ONE of the world’s richest men intends to build a 16-bedroom mansion in the Highlands.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, is seeking permission to build a lodge-style home on his 63,000-acre Inverinate Estate in Wester Ross, near the Kyle of Lochalsh.
Previous plans for a 14-bedroom home faced objections from planners on Highland Council but were approved by the local authority’s planning committee in 2009. He later decided the home was too small.
Now the 65-year-old, who has 23 children, has embarked on a project which includes a swimming pool and gym. Highland officers will decide on the application in the coming weeks.
Sheikh Mohammed has overseen numerous projects in Dubai, including the creation of the Palm Islands and the luxury Burj Al Arab hotel. He also promoted the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
The Maktoum family has in the past made contributions to the local community, including building a £250,000 Inverinate and Loch Duich Community Centre and donating funds towards its running costs.
He has also donated land for a care home for the elderly and, outside the Highlands, is patron of the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee.
A renowned racehorse breeder, Sheikh Mohammed bought the estate about 30 years ago for a reputed £2 million. His family visits for a few weeks every year in the summer when temperatures in the UAE near 50C.
The new planning application has been made by his company, Smech Management Ltd.
In a letter to planners, KJ Architects say: “Planning permission for the new lodge at Inverinate is for a modern, contemporary interpretation of a hunting lodge which was designed to contrast and supplement the existing lodge without resorting to mimicry.
“Whilst contemporary in approach, the use of locally sourced materials creates a building rooted in the local vernacular and acknowledges the relationship with the adjacent, existing lodge and rural setting.”
It goes on: “This new proposal is basically the approved lodge, including retaining wall and substation, with additional accommodation comprising a connected pavilion with gym/pool and associated leisure facilities.”
KJ said the builder intends to use sustainable Scottish larch for timber cladding and Scot-tish stone on the walls, and also to give “emphasis to the local character of the building within both its immediate and wider rural setting”.
The original house design faced criticism from planners, who felt it was “inappropriate and insensitive” next to the historic Inverinate House and its picturesque surroundings, and recommended that it be refused planning consent.
But in 2009, members of the council’s Ross, Skye and Lochaber area committee went against their officials’ advice and approved the plans.