Asos billionaire’s act of generosity after children killed in terror attacks
The Asos billionaire who tragically lost three children in the Sri Lanka terror attacks is ready to fund a new showpiece health hub for remote communities in Scotland.
Anders Holch Povlsen's UK company Wildland is in discussions to secure Church of Scotland land in the Highlands and is prepared to provide additional money to realise the scheme.
The money for the project in Tongue is above that already committed by NHS Highland and Highland Council.
Mr Povlsen, 46, has 13 estates in Scotland, and before the attacks had told how he wanted to pass on his dream of rewilding the land to his children because he will not live long enough to see it through.
Mr Povlsen – Scotland's biggest landowner – has confirmed that his son Alfred and daughters Alma and Agnes were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks.
The Danish billionaire, his wife Anne and their third daughter, Astrid, survived.
Wildland recently gave an interest-free, six-figure loan to local charity The Assynt Foundation, responsible for the 44,000-acre Glencanisp and Drumrunie estates, which had been struggling financially.
Now it is aiming to help solve a rural health crisis in the Far North.
Mr Povlsen's company last week attended a private meeting in Bettyhill with community and NHS representatives to help find a solution to realising the long running health hub scheme in Tongue, prompted by the re-design of health and adult social care services across Sutherland's north coast.
Tim Kirkwood, chief executive of Wildland, said: "If it's the right development, in the right place, we will support it and help with the additional funding. It is not a Wildland development, but we may be able to help make something everybody can be proud of for the longer term.
"There is a potential for a win, win, win for everybody in including the council, the NHS and most importantly the community.
"We have made an approach to the CoS and I think they are supportive, though it's early days. There are no red lights at this stage."
Mr Kirkwood said the new hub – which could now include a medical centre as well as the nursing and care home – would be greater than that first envisaged in the original scheme.
"Wildland are willing to help with that and augment the budget to make this development an exemplar and best possible for the area. There are no solid figures yet," he added.
Highland Council officials have already been warned that there will be outrage along the north coast if the long awaited proposal for the original £1.6million health hub at Tongue is dropped from the authority's capital plan.
Councillors are due to decide their five-year spending priorities shortly and concern is mounting the hub may be shelved as it battles to keep within budget.
Ngaire Mingham, chairperson of the Caladh Sona Action Group, and who has been involved in the hub project since its outset, welcomed Wildland's involvement.
She said: "They are a benevolent landowner who has done quite a lot for the community already. They are open to community engagement.
"Discussions are at an early stage and anything that is developed would come before a public meeting.
"I don't think we can build what we would like on the current site. I think it is too constrained."
In September, NHS Highland said the hub facility would consist of residential/nursing beds plus 'step up/down beds', respite and palliative care support.
It will include treatment/consultations rooms with NHS Near Me video conferencing.
The facilities are also designed to provide both and in and out of hours services – using advanced nursing practitioners.
And there are plans to potentially build 'Fit Homes' on the north coast. A pilot 'Fit Home' project for 16 homes, in which NHS Highland is a partner, has been completed at Dalmore near Alness.
The alternative site for the hub will offer residential and nursing care facilities as well as a range of other services – some linked by technology.
The site already earmarked for it is owned by the council and lies next to the medical practice and the Kyle Centre.
But the possibility has now arisen that it could be sited on CoS owned glebe land to the north of the village.
Should the hub project go ahead, it would lead to the closure of two residential care homes – Caladh Sonar at Talmine and Sinclair Court at Melvich.
Councillor Linda Munro, who represents North, West and Central Sutherland, said: "I am hopeful that something wonderful can be achieved because the communities deserve it."
The discussions with Wildland began prior to the Sri Lankan tragedy.
A special packed church service was held in Tongue in the wake of the bombings to "quietly reflect" on the tragedy – and with prayers offered for the Povlsens.
"The congregation of Wildland staff and a large number of local people expressed the respect and appreciation they hold for Anne and Anders, and all they are putting into this community," said the Rev Simon Matthews, who led the reflection.
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