Billionaire sheikh’s estate house plans rejected by Highland councillors

An artist’s impression of the proposed house (left)

One of the world’s richest men has been thwarted in his battle to build a new house on his west-coast estate.

Members of Highland Council’s north planning committee today voted to reject 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The sheikh’s firm SMECH properties has twice withdrawn previous applications for the new build.

Local councillor Biz Campbell had initially backed the amended design, though she expressed disappointment that a developer contribution was not being sought to upgrade the local Glebe Road in Inverinate.

However, in a surprise move planning chair Maxine Smith said the house could have been built further away from a neighbouring property, and moved to object to the plans.

Neighbour Roddy MacLeod led the opposition

She proposed the refusal, siting the impact of the residential amenity on a neighbouring property.

She added that the plans did not demonstrate sensitive siting.

Biz Campbell then performed a U-turn and voted with planning chair Smith.

Wester Ross member Derek MacLeod’s proposal to grant the application was backed by Caithness councillor Raymond Bremner, but failed to carry enough support.

Neighbour Roddy MacLeod’s objections had persuaded the planning chair to make the move.

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

Mr MacLeod believed the new building would have overshadowed his own home, and his objections were backed by several other locals and the Loch Duich community council.

Planning officials had recommended the green light for what would have added to an already extensive property portfolio.

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

The sheikh – whose wealth is estimated in the billions – had agreed to pay the £30,000 sum.

Elsewhere, the north planning committee also backed a new 36-metre long dunnage warehouse at Torabhaig distillery on Skye.

The distillery has said it will create an additional five jobs.

The distillery had originally said whisky would be matured off the island, but were now responding to visitor demand.

A number of objections had been received on visual grounds.

Historic Environment Scotland withdrew their earlier reservations.