A COMPETITION to establish the UK's first spaceport has been scrapped, the Herald can reveal.

Instead the Department for Transport has written to bidders to inform them that it will "create the regulatory conditions for any suitable location that wishes to become a spaceport".

It means that shortlisted sites such as Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Newquay - believed to be the favoured location of Virgin Galactic - will be free to apply for a licence to establish a commercial spaceport.

The announcement comes 24 hours after UK's first specialist spaceplane design and operating company, Orbital Access Ltd, launched at Glasgow Prestwick.

The letter, dated May 20 and signed by Michael Clark, DfT head of international aviation, safety and environment, and Catherine Mealing-Jones, director of growth at the UK Space Agency, states that the move will help create "viable business models at a range of locations".

The Herald: letter from DfTletter from DfT

The letter states: "To avoid restricting the development of the UK market, the Government will create the regulatory conditions for any suitable location that wishes to become a spaceport, to take the opportunity to develop and attract commercial space business...

"The Government recognises the importance of industry working with operators to start spaceflight operations and we will work with operators to develop viable business models at a range of locations across the UK, rather than at any one single location."

Until now, five UK sites had been shortlisted as potential locations for the UK's first spaceport. Besides Glasgow Prestwick, these were Campbeltown and Stornoway in Scotland; Newquay in England and Llanbedr in Wales.