Get planning permission The Edge way: give the council $1m

When U2's guitarist The Edge bought more than 150 acres of pristine mountains in the upmarket California beach city of Malibu, his plans to build five mansions met such opposition from conservationists that they remained on the drawing board for five years.

Now, in a deal reported to be worth a million dollars, the planning agency responsible for the unspoilt ridge, visible from the Pacific coast, has dropped its opposition to the controversial plans, leading critics to accuse The Edge of buying its support.

Of the money offered by the guitarist – real name David Evans – and his development partners, $750,000 (£450,000) is intended to help conserve land in the area, with 100 acres of the estate being dedicated as open space.

Up to $250,000 (£150,000) will be used to pay consultancy fees. A spokesman for Mr Evans and his partners said: "The property owners are proud of what they've accomplished with the conservancy, and they look forward to continuing to work with the Malibu community and other stakeholders."

The musician bought the land with his wife in 2006 and has long argued that he intends the development of contemporary, multi-level homes to have a minimal impact on the landscape.

He has said previously: "These homes will be some of the most environmentally sensitive ever designed in Malibu – or anywhere in the world. I'm disappointed that certain critics either don't have the facts or have ulterior motives."

In a statement, the planning agency that oversees open space in the Santa Monica Mountains, said: "The conservancy entered into this agreement in order to maximise the benefit for the public if the project is approved."

However, the deal only narrowly won the backing of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy board in a 3:2 vote. David Brown, who sits on its advisory board, was strongly critical of the deal.

He told the Los Angeles Times: "This would break up a large block of almost pristine wildlife habitat – one of the most impressive coastal-mountain interfaces in the country. And though you're not really endorsing the project, you're withdrawing your objections to it, and it's not acceptable."

Previously the agency expressed deep reservations about the development and in 2009 it wrote to the California Coastal Commission, maintaining that its construction would cause "unavoidable significant adverse visual and ecological impacts". It also argued that the homes were inconsistent with the state's Coastal Act.

Critics have argued that the development would irretrievably scar the pristine ridge, which is visible from the coastline and is a sensitive ecological habitat.

The musician now has to win over the coastal commission, where staff have recommended that their board rejects the project on the grounds that it destroys habitat and disrupts public views.

Born in England to a Welsh family, The Edge was raised in Ireland after moving there as a child. He already has a home in Dalkey, Dublin, near U2 singer Bono, as well as one in Eze, in the South of France.

Celebrity Developers

Paul McCartney

The scale of the Beatle's portfolio, which includes property from Merseyside to Manhattan, only came to light after his bitter divorce from Heather Mills.

Boris Becker

The tennis legend entered the Dubai property boom in 2008 with plans to build a business tower with developer ACI. They have since parted ways.

Daniel Radcliffe

The Harry Potter star boasts an impressive portfolio estimated to be worth £10m, including three properties in New York and a home in Fulham, London.

Nicolas Cage

The actor was so taken with Bath he bought three homes in the city, including one on its famous Circus.

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