4 Nov 2008

Trump gets green light for Scottish golf complex

7:07 pm on 4 November 2008

The Scottish government has approved plans by American tycoon Donald Trump to build a huge luxury golf resort on the country's east coast in the face of opposition from local residents and environmentalists.

Finance minister John Swinney said there was "a significant economic and social benefit" in approving the application for the Stg1 billion complex north of Aberdeen.

Mr Trump, a New Yorker whose mother was a Scot, welcomed the decision.

"We are greatly honoured by the positive decision and believe that the people of Scotland will be extremely happy with the final product," he said.

"It will be a tremendous asset and source of pride for both Aberdeenshire and Scotland for many generations."

Mr Trump, who says the project could create at least 1,200 permanent jobs, has promised to build "the greatest golf course in the world".

The planned 570-hectare resort includes two championship golf courses, an eight-storey five-star hotel, a golf academy, nearly 1,000 holiday homes and 500 private houses, creating hundreds of local jobs.

Local planners last year rejected the plans after concerns from environmentalists about its impact on protected sand dunes and wildlife, and opposition from a farmer who has so far refused to budge from his land at any price.

The Scottish government in Edinburgh, which has powers over planning policy, called in the proposal, setting up an inquiry amid a row about the pros and cons - and confirmed its approval on Monday.

Economic boost in hard times

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said the course would create 6,000 jobs and give the area a timely economic boost.

"The economic and social benefits for the northeast of Scotland substantially outweigh any environmental impact. In tough economic times, substantial investment of this kind is at a premium," he said.

"Six thousand jobs, including 1,400 which will be local and permanent, is a powerful argument."

Opponents of the plan are angry at the decision. "I think this is a damning verdict," said Rob Ashlin of the Sustainable Aberdeenshire group.

"Donald Trump is not just planning a recreational facility, it is a huge housing development that goes against Aberdeenshire Council's planning policy. It's very disappointing."

Martin Ford, a councillor from the opposition Liberal Democrats who originally turned down Trump's plans, criticised the decision and said the course was a "vanity project".

"This is a very, very bad precedent indeed and sends out a bad message about the protection in Scotland of our natural heritage sites."

One of the strongest opponents of the course, Michael Forbes, whose farm lies in the middle of the 6,000-hectare site, told AFP in January he had refused money from Mr Trump to persuade him to leave.

"I don't know where else I can go. It's my home, it's all I know," he said at the time.