First person: 'I stood up to Donald Trump'

Michael Forbes, 57

Interview,Charlotte Philby
Saturday 20 June 2009 00:00
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On 3 November 2008, after a year of legal disputes, the billionaire property developer Donald Trump won permission to go ahead with controversial plans to build a £1bn golf resort across an area of naturally shifting sand dunes in Aberdeenshire. The proposals have been met with fierce criticism from environmental bodies and local residents, who believe the resort would ruin an ecologically sensitive landscape and would threaten the future of the wildlife that resides there. Meanwhile, Trump's most famous opponent, the local fisherman and quarry worker Michael Forbes, is still refusing to sell out. Here, he explains why.

My wife, Sheila, and I own 23 acres of land which runs right through the middle of Donald Trump's proposed golf course, behind the sand dunes at Balmedie. We've lived in our croft for 41 years, and as long as we've been here, my 83-year-old mother has lived in a chalet next door to our home which she calls Paradise.

Where we live is more than just a home – it is the most beautiful place on Earth. This is to me the only natural place left in the world, and now this man wants to come here and ruin it for everybody. I remember the day that we first heard about the plan to build two 18-hole golf courses [with four blocks of 950 timeshare flats, 500 private homes, 36 villas, a golf academy and housing for 400 staff connected by a coast road] straight through our home.

A lad from up the road came up to tell us that he'd received a letter from Donald Trump's solicitors. The same letter had been sent to our house days earlier, but I hadn't opened it – I refuse to open correspondence from solicitors. If someone hadn't approached my wife and I face to face, we never would have heard of his plans.

When we did finally look at the letter, we understood that we had to sell our property to Donald Trump for him to develop, and that if we refused, our lives would be made a misery. Immediately I knew what they were up to: this was nothing more than a cheap scare tactic designed to bully the weak – but I am not weak, Mr Trump, and I will not be bullied.

Donald Trump's solicitors offered me chicken feed for what this place is worth. Even if he'd offered me a fair price, I would not be swayed; there is too much at stake. If they got hold of our 23-acre plot, I know what would happen. This area is filled with rare wildlife, and if Trump's men rolled up with their bulldozers, they'd end up ruining an area of environmental and ecological significance and all its wildlife, as well as our home. He won't get away with it as long as I have anything to say in the matter.

There are six houses that Trump has his sights on, and he claims that he is doing business with two land-owners. But we are a close-knit community and we are all resisting his ploys. How could we do anything else? There is nowhere else in the world like this, and we will not be moved. And it will take much more than a compulsory purchase order to change my mind about that.

What Trump is relying on now is the fact that if he keeps at us for long enough, and applies enough pressure, we will eventually give in and sell up. But he doesn't know what he is up against. I am not going to let myself be broken down by anybody. All his efforts – the letters, the threats – they don't cause me any stress. The only person who is getting stressed out is Donald Trump. My family has worked this land for generations (my grandfather was a local fisherman, as were my uncles) and I will not give up our land without a fight.

To support Michael Forbes' campaign, contact trippinguptrump@googlemail.com

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