Future of Goonhilly Earth Station safe after firm in charge buys site (From This is The West Country)
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Future of Goonhilly Earth Station safe after firm in charge buys site
7:30am Wednesday 12th February 2014 in Cornwall
The future of Goonhilly Earth Station is now safe after the company in charge bought the site on a 999-year lease.
It means that the site on Goonhilly Downs can play a vital role in British space research, which could bring hundreds of jobs to the area.
Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd (GES) confirmed this week that it had completed the landmark deal with BT that would allow it to work with the UK Space Agency.
Ian Jones, chief executive officer of the company, described Goonhilly as “one of the UK’s best space industry assets” that had the ability to lead the way in commercial satellites, space science and deep space communications projects.
It is an industry that the UK hopes to see a £40 billion annual turnover on by 2030.
Mr Jones said: “We are excited GES has secured investment finance that secures the long term future of Goonhilly and provides a solid foundation for long term growth, and we have been overwhelmed by the level of interest there has been already in 2014.”
When the international space project involvement was first announced it was suggested that it could bring up to 750 new jobs.
Fifty BT staff will continue to work from Goonhilly and the arrangement with satellite operator Avanti will continue as normal.
However, it has not all been plain sailing for the project, which was first announced in January 2011.
Since then GES has faced a fight to receive the millions of pounds of government funding it was initially promised, with West Cornwall MP Andrew George asking questions in the House of Commons, in July 2012, over the reason for the delay.
Welcoming the purchase at last, Mr George said: “This is fantastic news for the west Cornwall economy.
“Space science and satellite communications are rapidly growing sectors with great prospects. Goonhilly is brilliantly placed to take advantage in the decades ahead and to help UK plc secure a good slice of the global trade.
“A few years ago, there had been a real prospect of seeing the Goonhilly site bulldozed into an unproductive wilderness. It's remarkable how determination and enterprise can turn things around.”
However, he said it had taken “longer than it should have done” to reach this point.
“I must congratulate GES on remaining so resolute and overcoming significant challenges to acquire this site. I'm determined to make sure that the space sector really flies in Cornwall and that Goonhilly will quickly become synonymous with high tech, cutting edge business growth and globally significant space science research.”
Goonhilly was the largest satellite earth station in the world when it was built, designed to receive the first transatlantic satellite television signals almost 50 years ago.
However, in 2006 BT shocked the area by announcing the satellite earth station was to close, with operations moved to its sister station in Madley, Herefordshire.
Almost all the satellite dishes were dismantled, but a few were saved – including the very first, Antenna One, which is now a grade listed dish and affectionately known as Arthur – and these will be updated and given a new lease of life.