Tycoon locked in battle over gates

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ONE of Scotland's richest men yesterday branded a council's attempt to force him to tear down the £30,000 ornamental gateway to his estate a "farce".

Larry Kinch, who has amassed a 47 million fortune from North Sea oil, claimed the protracted battle with Aberdeen City Council over the entrance, labelled a "garish monstrosity" by one councillor, had spiralled out of control.

He said: "I have been trying to resolve this for two years. It has reached loggerheads. The entire case against me is a farce. The council want me to demolish my entrance because it doesn't fit in with the area but they're planning to build a motorway 500 metres away."

Mr Kinch was speaking after a special hearing, chaired by a Scottish Executive reporter, into the dispute over the ornate gateway at his 50-acre Westfield Lodge estate at Milltimber on the outskirts of the city.

The row began in April 2003, after Mr Kinch was granted planning permission to build a gateway for "agricultural, forestry and land-management purposes".

There were no objections, but once the work started the community council complained the development was out of keeping with the rural area.

Last year councillors ordered the walls and pillars to be flattened after ruling the development was in breach of the approved plan. Planners claimed a gateway of "a more monumental appearance" had been constructed and warned that if it remained it would undermine green belt policy.

Paul Pillath, the council's head of conservation and design, said: "We have come such a long way from the simplicity and dignity of the original plan. The scheme was fine; a drystone dyke was being rebuilt. This was to mark the entrance to an estate, and that was done in the application in a restrained, elegant fashion.

"What has been built is considerably poorer in quality than the approved scheme. It stands out as being obtrusive in this countryside setting."

Maureen Harper, a council planner, said: "The new walls have been built in different positions and a different shape. They have been built as concrete brick with natural facings and not as drystone dykes."

However, Mr Kinch's lawyer, Marysia Lewis, told the hearing: "The development does not adversely affect the landscape."

A ruling is expected next month.

Mr Kinch, 53, co-founded the oil service company Petroleum Engineering Services and received 25 million in shares for his stake when it was sold to energy giant Halliburton five years ago for 110 million.