Check out THE BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY
They have been going for decades. The UK has had a lot of important and impressive scientists working on such technology. It was never a technical problem. Rather it was, as it always is, the management that decided no, we will hand this over to the US. Or keep it secret as with HOTOL. The guiding principle seems to be to kill off all British space research and endeavour.
Dan Dare remains pretty good, though.