Lawyers acting for Scotland’s richest man have asked a senior judge to overturn a local authority’s decision to give the green light for Scotland’s first spaceport after investing in a rival project.
The site, located in the far north of Scotland, would be the UK’s first vertical launch facility and supporters say it could boost the local economy.
But Advocate Malcolm Thomson QC, acting for the Danish billionaire owner of Asos Anders Holch Povlsen, said documents show that Highland Council didn’t follow correct procedures when giving permission last August to the construction of the Sutherland Space Hub.
Lawyers for Povlsen, who is Scotland’s largest landowner, believe that Highland Council should have rejected the proposed facility and have gone to the Court of Session in Edinburgh in a bid to stop the construction of the spaceport.
Mr Povlsen objected to the development in Sutherland on environmental grounds and later announced that he had invested more than £1.4 million in a rival spaceport on Shetland.
Acting for the businessman, Mr Thomson said on Tuesday that documents made available to him and his instructing solicitors show that Highland Council didn’t follow correct procedures.
He told judge Lord Doherty that the council appeared not to have properly considered the impact that people visiting the site could have on the local environment.
Mr Thomson said the proposed space site is located close to an “area of environmental protection” but the council hadn’t properly considered how to mitigate the damage that visitors could cause to the area.
“There are the obvious difficulties about keeping people out of the LEZ (Launch Exclusion Zone)- there’s no physical demarcation of it.
Mr Thomson was speaking on the first day of a judicial review which is expected to last three days at Scotland’s highest civil court.
He is acting for Mr Povlsen’s company Wildland Limited, with the Highland Council contesting the action and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Ministers are “interested parties” in the action.
As well as being Scotland’s largest private landowner, Mr Povlsen also owns the clothing empire Bestseller and is believed to have a net worth of more than £6 billion. Experts say he owns more of the UK than the Queen and the Church of Scotland combined.
His company Wildland Limited lodged a petition for judicial review against Highland council’s decision to approve the scheme, and the petition passed the permission stage earlier this year – meaning the court believes the challenge has “a real prospect of success”.
The Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) project at A’Mhòine, near Tongue, in Sutherland, is expected to create more than 200 jobs, with satellites being launched from the station.
The hearing, before Lord Doherty, continues.