The Danish retail entrepreneur and philanthropist Anders Holch Povlsen is already Scotland’s largest private land owner. Now he is submitting plans to build a new tourist hub in a remote Highland town, amid protest from locals who claim small businesses will be driven out.
The proposed tourist attraction would be erected in the small village of Tongue, located halfway up the scenic North Coast 500 touring route. Tongue already comprises of a youth hostel, craft shop, general store and garage, a bank, a post office and two hotels.
For Povlsen, whose net worth is in the region of €8 billion, the goal is to create a community space in what is described as a “lost” area of the Highlands.
The live planning application is being put foward by Wildland Limited, Povlsen’s self-made conservation project, which aims to advance the “sustainable development of some of Scotland’s most rugged, precious and beautiful landscapes.”
What will the new village be like?
If approved, the village to be called ‘Burr’s Stores’, will consist of a range of amenities including a restaurant, bakehouse, a shop selling local and seasonal produce, an events space, accommodation for staff and visitors, new fuel pumps and a microbrewery.
According to The Herald Scotland, such plans would “transform” the village and “restore the area to its former glory  while maintaining its historic character.” Under design principles in the planning application, Wildland Limited also claim that the village will “be sustainable and respect the natural beauty” of the area and prioritise pedestrians.
Will the plans negatively affect local businesses?
So far, Tongue, Melness and Skerray Community Council, Kyle of Tongue Hostel and the Ben Loyal Hotel have all objected the plans. “This is not fair competition for other accommodation providers in the area and will directly displace business from us and other providers,” Suzanne Mackay, owner of the Kyle of Tongue Hostel and Holiday Park, told the Daily Mail.
“Trying to compete with a company that has no need to make a profit is unsustainable,” agrees Sarah Fox from the Ben Loyal Hotel.
Wildland Limited tells Euronews Living that this will in no way be a tourist ‘resort’ and is rather a “collection of sensitively restored buildings, which may house cafes, small retailers and community spaces.”
In response to complaints, a spokesperson from the company commented “we are actively listening to the views of the community.” They added, “the revitalisation of this part of the village will, of course, be a highly collaborative effort, with a strong focus on complementing Tongue’s already estimable visitor attractions.” Ultimately, “leaving this site to become derelict is not an option,” they concluded.
The planning document states that facilities for both tourists and locals will “not negatively impact upon neighbouring businesses.”
When asked about his conservation projects by property consultancy Knight Frank, Povlsen commented, “you might call it philanthropy, I prefer to think of it as investing in the natural world.”