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Business tycoon's ambitious visitor hub proposal for Tongue site gains unanimous support of councillors


By Caroline McMorran

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North councillors have given the go-ahead to an ambitious visitor attraction in Tongue which it is hoped will revitalise the area.

Members of Highland Council’s north planning applications committee were unanimously in favour at a meeting on Wednesday of the exciting scheme to transform the former 1.24 hectare Burr’s Store’s site north of Tongue.

An artist's impression of the planned development at the Tongue site.
An artist's impression of the planned development at the Tongue site.

The vision is to build a visitor hub comprising restaurant, bakehouse, stonecutters and shop as well as an events space, accommodation for both staff and visitors, new fuel pumps and a microbrewery.

Behind the project is Ben Loyal Ltd for Wildland Ltd, the company run by business tycoon and north west Sutherland landowner Anders Holch Povlsen.

North, West and Sutherland councillor Kirsteen Currie said she was pleased at the outcome of the planning application.

“I believe this could be a real stepping stone to reinvigorating and regenerating the communities and economy of rural Sutherland,” she said.

“If we are going to be serious about being a world class tourist destination, then we must develop ideas such as this to create meaningful and quality experiences for our visitors.

“This development could be a massive boost for the creative arts industry as a way of showcasing talent and selling or displaying locally created pieces.”

Ms Currie added that her only concern was that Scottish Water did not have the resources in the short term to deal with the various forms of waste water from the site.

A number of objections were received to the development with the major point of concern that it could take accommodation and other business away from nearby providers.

Tongue, Melness and Skerray Community Council lodged an objection, saying that although it welcomed the plans in general, members were concerned about the inclusion of a guest accommodation block.

However planners, who recommended the development be approved, stated in background papers: “The applicant has demonstrated that the proposal will complement existing tourist facilities, and likely increase the length of visitors’ stay and spending in Tongue while promoting a wider spread of visitors in the area.”

Anders Holch Povlsen.
Anders Holch Povlsen.

Committee chairwoman Maxine Smith was complimentary about the exhaustive attention to detail shown by the developers.

She said: “The proposal seems to address all questions that might arise, paying attention to every little detail and even organising staff accommodation.

“It is great to see such time and effort put into an application, seeking pre-planning advice and getting it right.

“In terms of Covid-19 recover, this is just the sort of development we would like to see coming forward in the Highlands.”

Work could start shortly to clear the site of its redundant shop and petrol station, garage, agricultural storage shed and pig-sty.

A domestic residence is also set to be demolished but a former bakery and storage building will be renovated.

A property known as Dunvarlich House will be renovated to serve as a hotel.

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