HIGHLAND Council has been warned its support for tycoon Mohamed al-Fayed in the fight against plans for a £43 million incinerator could be a conflict of interest because of the millionaire’s bid for a 100-home development in the same area.
The local authority has joined forces with the former Harrods owner, who owns Balnagown Estate in Ross-shire, in a legal challenge opposing the plans.
North MSP Mary Scanlon has asked how the council could work with Mr Fayed yet still make an impartial decision on his project on nearby land. Both parties insist they are doing nothing wrong in working together as they lodge actions in the Court of Session against the plans for an incinerator.
The Scottish Government approved the incinerator project last year. Ross Estates, owned by Mr Fayed, is seeking permission to build homes three miles away, at Barbaraville.
Mrs Scanlon said: “Obviously the incinerator and Mr Fayed’s pending planning application are two separate issues. But the council is responsible for determining planning and there is a risk of a perceived conflict of interest, given the proximity between the incinerator site and the proposed housing development.”
John Boocok, chairman of Kilmuir and Logie Easter Community Council, said: “How can we have any confidence in a planning service that, on the one hand, is working closely with the developer and, on the other hand, has to give an impartial decision?”
A council spokeswoman said: “Both the council and Ross Estates continue to instruct separate and independent legal and professional representation, as was also the case throughout the public local inquiry process.
“It is inevitable there will be common ground in arguments put forward, but there are also areas where parties differ.”
A spokesman for Mr Fayed said: “The incinerator affects everything and is far too important for other considerations to come into account.”