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Last minute move by objectors holds up billionaire’s plans for ‘mini village’ in far north

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Objectors have stalled a Danish billionaire’s plans to transform a run-down site in the far north into a “mini village”, despite it being approved by the council.

The proposals, funded by Scotland’s biggest landowner Anders Holch Povlsen, would lead to the demolition, renovation and re-purposing of buildings at Tongue to create a centre to appeal to tourists and locals with food, fuel, entertainment, shopping and accommodation on offer.

The scheme secured the backing of Highland councillors during a virtual meeting yesterday, but it can not go ahead until a last minute request from opponents has been determined by the Scottish Government.

Local objections have come in from Melness, Tongue and Skerray Community Council, and some accommodation providers.

They have lodged concerns about the impact of such a development on smaller tourist businesses in the area.

Planning officials said this type of objection is not considered material in determining such applications, as councillors rubber-stamped the move.

But in a last minute twist, they were told an unnamed objector has asked for the Scottish Government to determine whether an environmental impact assessment should have been lodged as part of the planning process.

Until the decision is made by the Scottish Government, the application can’t be given the go-ahead even though approval is now provisionally in place.

Sutherland councillor Karl Rosie was among those keen to see the scheme become a reality.

He said: “It’s fantastic, it ticks so many boxes and it’s what we need to do in the north Highlands”.

Councillor Margaret Paterson described the development as “making a gorgeous area even more gorgeous”.

A spokesman for Ben Loyal Ltd , the subsidiary of Mr Povlsen’s company Wildland, said: “We welcome additional scrutiny, and will await the decision of the Scottish Government in this case.

“As we have previously announced, following some useful feedback from our neighbours in Tongue at the onset of this application, we will be taking a period of reflection once planning consent has been finalised to review the scope and scale of some of the business activity associated with the developments.”

Kate Mackay’s family has owned the Melness Craggan hotel, around four miles away, for half a century.

She welcomed the development, to be known as Burr’s Stores, last night.

She said: “The more the merrier. We wish them good luck and hope they do well.

“Hopefully this will bring business to other businesses.”

B&B owner Silke Coghill said: “This development will add to what makes Tongue attractive.”

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