US tycoon Donald Trump’s golf resort in the north-east is at the centre of claims that it has seen just £25 million of investment, despite initial pledges that up to £1 billion would be pumped in.
The allegations in a documentary to be screen tonight have been dismissed as a “manipulation of the facts” by the Trump Organisation, which insists four times as much has already been spent – and it hopes to carry out further development.
The Panorama documentary also claims that only a few hundred of the 6,000 jobs earmarked for the Trump International Golf Links on the Menie Estate, near Aberdeen, have materialised – with First Minister Alex Salmond telling the programme that the lack of progress has been “disappointing”.
The documentary claims that the most recent financial accounts, to December 2011, indicate the Trump organisation has spent just £25 million.
Initial plans were unveiled for two courses, a five-star hotel, and nearly 1,500 homes and flats in 2007 on the environmentally protected land. So far, there is only a golf course and 200 jobs.
The programme also says that since the estate was bought for £7 million, the paper value of the tycoon’s estate has been boosted – thanks to planning consents for 500 new homes – to an estimated £100m.
But George Sorial, executive vice president of the Trump Organisation, last night insisted the project has yet to be completed.
“All we have done is build a championship golf course and the ancillary facilities. We would still like to go forward and build a hotel and several thousands residential units.”
He added that the 200 staff employed at the moment did not include the hundreds taken on to build the course, clubhouse and approach roads, while future development will create “many thousands of jobs going forward”.
Mr Sorial said that the Companies House records used by Panorama to calculate the £25m figure “do not reflect the full extent of what’s been allocated to the project” which is about $100 million (£67m).
The executive said the value of the property has gone up, but insisted a “tremendous amount of work and resources” have been put in, at a huge risk, to create something with “international recognition”.
Mr Salmond initially faced criticism for being too close to Mr Trump, but the pair fell out spectacularly over plans for 11 offshore wind turbines adjacent to the course. The developer fears these will ruin the view and this has led to work stalling at the site.
Mr Salmond said: “I’m disappointed that the plans haven’t gone ahead as originally envisaged, I hope they will do.”
But Mr Sorial insisted that the scheme went ahead at the height of the global financial crisis.
“Alex Salmond should be thanking us for going forward at a very difficult time. When the entire world was collapsing and enduring extreme economic challenge, we pressed forward and made a significant investment in this country.”