Donald Trump could have faced legal action for repeatedly flouting his promises for his inaugural Scottish golf resort, had local authority planning officers applied stricter conditions to the controversial multimillion pound development, according to a planning expert.
William Walton, a barrister, academic, and town planner, said the incomplete Trump International Golf Links development on Scotland’s north east coast was an example of a “great planning disaster,” and accused the Scottish Government and Aberdeenshire Council of “significant professional failings” in how they dealt with the application.
A decade on from the government’s contentious decision to approve Mr Trump’s plans, Mr Walton, a senior lecturer at Northumbria Law School, has called for sweeping changes to the planning system, including bolstering the protection afforded to sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), such as the fragile Foveran Links, part of which was built on to make way for the Trump International Golf Links.
It comes as the Trump Organisation is trying to secure approval for what it describes as the Trump Estate on its land in Aberdeenshire. The mixed use development would include 500 private homes and 50 so-called hotel cottages.
Mr Walton stressed that although the existing development at Aberdeenshire, while incomplete, could not be categorised as a “half built, abandoned resort,” the fact it had yet to be finished was a source of continuing and “significant embarrassment” to the Scottish Government.
The construction of the golf course, he pointed out, has been at the expense of “irreversible damage to the SSSI at Menie estate, meaning that a “spectacular natural dune land has been supplanted by a manicured golfscape”.
In a scathing analysis of the development, due to be published in Oslo Law Review, Mr Walton explained: “It is probably because it is the environment, and not the taxpayer, that has paid that the Trump debacle has not resulted in much greater political fallout.”
Those responsible for greenlighting Mr Trump’s ambitious plans, he said, had failed to ensure that the required economic benefits from the various components of the resort would be delivered.”
Planning officers, he added, could have stipulated more detailed conditions to the development, such as preventing the opening of the golf course until Mr Trump made good on his promise to build a hotel, chalets, and timeshare units. Even if the Trump Organisation had tried to ignore its obligations to complete the rest of the resort, Mr Walton says proper application of the legislation could have allowed the council to take the firm to court.
He said: “In the event that the developer ignored any planning enforcement notices the council could then have applied to the court for an injunction prohibiting any further use of the course until the hotel was built.”