be automatically compensated for faults with their broadband service.

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