THE SCALE of the billionaire Prince of Dubai’s new 16-bedroom lodge in the Scottish Highlands is only now becoming apparent as construction of a massive annexe adjacent to his current Highland hideaway progresses.
Situated next to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s current 14-bedroom holiday home, the new property dwarfs the original on his 63,000-acre estate in Inverinate in Wester Ross and is near one of Scotland’s most famous landmarks, Eilean Donan Castle - featured in recent James Bond movies.
However, some locals fear that the peace and tranqullity that this part of the Highlands is famous for will be spoilt by the 65 year old Crown Prince’s recent success in securing permission to build four 65ft helipads to transport his mega-wealthy guests to the property.
His architects successfully applied for permission for the ‘modern hunting lodge’ which includes an interconnected swimming pool, gym and leisure facilities. There are also plans to install seven satellite dishes on the estate.
But the structure is more extravagant than an earlier application for a 16-bedroom house on the shores of Loch Duich which was approved in 2009.
It was recommended for refusal by planners who said the design was ‘more akin to a development found in business parks’.
However the revised plans were still approved and the Sheikh followed that victory up with his successful bid to build the four helicopter landing pads behind the walled garden on the remote Highland estate.
Few locals are prepared to openly criticise the Sheikh who was spent some of his vast wealth on improving facilities for the locals, as well as providing employment for others on the estate.
One, who did not want to be named, said: “Some fear that the new building will become a blot on the landscape because it overpowers what is a beautiful loch.
“The Sheikh has been good to the area but this new lodge may be a bit too elaborate and excessive for this part of the Highlands.”
Former Aberdeenshire councillor Debra Storr, who owns a holiday letting business, was also concerned increased air traffic would spoil the peace and tranquillity of the area.
She also feared the increased noise and light pollution from the helicopters would drive her customers away.
In a letter to the local authority, Ms Storr called for nearby airfields to be used for the helicopters instead of the estate.
She said: “I am concerned that the development of four helipads imply an intensification of helicopter traffic.
“While I accept that there are no residential properties immediate adjacent to the landing site, due to the topography the inbound and outbound routes are constrained and are therefore likely to impact nearby settlements like Dornie and Sheil Bridge, particularly as lighting is to be provided to accommodate flying at night and in low visibility.
The Sheikh, who is estimated to have a £4billion fortune, bought the estate more than 30 years ago for a reputed £2million. His family visit every year in the summer.
The present Inverinate House was built in 1929 following a fire in 1864 which destroyed the original building.
Al-Maktoum is renowned for his extravagant lifestyle. He has several wives and 20 children and became prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates in 2006.
In 1995, he began overseeing the transformation of desert land into the world’s most luxurious resort and business destination. He helped develop the Palm Islands, the Burj al-Arab hotel, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, the Dubai World Cup and the Godolphin Stables.