Community landowners reaching for the stars

When you think about community land ownership, the images that spring to mind are probably fields, houses, forestry and renewable energy so you may be surprised to learn about the many connections between community landowners and space.

One community landowner that’s using its assets to its advantage is Machrihanish Airbase Community Company, which is bidding to become the UK’s first spaceport. The Community Company bought the former RAF and NATO base on Kintyre from the MoD in 2012. It has since been shortlisted as one of five potential permanent sites for a spaceport in the UK and is the only one on the list that has a runway longer than 3000 metres. If successful, the spaceport bid would create skilled jobs and boost tourism in the area. You can find out more on their Discover Space web site.

Among Scotland’s most recent community land buyouts is a former RAF base at Gallan Head on the Isle of Lewis. At the most northwesterly point of the UK and former home to a Cold War surveillance centre, Gallan Head has very low levels of light pollution. The Gallan Head Community Trust is working with the Stornoway Astronomical Society and specialist marine electronics company SA Instrumentation on Project CETUS which aims to establish a multi-purpose observatory studying the dark sky at night and marine mammals by day. Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, has come on board as CETUS patron.

Gallan Head Community Trust was established by the community of Aird Uig which has 50 residents but is part of the remote Uig area, famous amongst other things for the Uig Chessman. The Trust hopes that its plans will create jobs and draw new people to live in Uig. Members are currently raising funding for the observatory through their Whales and Tea crowdfunder.

The small Scottish village of Glenelg in the Highlands, home to the Glenelg and Arnisdale Community Trust, which has been looking at options for community buyouts, made its astronomical connection in 2012 when it twinned with Glenelg on Mars. The martian Glenelg was named because of its similarity to a rock formation in Glenelg in Canada. The roots of the Canadian Glenelg stretch back to the clearances of the Scottish Glenelg in 1849 when 500 people were forced to leave the area and resettle in Quebec.

Finally, Comrie Development Trust in Perthshire, which bought out the Cultybraggan Camp, has a link with Tim Peake, the UK’s best known astronaut. Tim Peake’s wife Rebecca was brought up in Comrie and he also spent time at the Camp when he was in his school’s combined cadet force. The village celebrated on the 15th December as Tim Peake blasted off into space. Cultybraggan is the last remaining WWII high security prisoner of war camp in the UK.

So which cosmic adventures will come next for community landowners? Watch this space!

Linsay Chalmers, Community Land Scotland Development Manager