Friday, June 21

Dubai’s ruler scraps Scottish estate plan amid divorce row



The billionaire ruler of Dubai has withdrawn controversial plans for developing a nine-bedroom lodge at his Highland retreat amid a divorce battle with his youngest wife.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum dropped the scheme to expand Inverinate Estate in the Scottish Highlands while reports flooded in that his wife fled Dubai and is hiding in London with their children.

He had submitted plans for a two-storey, nine-bedroom building designed to accommodate family and friends at his home in Wester Ross but he faced opposition from locals.

The Highland residence already boasts helipads and a 14-bedroom holiday home, next door to a 16-bedroom luxury hunting lodge with pool and gym.

Architects working for the sheikh say his family’s trips to the area have been limited by lack of accommodation.

Earlier this year he was granted permission to build a 19-bedroom lodge as well as a nine-bedroom house at the 63,000-acre estate.

However plans for a further lodge, called Ptarmigan, led to 16 objections being made to Highland Council over the proposed property, which overlooks a neighbouring bungalow close to Loch Duich.

A decision was due to be made on the sheikh’s application but on Friday the plans were withdrawn.

It came after a week of revelations about the private life of the 69-year-old sheikh, who has six wives and 23 children.

His youngest wife Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, 45, is said to be in hiding with her children in a London mansion after fleeing Dubai.

Her husband, one of the world’s richest men, is set to file for divorce at the High Court in London on July 30.

A supporting statement accompanying the sheikh’s latest bid to expand his Highland estate said the proposed new lodge is ‘sympathetic to the existing pattern of development that prevails in the area, and ‘compatible with landscape character and capacity within both the immediate and wider surrounding area.

Addressing concerns over increased traffic, the sheikh’s representatives wrote: The proposed lodges are for the sole, exclusive use of the current land owner and guests. They will not be rented out for tourist use. As with the current lodges, occupation is infrequent. They are not occupied for large periods of the year.

It is anticipated that there will be no significant increase in car movements above the existing traffic flow following completion of the construction phases. As with the current lodges, the majority of visits to the property are by either coach or helicopter, supported by a fleet of six 4×4 cars for shooting parties/visits.

However, the scheme angered a number of local people including bungalow owner Roddy Macleod, 70, whose home of 35 years sits just 20 metres from the proposed lodge.

He said: ‘It’s a monstrosity that’s going to spoil the area completely and it will certainly kick the hell out of my house.

‘He’s got so much land he could build a house anywhere but instead he’s decided to build right on top of my place.

It’s very tall with 18 windows looking into my house, so my privacy is gone and it will block out the sunlight. This is a place of scenic beauty, right on the shores of Loch Duich and I had a lovely peaceful house until they built the addition to the existing lodge with a swimming pool.

The sheikh, who has an estimated £14 billion fortune and founded the Godolphin horse racing stable, bought the estate more than 20 years ago.