Billionaire sheikh will pay council £30,000 levy as part of controversial Highland house plan

An artist’s impression of the planned house (left), with neighbour Roddy MacLeod’s home ‘Corriehaillie’ beside it

One of the world’s richest men will have to pay just £30,000 towards local affordable housing as part of conditions attached to a controversial planning consent on his west-coast estate.

Members of Highland Council’s north planning committee will meet today (Tuesday 9th June) to finally decide on a long-running proposal for a new six-bedroom lodge on Inverinate Estate, owned by the ruler of Dubai and horse racing magnate Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

The sheikh’s firm SMECH properties has twice withdrawn previous applications for the new build.

Roddy MacLeod accuses the sheikh of a “Trump-style” land grab

But this time planners are recommending the green light for what will be the third additional building of similar size on the estate.

The three houses complement a huge new mansion, including helipads, swimming pool and gym, which was completed in 2019.   

Under the council’s affordable housing policy, the sheikh is now due to pay a levy as it will be the fourth house under his ownership to be built at Inverinate since the guidelines came into force in 2012.

Planning documents state that the sheikh – whose wealth is estimated in the billions – is agreeable to paying the £30,000 sum.

Neighbour Roddy MacLeod has led the opposition, and says the new building will overshadow his own home.

His objections are backed by several other locals and the Loch Duich community council.

Mr MacLeod has accused SMECH properties of mounting “a land grab on the Trump scale”, and says the “mega-rich” are being “given priority over the native Highlander.”

Council planners said the aesthetics of the building are “more muted and less imposing” than previous proposals, and have recommended the application be granted.

However, Mr MacLeod believes the applicant’s promise to mitigate invasiveness by planting trees would represent an additional hazard.

It would “take away all light and induce dampness to the gable end of my property”, he added.

Writing on behalf of Loch Duich community council Donald MacIntosh said: “The community council feel this development is at the very edge of the estate boundary and when there is so much other land available to the owner why build in such a sensitive area causing such distress to our permanent residents.

“The development may only be used once a year if that.”

Last week the Sunday Post reported that the estate, bought by the sheikh in the 1980s, received more that than £80,000 in EU farm subsidies in 2019.

Earlier this year Sheikh Mohammed made headlines after being found by the High Court to have abducted and forcibly returned two of his daughters to Dubai.

In April, following the coronavirus outbreak, the Sheikh also donated 60 tonnes of personal protective equipment to the NHS, buying it from suppliers in China and having it flown to the UK.

The Inverinate application will be heard at a meeting of the north planning applications committee, held online on Tuesday 9th June at 10.30 am.

This meeting will be filmed and broadcast over the internet on the Highland Council website.