This is an open letter from Oliver Baines to Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council on the environmental consequences of Newquay Spaceport. The context is the recent declaration of the Climate Emergency by Cornwall Council
I was so shocked at George Eustice’s announcement on Wednesday that I decided to canvass opinion from colleagues, many of whom have been working with us over the last few months, before writing to you. To date I have received 23 replies (astonishing in itself) of which one wanted more information and 22 expressed a range of reactions from incredulity to rage. Yesterday I went to talk to the spaceport project manager to find out the detail of what is being proposed and listened carefully to what he had to say.
The inescapable conclusion to me is that there is nothing, absolutely nothing at all, to be commended in this proposition. The primary question is about emissions and the message it sends out about our reaction to a global climate emergency. There is not even a carbon budget for it – so we have no idea what the carbon impact will be.
There will be almost no activity for years in spite of the enormous investment proposed – simply a runway from which a 747 can take off with a rocket strapped beneath. Longer term (after all kinds of downside risks are overcome or faced down) its main ambition will be reached: to put into space friends of a multi billionaire who sits on an island in the Caribbean directing us to do his bidding. This will be at a cost of thousands of tonnes of emissions per person.
The work on satellites will be done where they are being designed and built. The 747 maintenance will be carried out by technicians and engineers from Boeing. The rocket engineers are American. It’s hard to think what jobs beyond a tiny handful would come to Cornwall. So the jobs claim of ‘150 across the UK and Cornwall’ is meaningless for Cornwall. The investment from us, the poorest part of the UK, is several times greater than the tiny contribution from Branson, while our local services scream for more support.
The very worst of this is that it flies directly in the face of all the work we have been doing, together and successfully, to chart a way forward for Cornwall at a time of emergency. I have no doubt in my mind that it has the capacity to destroy all the goodwill built around the ambition you (and others in the Cabinet and Council) have strived for so long to achieve – all of us, every one, working towards a common goal.
So the question I want to pose is this: is this worth it?
Please let’s talk.
All the best