Luxury housing plans tied to Donald Trump's Treasury secretary withdrawn

A trust with ties to one of Donald Trump’s most senior cabinet members has pulled controversial plans for a housing development in one of Scotland’s most desirable neighbourhoods.

The Rockshiel trust, listed by Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, among his global portfolio of property holdings, has been trying for two years to build a cluster of upmarket townhouses and apartments in a sought-after conservation area of Edinburgh.

Its proposals for the new development in the capital’s Murrayfield area have been met with near universal opposition since they were first unveiled in January 2019, with scores of objections from local residents and concern from local authority officials.

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Now, it has emerged that the trust has withdrawn its contentious blueprints for the development in Murrayfield’s Kinellan Road, casting doubt on its future plans.

The local community welcomed the withdrawal of the plans, and warned it stood ready to mount a “robust defence” should the trust revisit the development.

As revealed by Scotland on Sunday, the Rockshiel trust is listed by Mr Mnuchin in his filings with the US Office of Government Ethics (OGE), a Washington DC-based agency set up to root out conflicts of interest in the US government.

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It is among a multimillion pound portfolio of residential and commercial property, as well as numerous bank accounts, in Scotland which are detailed in Mr Mnuchin’s latest report to the OGE, filed in August last year.

Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. Picture: Alex Wong/Getty

The Scottish interests, which include individual real estate holdings worth as much as $5 million (£3.65m) is worth up to $7.83m (£5.72m) according to the 47 page filing, though even that is relatively modest compared to Mr Mnuchin’s wider financial holdings, which spans multi million pound properties in the US and extensive shareholdings.

The US Treasury has said that Mr Mnuchin has no financial interest in the Rockshiel trust, and that the only reason it is listed on his financial disclosure forms is because of his wife, the Scottish actor, Louise Linton.

Under the trust’s initial plans, it applied to build ten five-bedroom townhouses, five three-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments in the grounds of Rockshiel, an imposing 19th century villa.

It later resubmitted its application to propose eight terraced townhouses and nine apartments, but it received close to 60 objections, with the City of Edinburgh Council’s archeology officer also raising concerns that the housing would be built on a 19th century ornamental pond which may have been designed by William Playfair, the celebrated architect who gave shape to the city’s New Town.

The application had yet to come before councillors when it was withdrawn. A spokesman for the Rockshiel trust did not respond to enquiries from Scotland on Sunday about whether it planned to revisit the development.

Jim Forbes, vice-chair of Murrayfield Community Council, said: “We cannot know exactly what prompted this welcome decision, but are glad that good sense has prevailed. It is, of course, possible - some think likely - that a new proposal will be submitted at a later date, as happened following withdrawal of the original application.

“If and when that occurs, the Rockshiel Trust can expect the community’s robust defence of its precious conservation area to continue with renewed vigour.”

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