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£10m Spaceport for Cornwall funding is approved

£10m Spaceport for Cornwall funding is approved

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 3:03pm 26th November 2019.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter 

Cornwall Council has voted in favour of giving £10.3m towards the Spaceport Cornwall project.

However the meeting of full council was abandoned immediately after the vote when protesters in the public gallery threw paper aeroplanes and started chanting.

The chamber was cleared of councillors by council staff but the protesters continued to chant and shouted at councillors as they left saying things like “shame on you”.

It came after more than three hours of debate about the spaceport proposals during which attempts were made to defer the decision and to address concerns about climate change.

Paul Wills, independent councillor for St Columb, proposed the amendment calling for more information about the financial case for the project, more information about the environmental impact and for the entire scheme to be subject to scrutiny by councillors.

spaceport - virgin orbit

However, despite support from councillors from different political groups, the amendment was lost.

Deputy leader Adam Paynter, who had urged councillors to back the funding, said that any delay would send out the wrong message to those who were involved in the project. He said it was “now or never”.

That view was supported by Conservative councillor David Harris who said that Cornwall may never get another opportunity like this.

Conservative group leader Linda Taylor was in support of the funding and said it was important to be able to provide opportunities for jobs and growth.

She said she didn’t want to have to say to future generations that there had been a chance to get a spaceport but that it wasn’t taken.

Edwina Hannaford, one of four Cabinet members who had voted against the proposal when it went to Cabinet in September, said she could still not support it saying it was incompatible with the council’s climate change action plan which was launched following the declaration of a climate emergency in January.

Cllr Hannaford, Bob Egerton, Sally Hawken and Andrew Mitchell, all Cabinet members, all voted against the recommendation.

Mebyon Kernow councillor Andrew Long also said that he was against the proposal as it went against the council’s decision to take climate change more seriously.

But Lib Dem councillor Jackie Bull was in favour of the spaceport saying: “Let’s not take this opportunity away from our children and grandchildren.”

Virgin Orbit spaceport satellites

Some of those in favour highlighted that satellite technology which could be launched from the spaceport had been used in the battle against climate change and to better understand the impact around the world.

It was also claimed that there could be further environmental benefits from the technology which was being used.

When the recommendation was put to the vote it was approved with 66 votes in favour, 34 against and one abstention.

Spaceport Cornwall is set to be the first horizontal launch site in the UK and based at Cornwall Airport Newquay.

Virgin Orbit has an agreement with the council under which it wants to launch satellites from Spaceport Cornwall. The company has a LauncherOne system which uses adapated 747 jets.

The funding agreed by the council is part of a package worth around £20m which includes funding from the UK Space Agency, Virgin Orbit and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

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