Donald Trump's lawyers begin Aberdeenshire windfarm challenge

 

Government officials deciding whether to back an offshore windfarm in sight of Donald Trump's Aberdeenshire golf course did not visit the resort, his lawyers have said.

The US property tycoon's legal team, led by Gordon Steele QC, argue that the lack of a site visit could be seen as a sign of bias in the decision-making process.

Mr Trump opposes the 11-turbine European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), claiming it will spoil the view from his coastal golf course.

His challenge to the legality of the Scottish Government's decision to approve the windfarm is being heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Mr Steele said the Trump resort should have been visited, given objections about the visual impact of the turbines.

He said: "The very fact that officials and the minister visited so many particular viewpoints perhaps makes the point for me.

"Accepting that there was an impact on us, and accepting that we would not proceed if this scheme was consented, it is in my submission both reasonable and essential that our site was visited.

"Why was it that all the other viewpoints were visited and yet nothing was done in relation to our site, a site approved in the national interest and in relation to which there has been an objection from us?

"What impression does it leave on the fair-minded informed observer, that one, if not the single main objector, to this proposal does not have the site visited?"

Mr Steele said that discussions "must have taken place" during these visits about the visual impact of the turbines.

He said: "We were not at the site visits, so we cannot know exactly what happened, we are utterly reliant on what we are told.

"We don't know precisely who was there, we don't know what was done. We do know that no entry was made on to our land.

"These are further factors that require to be taken into consideration, which should loom large when considering whether or not there is an appearance of bias."

Mr Steele closed his argument by summarising the objection to the turbines.

"A golf course of the kind we are talking about here, the views and the overall impression and the character are important to its attractiveness," he said.

"It's not simply a matter of putting the ball from one end to the other."

A petition lodged by Trump International Golf Links and the Trump Organisation earlier this year asks the court to declare that the Scottish Government's decision to approve the windfarm on March 26 was unlawful.

It also challenges the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the project in Aberdeen Bay.

Mr Trump has said he will pull the plug on his own controversial plans to finish his proposed luxury resort with a large hotel, holiday homes and a residential village if the windfarm goes ahead.

Senior members of Mr Trump's executive team, including his son Donald Trump Jr and George Sorial, returned to court for the second day of the hearing.

Known as a petition for judicial review, it is expected to last until Friday.

Yesterday Mr Trump's lawyers argued that the "cart was put before the horse" in granting consent for the windfarm without a licence to generate electricity.

They called into question whether the scheme's backer, Vattenfall Wind Power, would be a suitable licence holder because it has suffered financial losses and pared back investment.

Opening the case for the Scottish Government, James Mure QC said it was not necessary for a licence to be issued prior to consent being granted.

"The simple truth is no one is going to build a generating station unless there's someone who is going to be in a position to operate it and operate it lawfully as a generating station," he said.

He refuted a suggestion that the Scottish Government had a financial involvement in the scheme because some parties had received public funds.

Mr Mure said: "These funds are public funds. There was no suggestion that the decision maker sought to benefit financially.

"There's no evidence that the government holds any stake in the project or indeed in any party owning the project.

"The short answer on financial involvement is that there is no financial involvement."

Addressing allegations of bias in the decision-making process, Mr Mure said: "When fairly read in context, nothing here would raise in the observer's mind any natural suspicion of apparent bias."

PA

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