Trump Organisation's £150m Aberdeenshire 'village' approved

The Trump Organisation’s controversial plans to build hundreds of upmarket houses next to its inaugural Scottish golf resort have been approved.
The Trump Organisation describes the Trump Estate as an "unparalleled setting to live, rest and play." Picture: Trump International ScotlandThe Trump Organisation describes the Trump Estate as an "unparalleled setting to live, rest and play." Picture: Trump International Scotland
The Trump Organisation describes the Trump Estate as an "unparalleled setting to live, rest and play." Picture: Trump International Scotland

The Trump Estate development, envisioned by the US president’s firm as an “unparalleled setting to live, rest and play,” was greenlit at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council.

Mr Trump’s family firm now has 15 years to realise its vision of the new village community near Balmedie, which will include 500 homes, a further 50 holiday units, and various retail and leisure facilities.

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It has promised to spend £147.2m on the venture, one of the largest enterprises the firm has had approved since Mr Trump entered the White House.

Its marketing material for the development describes it as a “stunning community of luxury homes built around one of the world’s most prestigious golf and leisure resorts.”

Homeowners on the estate, Mr Trump’s firm says, will be given “preferential access” to the golfing and recreational facilities at Trump International Golf Links.

The application was originally submitted last July, and has encountered strong opposition, attracting 21,639 objections and a mere three representations supporting the plans.

However, a motion endorsing the development was endorsed by 38 votes to 24.

As part of the successful planning application, the Trump Organisation will be asked to contribute an initial £770,000 forwards affordable housing, with the sum eventually rising to nearly £5m depending on the completion of the private housing units.

A contribution will also be made towards the creation of a new primary school in the area.

It comes 13 years after the Trump Organisation first submitted its ambitious plans for the north east site. It has seldom been far from controversy ever since.

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Much of the unrest surrounding the Trump Estate plans has stemmed from the way it will be phased, as well as the manner in which it diverges from both the council’s local development plan and the Trump Organisation’s original blueprint for the area, which was approved by the Scottish Government in 2008.

That initial planning application was ratified on the basis that its economic benefits would outweigh the environmental harm of building on part of Foveran Links, a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). It provided for 950 holiday homes, a 450 bed hotel, and 35 golf villas, with Mr Trump promising to spend £1bn and create 6,000 jobs.

However, none of those elements have been delivered, and Mr Trump has yet to turn a profit on what the Trump Organisation continues to call “one of the greatest golf courses ever built.”

The most recent accounts filed with Companies House show it is running at an annual loss of £1.25m, employs 84 staff, and remains reliant on loans totalling £41.9m.

Plans for a second golf course, to be named after Mr Trump’s Lewis-born mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, were approved by a council committee at a separate hearing earlier this week.

The Trump Organisation said the original phasing was no longer economically viable, a view supported by Stephen Archer Aberdeenshire Council’s director of infrastructure services who said although the new plans were “less attractive economically,” they were “welcomed.”

An economic impact assessment submitted by the Trump Organisation claims 244 local jobs will be created via the Trump Estate initiative, with the local economy enjoying a £12.4m boost.

However, as part of the deliberations over the Trump Estate application, Douglas Rennie, a senior business development executive at the local authority, described the scheme as a”weak substitute” compared to what the Trump Organisation originally proposed.

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Tory Jim Gifford, the leader of the council, who supported the Trump Organisation’s latest plans, admitted that they were “very different” to what was laid out in 2006, but said he believed his colleagues had made the “right decision based on the information they had.”

Richard Thomson, the leader of the SNP group on the council, submitted an amendment calling on the application to be refused. “We were promised something transformative with this development,” he said. “I don’t think this is it.”

At the start of the meeting, Martin Ford, the Scottish Greens councillor and one of Mr Trump’s longstanding critics in the area, excused himself from the vote, arguing that Aberdeenshire had already sustained damage by associating itself with Mr Trump’s “racism and misogyny .”

Sarah Malone, executive vice-president at Trump International Golf Links, said: "I'm absolutely delighted. Common sense has prevailed.

"This has been a very long planning process for this stage in the development. I'm thrilled for the staff and the rest of the consultancy team.

"Today's very strong recommendation is a clear endorsement by the north east of Scotland that the Trump development to date is already a success and we want to built on that great foundation and bring forward the future phases of the site."