“If you are rich and powerful, you can do what you like in Scotland”

• Local family devastated as Sheikh wins holiday lodge appeal

Roddy MacLeod at his family home
Photo: Willie Urquhart WHFP

A father and daughter from Lochalsh were “utterly devastated” this week when they learned that the Scottish Government is to allow one of the world’s richest men to build a large holiday home just a few yards from their own property.

Roddy and Tina MacLeod from Inverinate have been battling Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai (pictured) for several years and were buoyed in June when Highland Council rejected the latest proposal for a six-bedroom lodge around 60 feet from their family home, ‘Corriehallie’.

This week they learned that Gordon Reid, the Scottish Government’s planning appeals reporter, was minded to throw his weight behind the Sheikh’s plans, part of a series of developments taking place around the 62-000 acre Killilan and Inverinate Estate.

In response, Tina MacLeod, who co-owns the Stròm contemporary lifestyle store in Kyle of Lochalsh, told the Free Press: “We are utterly devastated. Dad is very upset and quite distraught. I am furious. Of course we expected this, but we always felt there might just be a tiny glimmer of hope for some understanding of this rural area and respect for our local planning authority.

An artist impression of the Sheikh’s planned holiday house

“It will be interesting to see the future implications of this decision. It essentially means that the public comments procedure in place on the planning system is rendered obsolete.” Thirty local objections to the Sheikh’s plans were submitted to the council, with none in favour. However, the insistence of council planner Graham Sharp that the application be approved – a recommendation defeated by members of the north planning committee in June – was the reason why the estate was able to appeal the matter to the Scottish Government. The council had rejected two previous applications for a lodge.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai

Miss MacLeod added: “If you are rich and powerful, and preferably foreign/non-resident, you can do what you like in Scotland. Whether it be an Aberdeenshire golf course or a tiny Highland hamlet around your vast sporting estates, you’re golden.

“This has dragged on for the last two years and it hasn’t even begun yet. Living on a building site for a property that size will be utterly intolerable. Our peaceful way of life is over now, they will take all we have left of our family home.”

Her father, Roddy MacLeod, said it only seemed to be the big companies like property developers and wind farms “that challenge council refusals, appeal to the Scottish Government, and win.”

He added: “The historic right of way through the estate has been locked off during the over-development of the lodge grounds, and is no longer available to the community. During this planning process and the sale of the plot from the Church of Scotland to Smech (the Sheikh’s property arm), I have learned that my right of the use of the jetty, which is in my title deeds, has been denied.

“In reply, when I challenged this, the planning officer said it was a civil matter. What other rights can they take from me?”