Trump accused of 'Highland Clearances' after bid to take over neighbours' land
DONALD Trump was accused yesterday of paving the way for the "Highland Clearances" of land surrounding the estate where he plans to build the "world's greatest golf resort".
The tycoon's organisation has sent letters to the owners of five properties on about 100 acres of land next to the Menie Estate, near Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, with a fresh offer to buy them out.
The owners, which include the campaigning opponent of the plans Michael Forbes, fear the approach is only the first step towards a bid by the Trump empire to seek the support of the local council in seizing their land through compulsory purchase orders.
Until now, Mr Trump has insisted he already owns all the land he needs on which to build two championship golf courses, a 450-bedroom hotel, 950 holiday homes and 500 houses.
But Neil Hobday, the project director, has now written to the owners of adjacent properties, informing them that the Trump Organisation intends to submit applications for planning approval for their additional land, which the tycoon still does not own.
The move has sparked outrage among the home owners.
David Milne, who owns Hermit Cottage, a former Coastguard station, said: "This is just another low-level bullying tactic. It's the same sort of thing as locking the gates and restricting access and non-maintenance of the roads in the area."
He added: "I am ignoring it. We have said all along that our land is not for sale.
"But I know that some of the people who have been approached are concerned that their homes will be taken from them by compulsory purchase.
"They haven't got the confidence that I have that compulsory purchase is not an option.
"It would be a quantum leap in stupidity if the council were to support compulsory purchase."
Mickey Foote, a spokesman for protest group Sustainable Aberdeenshire, said: "This is Trump's version of the Highland Clearances. He is going over the heads of the owners and putting in planning applications for properties he doesn't own.
"Trump said only a few months ago he didn't want their land, so why is he now submitting planning applications for their land?"
He went on: "The council have compulsory purchase powers, but whether they would be foolish enough to do that, I don't know. These people don't want to sell and to force them out would be beyond the pale."
Mr Hobday insisted that council support for compulsory purchase orders would only be sought as a "last resort".
He told The Scotsman: "We need these properties because they are integral to the new, emerging, detailed master plan. It is all for the better planning of the area. What the master plan is telling us now is that they are essential to the viability of the whole project. Some of them impinge on the golf courses, the operational efficiency of both golf courses and infrastructure access."
He went on: "It is 100 per cent our intention, as always, to treat these discussions on an amicable basis and hope that we can come to mutually beneficial arrangements so that the land owners and home owners get what they need to carry on with their lives."
LOCAL authorities can use compulsory purchase powers to buy land for infrastructure service projects and to aid private developments.
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said: "
Whether or not they would be used in this case would be a matter for consideration by the full council. We would expect the applicant to have exhausted every possible opportunity open to them before the council would require to consider using these powers."
Asked if compulsory purchase was an option, Mr Hobday replied: "I am really hoping that we don't have to go down that route. It will be the absolute last resort and we have yet to determine whether that is possible. All we want to do is to do a great job here."
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said: "We would hope that they (the Trump Organisation] had pursued every single avenue open to them with the land owners before the council is even asked to consider a compulsory purchase order."
A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond declined to comment on the latest development. He said: "The process is a matter between the developers and Aberdeenshire Council."
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