Dubai sheikh wins battle to build four helipads

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum has won the battle with a local business owner over his plans for helipads. Picture: AFP
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum has won the battle with a local business owner over his plans for helipads. Picture: AFP
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THE billionaire ruler of Dubai has won a battle to build four helicopter landing pads on his remote Highland estate.

Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum wants the helipads to allow corporate and private guests to be flown straight into the 63,000-acre Inverinate Estate in Lochalsh.

But he found himself at loggerheads with a local business owner over the plans amid concerns increased air traffic would spoil the peace and tranquillity of the area.

Debra Storr, a former Aberdeenshire councillor who owns a holiday letting business, said increased noise and light pollution from the helicopters could drive her customers away.

However, Highland Council have now given the green light to the proposal but have limited the number of hours in which aircraft can fly in and out of the estate.

The 65 sq ft landing zones are to be located within the walled gardens of the lavish estate, which overlooks Eilean Donan Castle.

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.

“I operate a holiday let business in the area and my guests seek peace and quiet. Helicopters are very noisy machines.

“I therefore would like to see a proper assessment of the likely noise impact on the nearby settlements of Dornie and Sheil Bridge particularly as lighting is to be provided to accommodate flying at night and in low visibility.

“I point to the existence of the airstrips at Broadford and Plockton as alternative nearby facilities where this more intense use may be more readily accommodated with less disruption all round.”

However, the council dismissed her concerns and granted consent to the pads on the condition there are no flights between 10pm and 7am.

In a written ruling, planning officials said: “The settlements of Shiel Bridge and Dornie lie some 3km and 6km respectively from the site. Given these distances, no adverse effects on residential amenity within these settlements could be expected.

“The nearest residential property not in the ownership of the applicant is some 510m to the north west of the site.

“This is a much greater distance than the houses which lie close to Plockton airstrip – which the objector cites as a facility which might more readily accommodate the applicant’s helicopter traffic with less disruption.

“However, it is considered reasonable to restrict the hours of operation by means of condition to prevent helicopter movements to and from the site between 10pm and 7am. As discussed above, light pollution is not considered to be an issue.”

The 66-year-old sheikh, a well-known horse breeder, has a number of wives and more than 20 children.

He bought the estate more than 30 years ago for a reputed Pounds 2 million. His family visit every year in the summer. The present Inverinate House was built in 1929 to replace a rebuild, constructed following a fire in 1864.

Last year the local authority approved plans for a new 16-bedroom mansion, including a swimming pool and gym.

The Crown Prince 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.

The ruler of Dubai also has a love of hunting, shooting and camel racing.