Sheikh’s falconry plan for Bonchester farm

THE QATARI Royal family could soon be regular visitors to the Borders if planners give the go-ahead to a falconry breeding centre near Bonchester Bridge.

Businessman Sheikh Ali Bin Abdulla Althani hopes to turn his 48-acre Weensmuir Farm, near the village, into a bird of prey centre with accommodation for staff and visitors.

The Doha-based sheikh plans to breed top raptors to sell to the Middle East and hopes wealthy guests will stay at the farm to view the birds in training before buying.

Alnwick architect and agent James Murdie submitted the plans to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) on the sheikh’s behalf and said in a note to planners: “This client and development will bring a huge financial advantage to this rural region from an everyday use basis to visiting clients and family from Qatar.”

The Qatari businessman hopes to build a 2,080 square metre ‘hack’ pen with viewing platform for training falcons and a 440 square metre pen for keeping and breeding the hawks along with a new general purpose building.

He plans to extend the farmhouse to cater for the centre manager, owners and visiting dignitaries, and convert the stable block into high quality dormitories for other visitors and staff.

The plans also include the provision of a wildlife lake and an access track around the edge of the farm.

In a statement to SBC supporting the application, Mr Murdie said: “The breeding of high quality hawks from good bloodstock and training for hunting is a popular pastime in Qatar and the reputation for hawks trained in the UK is excellent. The proposed business is intended to take advantage of this reputation and local expertise and apply them to the property resource at Weensmuir Farm.”

The statement continues: “The business will depend upon custom from visiting high net worth individuals, many of whom are members of the Royal family or considered to be dignitaries.”

And Mr Murdie notes: “In addition, the majority of the visiting customers expect to travel with a considerable entourage of between 12-15 persons. It is expected that these persons will be accommodated on the farm alongside the visiting customers in order to provide their on-going services.”

The visitors and their staff spending money locally would provide additional economic benefit to the community, according to the statement.

If SBC give the plans the green light, the development is expected to create two full time jobs and up to three part-time.