Heritage watchdog calls for new geese analysis at proposed Trump estate

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Scotland’s natural heritage watchdog has called for more “robust” evidence of numbers of internationally important geese populations at land ­earmarked by the Trump Organisation for a controversial extension of its Aberdeenshire resort.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has called for an update of geese surveys at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland development, adding that recent collated data needs to be more “clearly presented.”

The Trump Organisation is seeking approval for what it describes as the Trump Estate, a mixed use development including 500 private homes and 50 so-called “hotel cottages”.

A decade on from the Scottish Government’s original decision to approve the US president’s inaugural Scottish golf course, his firm has promised to spend upwards of £147 million building the expansion.

However, amid thousands of objections to the scheme, misgivings have been aired over its impact on the environment.

As part of the application, a habitats regulations appraisal has to be carried out, assessing the designated special protection area (SPA) for wild birds at three sites. As part of the original public local inquiry, surveys established that wintering populations of Greenlandic and Icelandic pink-footed geese used the area for feeding and roosting, with a peak count of 3,500 birds.

With subsequent surveys carried out in 2013 and last year, environmental consultants hired by the Trump Organisation said areas once populated by the geese are no longer used, with the majority of the birds now feeding and roosting half a kilometre south of the proposed site.

But Sue Lawrence, SNH’s operations manager for Tayside and Grampian, has pointed out that the survey from 2013 did not include details of what methods were used, and the area that was analysed. Similarly, she said that it “isn’t clear” what method was used for the 2018 survey.

She added: “We recommend that the appropriate assessment from May 2008 is updated. It should consider more recent goose data in the context of earlier surveys. In ­particular, data needs to be more clearly presented in the context of earlier surveys, comparing the survey areas and including the full data from 2013.”

She said that if it mitigation is no longer required, there should be “robust evidence,” such as comprehensive surveys, showing how geese numbers at the site have changed over the past decade.

The planning application for Trump Estate will come before Aberdeenshire Council’s Formartine area committee later this month before being considered by the full council.