LOCALS are raising the alarm over plans to turn a historic Scottish castle and 8000 acres of land into a high-security private compound for the mega-rich.

US firm Discovery Land Company (DLC) is looking to build the gated community on the shores of Loch Tay, in Perthshire, where access will be limited to paying members and support staff.

Similar DLC-owned compounds – which the company calls “worlds” – charge initiation fees of up to $300,000 and follow-up annual fees of as much as $37,500.

On top of those charges, house prices on DLC land are well into the multi-million-dollar bracket, with some going as high as the tens of millions for a single property.

READ MORE: Why we're fighting to stop our loch becoming a billionaires' 'playground'

The plan is to construct the private community over two main parcels of land: Taymouth Castle estate (450 acres) and the neighbouring Glenlyon estate (7000 acres). Locals have reported security on constant guard outside the perimeters.

However, the firm also appears to have been buying up land elsewhere, including the village of Kenmore on the loch’s eastern end.

DLC’s Linked In for the Taymouth Castle project says it will span “8000 majestic acres”.

Campaigners opposing the development have organised through a Protect Loch Tay Facebook group, which was set up by local business owner Rob Jamieson.

Jamieson said the US firm wants to “basically destroy what’s in existence” in the area, going on: “They keep saying ‘we’re going to build a community’. They’re building a community for very rich people, they’re not including people who are there already.”

Community clubs or self-contained 'worlds'?

Mike Meldman, DLC’s founder, has previously made clear that the compounds are completely self-reliant.

“Our communities have their own medical staff, food and beverage services, wellness programs, and children’s academic and recreational programs,” he told Forbes in 2022. “Our members have everything they need.”

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The isolationist nature of DLC’s “worlds” have led to concerns that the local area will see no economic benefits at all from Taymouth Castle’s development into a “clubhouse”, a term used by project manager Tom Collopy, who also described Scotland as a “playground”.

“The only benefit will be poorly paid jobs,” Jamieson told The National.

“They’re not going to pop out for a tea and a scone at the local baker’s. That’s just not going to happen. Anybody who’s thinking it will is kidding themselves on.”

The National:

Jamieson said that many locals had first thought the plans were to redevelop Taymouth Castle into a traditional hotel, which could have brought benefits to the region.

He went on: “I was absolutely raging – I mean livid – when I realised exactly what was going on here.

“I didn’t know what to do. I tried speaking to a few local people and most people seemed oblivious. I thought, right, people have got to know. So I started this group and it just went ‘bang’. It was unbelievable the number of people that suddenly joined.”

The private Protect Loch Tay group has welcomed more than 700 members in a matter of weeks, and Jamieson suggests there are early plans to formalise into a more official entity such as a trust or charity.

Without locals speaking out, he says, there are fears that Loch Tay’s unique character will be lost.

'It's never been exploited that way'

“I mean it’s really, really shocking,” Jamieson went on. “Loch Earn a few miles away, that’s got water sports there. Loch Lomond, everyone’s got their jet skis and boats down there. Loch Tay is a completely different entity. It’s never been exploited in that way.”

There are widespread concerns that an expansion of water sports on the loch, and the advertised “high-powered” off-road vehicles to be used on “pastoral” landscapes, will negatively impact on wildlife in the area, including rare birds such as ospreys (below) and black-throated divers.

The National:

Furthermore, exactly how many residences will be inside the DLC compound is unclear. An article in their annual in-house magazine says there will be 208 residential units, while job adverts posted on the UK Government’s website say it “will offer 125 residences”.

In their North American locations, DLC clubs have sold land to prospective members, who then build their own properties within its boundaries. This could see the number of residences driven up further still. Town and Country magazine reported in 2016: “The average price to build a house at a Discovery club is $4 million but can cost up to $22 million.”

The article added that the “minimum investment” to build a house in DLC’s Silo Ridge compound in New York state is $3 million.

Who exactly owns the Discovery Land Company's Taymouth project?

Trying to find out exactly who has control over which part of the Taymouth and Glenlyon project is a maze of company names, directors, and people with “significant control”.

Taymouth Castle estate is listed as being owned by The River Tay Castle LLP, Scottish land ownership expert and former MSP Andy Wightman (below) said.

According to Companies House, that LLP is controlled by two further companies: Taymouth Holdings Ltd and Taymouth (member no.2) Ltd.

In turn, each of those two companies has five registered officers, the first of which is Alter Domus, a Luxembourg-based asset manager with offices in London’s Gherkin.

Meldman is listed as a former director of both and the person with significant control of Taymouth Holdings Ltd.

The National: EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 17:  Scottish writer Andy Wightman attends a photocall at Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 17, 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images).

The 7000-acre Glenlyon estate is owned by Kenmore Hospitality Ltd, which is controlled by PLH In The Highlands Uk Ltd. In turn, that company is controlled by John Paul DeJoria, an American billionaire who owns Patron Spirits and runs “JP’s Peace Love and Happiness Foundation”.

Meldman has also made a tidy packet from the spirits industry, co-founding the Casamigos tequila company with actor George Clooney and businessman Rande Gerber. The three sold the firm to drinks giant Diageo – which also owns Johnnie Walker – for a reported $1 billion in 2017.

Meldman’s name appears behind many of the myriad firms which have been set up to control aspects of the Taymouth development, including ones with names like “Kenmore Land Four Limited”, “Kenmore Land Thirty Eight Limited”, and Discovery Taymouth Management Ltd (the firm which is advertising jobs at the estate on the UK Government website).

Others, such as Kenmore Beach Ltd, Kenmore Beach Parking Ltd, and Kenmore Hotel Holdings Ltd, are ultimately controlled by DeJoria’s PLH In The Highlands Uk Ltd.

READ MORE:Scottish firm who donated thousands to Tories now Scottish Labour's biggest backer

“It could well be that this company owns a lot more than is revealed here,” Wightman said.

“If they are operating through a number of companies, doing a search is incredibly difficult. Unless you know the names of all those companies you can’t do a search.”

Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba (below), who is currently proposing a bill to limit land ownership to 500 hectares per person before a purchase must meet public interest requirements, spoke against the development.

"For as long as Scotland’s land can be hoarded and developed by the super-rich to create their own elite ‘playground’, we are living closer to medieval feudalism than a just, equitable society,” Villalba told The National.

The National:

Jamieson said the development will not benefit anyone but the mega-rich.

“They keep saying ‘this is going to be for the benefit of everybody’, it’s not,” he said. “It’s not going to benefit anybody but the people who own it.

“They are purely here to make money. They’ve looked at this and thought the historical heritage of Scotland, the natural heritage, can be monetised.”

Perth and Kinross Council said it is “broadly supportive of this ambitious project”. It went on: “The council considers all planning applications in line with national and local policy and guidance and will determine them accordingly.”

The council’s website lists scores of planning applications linked to the Taymouth project, with many already approved. The most recent is for the erection of a “staff service/welfare building” and “office building” as well as a host of other developments.

READ MORE: New Scots family 'finally free of the Home Office' after 12-year battle

Attempts to contact DLC for comment have been frustrated. The firm’s website says to contact “info@taymouthcastle.com” with enquiries. When The National did so, it received only an error message.

Interestingly, taymouthcastle.com is not owned by DLC. Instead, it is a satirical take on what the US firm might be hoping to do with the estate.

“Come with us on a journey, to find what lies beneath the billionaire development at Taymouth Castle ... A secret group of elite vampires? Extra-terrestrial activities? We ask the questions, so you don’t have to,” the website’s introduction reads.

"As the premises remain guarded 24 hours a day, we’ve found ourselves wondering what workings would warrant so much security, other than perhaps, something to hide?"

Efforts were made to contact DLC through other inboxes instead but no replies were forthcoming.