FEARS that one of Scotland’s most environmentally important stretches of coastline has been needlessly sacrificed were raised today, after Donald Trump pulled the plug on the development of the second golf course at his Menie estate.
The American tycoon was granted permission by the Scottish Government to develop his proposed £750 million golf facility in Aberdeen on part of a site of special scientific interest because of the economic and tourism benefits expected to flow from the completed development.
The proposed 450 bedroom luxury hotel, conference facilities and residential developments at the resort have yet to be built.
The Trump Organisation’s decision to withdraw their planning application for the Macleod course - planned to to be built in honour of Trump’s Scottish-born mother Mary MacLeod - has sparked mounting concerns that further development at Menie will now be completely stopped in its tracks.
Trump lost his legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s decision to give the go-ahead to the offshore wind farm in Aberdeen Bay he claims will spoil the views from his golf resort.
The Trump Organisation withdrew the planning application for the course yesterday afternoon - only days after lodging it with the council.
On Tuesday the tycoon announced that his global organisation would, in the immediate future, be focussing “all of our investment and energy” towards the development of a new golf resort development at Doonbeg on the Atlantic coast of the Republic of Ireland.
RSPB Scotland was at the forefront of the campaign to try and block the Menie development which involved stabilising a large area of shifting sands, said to be the “jewel in the crown” of Scotland’s mobile dunes system.
And Aedán Smith, the head of planning and development for RSPB Scotland, said today: “If Trump International were to abandon their plans for full investment at Menie, this would not be cause for celebration. It would be incredibly frustrating.
“The damage to the nationally important dune habitat has already happened with the construction of the first golf course.”
He continued: “RSPB Scotland and many others strongly opposed this development when it was proposed because of the environmental damage it would cause.
“Unfortunately, those concerns were overruled by the Scottish Government, who considered that the harm that would be caused to the environment would be outweighed by the national economic and social advantages of the project.”
Mr Smith warned: “If those national advantages are not realised we have lost a unique environmental asset for nothing.
“On the back of this, and the recent opencast coal restoration scandal in other parts of Scotland, perhaps it is time to look at whether our planning system places enough emphasis on the delivery of benefits promised by developers when they are all too keen to gain their valuable planning consents.”
‘Wind farm and golf course should muddle together’
Jim Gifford, the leader of Aberdeenshire Council, also voiced his concerns about the future of the Menie development.
He said council officials had only begun the official validation of the second course application when they were told that it had been withdrawn
Councillor Gifford said: “As long as Ireland is getting done as well as Menie then it’s not an issue. But if it’s instead of, then we would all have concerns about that. But I don’t know what their thinking is.”
He said: “The reason that the planning permission (for the resort) was recommended for approval was that the economic benefit outweighed the breaches of planning policy - building on a SSSI and so on. The benefit was what made the case for getting the permission in the first place. But if they don’t finish the whole project then we don’t get the full economic benefit so there’s definitely an issue there.”
“We are going to have a fantastic golf course and a nice clubhouse (at Menie). Whether the second course gets built or not I don’t think matters too much at all. But the economic benefit side comes from having the hotel, and tourist houses and all the rest of it. And if the housing allocation doesn’t come forward in the timescale we were expecting we have a shortfall in the overall housing allocations for that area.”
Councillor Gifford added: “We think both projects - the offshore turbines and Menie - should muddle along together. Offshore wind has a huge potential for the North east of Scotland and so has the Trump development at Menie. We would like to see them both progress, if they can find some way of working together.”
‘Trump will not invest’
Sarah Malone, the executive vice president of Trump International Golf Links Scotland, today confirmed that the Trump Organisation had withdrawn its planning application for a second championship course at Menie.
But she stressed that they would be continuing to “protect” their existing investment at the Aberdeenshire resort.
She said: “I can confirm that the second golf course application has been withdrawn in line with Mr Trump’s statement earlier this week.
“We have a phenomenal golf property in the North east of Scotland including our recently launched boutique house hotel - MacLeod House and Lodge - which is thriving and we will continue to protect this investment.
“But, as Mr Trump has said for the last few years, he will not invest further while the threat of wind turbines, only 1.5 miles off our coastline, remains a possibility.
“Trump is investing heavily in golf across the globe, most recently in Dubai, Miami and now Ireland. Our plans for the Scotland property would have happened at a much accelerated pace, had it not been for this issue.”
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “We have been asked by the Trump Organisation to withdraw its recent application for a second golf course at the Menie estate. The organisation is, of course, welcome to submit further planning applications regarding the development in the future.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The planning permission for the Menie Estate development was subject to a number of conditions to protect the environmental sensitivity of the site. These conditions are being monitored and enforced by Aberdeenshire Council.
“The Council has undertaken many inspections of the area and has produced several reports on the effect of the work carried out by the developer on the dunes and surrounding areas.”