Editor-At-Large: Just what we need in this country: yet another golf course

Our unique landscape is too precious to allow the likes of Donald Trump to destroy what is left of a glorious coastline
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The Independent Online

What makes Britain so special, so envied around the world? Our fantastic landscape, without a doubt. In spite of succeeding governments attempting to concrete over a large part of our island with polluting superhighways and unnecessary airports, there are still places where you can walk along an unspoilt beach, breathe clean air and just celebrate the sheer beauty of the surroundings.

Earlier this year I took part in a television series called Britain's Favourite View. Almost nine million viewers tuned in, with hundreds of thousands voting for their personal choice. From the coastline of Northumberland, to the Gower peninsula, to the Lake District, it was hard to select one of these extraordinarily beautiful places over another. Week in and week out, any television programme about our landscape and our unique coastline gets huge ratings; people love looking at it so much.

Funnily enough, not a single viewer thought that Britain's Favourite View would be of a golf course, and yet that is what seven dunderheads on an Aberdeen council voted for last Thursday, when they gave the thumbs-up to a 1bn golf resort proposed by the billionaire Donald Trump. Faced with developing one of the few remaining coastline wildernesses left in north-east Scotland into a huge leisure complex, they enthusiastically voted to concrete over 1,400 sand dunes designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and turn them into two golf course, a five-star hotel with 450 bedrooms, 1,000 holiday homes and 500 private houses. One moron said, "A golf course is a beautiful thing... an improvement to what is, to me, a wasteland."

Perhaps this idiot takes his holidays sitting at the end of the runway at Aberdeen airport thrilling to the sound of planes taking off and breathing in the fumes. Perhaps he thinks that sand dunes are "untidy". Perhaps he thinks the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (which opposed the scheme) is just a bunch of time-wasting tossers. Who needs to listen to birdsong and pounding surf anyway, when you can enjoy the sound of golf clubs thwacking little plastic balls into the air? Who needs the sound of the wind, when you can lie in a hotel bedroom and look out at the surf through the double glazing, enjoying the sound of the chambermaid operating a vacuum cleaner.

Donald Trump clearly thought he could sweet-talk the locals into submission, claiming that his project would bring jobs and opportunities to the area. He rubbished a local farmer, Martin Forbes, whose farm bordered on the site, claiming that it was an eyesore. Mr Trump probably thinks that farmers, like hotel staff, should lay fitted carpet around their yards and stuff straw up cows' backsides so they don't poo in your way. His knowledge of farming seems as illogical as that wicky-wacky birdnest sprouting on top of his head. Local people are right to worry about their livelihoods when the oil runs out. But their greatest asset is the countryside, not a concrete development, and once you have built over sand dunes, you can never replace them.

After the local council voted in favour of the scheme, the more powerful area council chucked it out, although the chairman had to make the casting vote. Now Mr Trump has tantrummed all the way to the top, threatening to take his development somewhere else. Late on Friday Aberdeen council announced that it would reconsider the decision. Alex Salmond, the First Minister, is said secretly to support the scheme. It would be scandalous if he intervened. We are only too happy to dig into our pockets and save Old Masters for the nation when they are threatened with export. Surely preventing Donald Trump from spoiling pristine coastline is just as worthy a cause.

I have walked the length and breadth of Britain. Vast acreage is rapidly being turned into golf courses fields, scrubland and heath replaced with luminous green hillocks, unnatural little bumps embellished with yellow sand. Gone are hedgerows where birds could nest, wild roses could bloom and locals could pick sloes and blackberries, replaced by Keep Out signs, and ugly clubhouses. Golf course pollute the landscape and Trump's plans are a disaster and how dare he claim the decision "puts the country in a bad light"? Utter crap!

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Beware! A walk in the woods can damage your health

The latest features of our heritage to come under attack from politically correct public servants are humble stiles and kissing gates. The Disability Discrimination Act requires that local councils and public services make "reasonable adjustments" to allow the disabled access easy to the countryside.

Although kissing gates are an excellent way of allowing walkers access while enclosing cattle, they are not thought to be wheelchair-friendly. Neither are stiles, and now local councils are being urged to replace them with larger wheelchair-friendly metal gates unless they can be deemed a "historic feature".

I want everyone to enjoy the countryside, but surely someone somewhere is brave enough to stand up and scream "This is bloody ridiculous!". The nanny state has already ensured that my local reservoir, in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, at the top of a remote valley in North Yorkshire, is festooned with ugly signs announcing COLD WATER KILLS, KEEP OUT, NO BATHING.

My local beauty spot, a charming little gorge, has bright yellow signs tacked up every 10 yards, announcing SLIPPERY WHEN WET and UNEVEN SURFACE, TAKE CARE. I'm sure the day will soon come when, as you enter the countryside, you'll encounter a large sign announcing DANGER: GRASS GROWING UNDERFOOT, or RABBIT HOLES, WATCH YOUR FOOTING and BEWARE DROPPINGS FROM OVERHEAD. I campaigned for free access to heath and moors, but now it's time to appoint an ombudsman to sound the voice of reason.

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