Trump development hit by property slump
PLANS to build hundreds of homes at US tycoon Donald Trump's golf resort are on hold because of a slow-down in the property market, his managing director said today.
George Sorial, who helped steer the Menie Estate resort plan in Aberdeenshire through a sometimes torturous two-year process, said the real estate part could take several years.
But the New York-based lawyer hinted more projects could be coming to the UK – possibly Scotland again – once the north east development is under way.
He said: "The way we envisage it is that the golf course is full speed ahead. With the golf comes a club house and maintenance facilities, then the hotel.
"The homes could take several years. We can't help but acknowledge the slow-down in the market.
"We have to sell them, so we're not going to build anything until it feels right.
"Markets will change. Whenever we have a cycle like this, a bad real estate market is followed by a period of rapid, aggressive growth.
"There is, and will be, a demand for homes."
He said local needs demanded thousands of homes annually.
"Our project is a drop in the bucket," he added.
Mr Trump's plans, which include two 18-hole golf courses, 950 holiday homes and 500 houses, were rejected by an Aberdeenshire Council committee last year before being called in by the Scottish Government and approved in November.
The plans faced strong opposition from environmental groups such as Scottish Natural Heritage and local campaigners because part of the golf course will be on a protected area of dunes.
The economic downturn has had other effects on the proposed project, which was heralded as a 1 billion development.
Mr Sorial said the change in exchange rates between sterling and the US dollar had cut costs to the Trump Organisation.
When the project started, 1 was worth almost two dollars, he said. Now Mr Sorial predicts about 500,000 US dollars has been wiped off construction costs.
"Oil has plummeted. The price of raw materials has plummeted," he said.
"Two years ago you couldn't find contractors to do the work. Now for the work we're doing we had 10 different offers."
Earlier this month (December), work began to renovate historic Menie House for Mr Trump's family on the former shooting estate near Balmedie, north of Aberdeen.
Interest in membership and the future homes has been "overwhelming", Mr Sorial said.
And he suggested there could be more projects to come.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we made some announcements in 2009 all over the world," he said.
"When we have a market like today, there's a lot of opportunity for a developer with cash.
"I could be talking about Scotland and the UK. People will pleasantly surprised. This time next year, there will be no doubt about our intentions to Scotland."
He said there were regular talks with councillors in the Western Isles over potential projects in Lewis, where his mother and Mr Trump's mother were born.
Mr Sorial continued: "It's a place we're fond of for obvious reasons. We're evaluating a number of opportunities."
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump has changed his plans already – throughout the whole process his organisation has behaved with supreme arrogance as though his money gives him the right to demand whatever he wants regardless of the rights of others.
"Scotland should not be turned into a playground for the super rich, and we should cultivate higher aspirations in our young people than the dream of becoming bag carriers for wealthy loudmouths."
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