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Taymouth Castle ‘billionaires playground’ will not be allowed to become a gated community

Hundreds of people attended a meeting to discuss mounting opposition to plans for a luxury housing development at Taymouth Castle estate near Kenmore in Perthshire.

packed hall at Taymouth Castle meeting.
A packed Aberfeldy Town Hall heard concerns about the Taymouth Castle 'billionaires playground' plans. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson.

A luxury resort planned for the Taymouth Castle estate, near Kenmore, cannot be allowed to become a “gated community”, a meeting was told on Thursday night.

More than 300 people packed into Aberfeldy’s Lesser Town Hall to exchange views on the multimillion-pound redevelopment of the castle and surrounding grounds on the banks of Loch Tay.

The project, led by American real estate firm Discovery Land Company, has become the focus of intense debate in the last couple of weeks.

audience members above a sign saying Aberfeldy Town Hall.
The audience at the Taymouth Castle meeting in Aberfeldy. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

At one point, organisers had to close the doors because of the large numbers of people pouring into the venue.

Residents, business people and visitors to the area raised a series of concerns around issues such as access, the impact on wildlife and a lack of transparency in the planning process.

Woman addressing the audience in Aberfeldy town hall, surrounded by a large group of watching onlookers.
The Aberfeldy meeting heard from people on all sides of the Taymouth Castle debate. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson.

However, many locals from Kenmore spoke in favour of the development, saying it would bring much-needed jobs and investment to the area, as well as saving Taymouth Castle from ruin.

Some also criticised campaigners against the project, saying ill-informed speculation was harming the village’s reputation.

Politician behind Taymouth Castle meeting

Local MSP John Swinney, who called the emergency meeting with his SNP colleague Pete Wishart MP, said Discovery Land Company’s communication on the plans had been “woeful” and this had to change immediately.

He also addressed concerns that the firm was planning a gated community, in line with its other developments around the world.

John Swinney addresses crowd at Aberfeldy Town Hall.
John Swinney MSP at the Taymouth Castle meeting in Aberfeldy Town Hall. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

The pair said they would be demanding a masterplan for the entire development, and that they would be making clear that access to the estate grounds had to be maintained in order to comply with the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003.

“There can be no gated communities in Scotland,” said Mr Swinney.

Mr Wishart said politicians had met representatives of Discovery Land Company earlier that day and would be going back to them with action points from the meeting.

Pete Wishart MP addressing the meeting in Aberfeldy Town Hall.
Pete Wishart MP also addressed the meeting in Aberfeldy Town Hall. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson.

“They accept that they have got communication badly wrong on this one,” he said.

“But I believe they sincerely want to listen to the community.”

Taymouth Castle meeting called as pressure mounts

The meeting follows the launch of an online petition by the Protect Loch Tay group, which is urging the Scottish Government to block any further development on the project at Kenmore by Discovery Land Company.

More than 17,000 people have now added their names to the petition.

Ingrid Ess and Rob Jamieson of the Protect Loch Tay group in Kenmore.
Protect Loch Tay campaigners Ingrid Ess and Rob Jamieson. Image: DC Thomson.

Organisers say they have been “overwhelmed and overjoyed” by the level of support from objectors around the world.

However, the campaign has split opinion locally.

‘Scaremongering’ claim ahead of talks

Kenmore Community Council has accused critics of “scaremongering” over the plans for Taymouth Castle, which has been the subject of a series of ill-fated redevelopment bids in recent years.

The group’s spokesman Colin Morton told The Courier this week: “Taymouth Castle has a legacy of developers not doing what they promised.

Taymouth Castle exterior.
The Taymouth Castle plans sparked Thursday’s meeting. Image: Kenny Smith/ DCT Media.

“But the majority of the feedback I am hearing locally is that there is a sense of things going in the right direction this time, and that Kenmore is already beginning to see some benefits.”

Perth and Kinross Council has also said it is “broadly supportive” of the plans.

Taymouth Castle works under way

Discovery Land Company bought the estate in 2018 and has already embarked on a £300 million restoration of Taymouth Castle and golf course.

It also wants to build 145 exclusive properties, as well as a members-only clubhouse, sports centre and “wellness facility” in what will be its first UK venture.

Tamouth Casle library with elaborate panelling on walls and ceiling.
The Taymouth Castle library.

The firm already operates what it calls “worlds”, or “residential club communities” in Dubai, Florida and the Hamptons, New York.

It has bought 7,000 acres of land in Glen Lyon for use as a sporting club “offering up opportunities for fishing, stag hunting and more”.

And the former village shop and post office, the Kenmore hotel, a coffee shop and boating jetties on the loch side are all now in Discovery Land Company ownership too.

Protect Loch Tay says its intention is to create a gated community, or “billionaires paradise”, which will limit access to the Taymouth Castle estate, wreck its tranquil surroundings and bring little in the way of benefits to locals.