Scottish council says no to Trump's 1bn golf resort

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Indy Politics

Donald Trump's plans for a 1bn golf resort have been thrown out by local councillors, one of whom accused him of taking the consent of Scots for granted.

The American property developer's planning application for Trump International Golf Links Scotland was rejected by the infrastructure services committee of Aberdeenshire council. Outline permission for the development, at the Menie estate near Balmedie, had earlier been approved by the authority's Formartine area committee, but members of the more powerful infrastructure committee narrowly voted it down. The casting vote on whether to reject or defer the planning decision was made by the committee chairman, Martin Ford, after a 7-7 deadlock.

Passionate arguments for and against the resort were heard during the meeting at council headquarters in Aberdeen. Councillor Albert Howie said the chance for Aberdeenshire to have an international resort of this kind was an opportunity not to be missed.

"A golf course is a beautiful thing," he said. "They are an improvement to what, to me, is wasteland. Let us embrace this tremendous project with enthusiasm. The rest of the world would think we were mad if we turn this down."

But Alastair Ross said the council must play "hardball" with the Trump Organisation. "It is an economic investment it is property speculation," he said. "We are open for business but we have to do business that is good for Aberdeenshire not at any price."

His views were echoed by Debra Storr. "This is a very strange development, very out with the ethos of the north-east of Scotland," she said. "I have no faith in the application."

Referring to Mr Trump, Marcus Humphrey said: "My first reaction to the proposal was that the applicant's attitude had, regrettably, bordered on being patronising, as if he was some long-awaited white knight." He added: "Visitors come to this part of the world for its beauty and solitude, not for Disneyland."

Before the vote, Mr Ford said it had been a "challenging and difficult application". He added that, if approved, it would have "significant issues" for what is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. "This is not sustainable development because of the destruction of something that cannot be replaced," he said.

He later said: "The golf course can go somewhere else. We are having a pistol held to our heads, and this is a form of moral blackmail. We can only have it if we sell our soul. I don't think we should sell our soul."

One of the most high-profile opponents to the resort was a local farmer, Michael Forbes, whose land lies close to the proposed Trump development. He has refused to sell his land to Mr Trump.

Mr Forbes was not present at yesterday's meeting, but his wife, Sheila, who did attend, said she was "surprised" but happy with the decision. "There were a lot of folk against it," she said.

Mickey Foote, of Sustainable Aberdeenshire, a group opposed to the resort, said: "I think if Mr Trump goes away and thinks about this there may be something for the people of Aberdeenshire in terms of a golf course and a small resort. But the scale of what was proposed was out of character with the landscape. I am sure he will be back for more. These councillors have expressed a serious interest in a future proposal and I hope Mr Trump can accommodate the council in that respect."