THE world’s first carbon-neutral space port has been cleared for lift-off after the Scottish Land Court approved a change in land use to allow Space Hub Sutherland to be built on Melness Crofters’ Estate (MCE) while it remained working croft land.

A judicial review last month rejected legal challenges by Wildland – owned by billionaire Anders Polvsen – which will not appeal against that decision.

It means Space Hub Sutherland is on track to be the UK’s first space port, with an inaugural space flight launching next year.

The result is historic news for MCE, a voluntary committee of local crofters who own the land and support the proposed £17.5m development.

The hub, which aims to achieve the first launch of satellites from Sutherland in the early 2020s, is expected to bring more than 40 highly skilled jobs to the region and additional knock-on benefits such as space tourism and partnerships with research groups.

With a declining population and the decommissioning of nearby former nuclear power site at Dounreay, it sees Space Hub Sutherland as an opportunity to secure the community’s long-term future.

MCE chair, Dorothy Pritchard, said: “This is fantastic news for the long-term future of our community, and we welcome this decision from the Land Court today to grant the change in land use.

“It’s all systems go now for building the space hub, and we look forward to working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Orbex in the coming weeks and months ahead.

“Our vision from day one has been to create opportunities for the local community while minimising disruption to our landscape here in Sutherland.

“We know that unless we create more opportunities for people to live and work here in Sutherland then we will lose the heart and soul of our communities.”

She added: “The job creation that comes as a direct result of the space hub and additional knock-on opportunities in the future will ensure that our community thrives for generations to come.”