Donald Trump's plan to build huge wall at Irish golf course scrapped amid concern for rare snail

Trump International Golf Links and Hotel withdraws proposal for two-mile sea defence in Doonbeg

Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 07 December 2016 11:39
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The 14th hole at Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland
The 14th hole at Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland

Donald Trump’s plans for a huge wall at a luxury golf resort have been pulled amid concern over environmental risks and the potential impact on a rare type of snail.

The US President-elect’s company had sought permission to build a 200,000 tonne sea defence stretching two miles along dunes at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland in Doonbeg.

His representatives argued the barrier was needed to stop erosion along the sand dunes at Doughmore beach but Clare County Council revealed the plans had been withdrawn on Monday.

Sand dunes at Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland

The application, lodged in May, sparked an influx of responses from more than 100 local residents, community groups, businesses and conservationists.

Many supported the proposals but other raised concerns, causing the council to go back to Mr Trump’s business for more information on the impact on the Carrowmore dunes special area of conservation.

“Clare County Council had looked for further information at the end of June,” a spokesperson for the local authority said. “They had until the end of the month to reply.”

The shelved project had been planned for the edge of the golf course, where winter storms have wiped out metres of beach and dune in recent years.

Mr Trump has hinted that he does not believe in man-made climate change, tweeting that the “concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese” in 2012, but the application cited global warming and rising sea levels to justify the wall.

Environmentalists said the development could endanger the tiny narrow-mouthed whorl snail, or Vertigo angustior, which has survived since the Ice Age but is now classified as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The construction of sea walls is one of the biggest threats to the snail, which requires precise conditions in dunes and wetlands to survive.

Donald Trump's company owns luxury golf resorts around the world 

The €10 million (£8.5 million) wall was expected to be up to 13ft high but surfers and other water sports enthusiasts, who have a right of way through the Trump golf course, expressed worry that it would alter the dynamics of the waves and make it dangerous to be in the water at high tide.

Mr Trump paid about €15 million (£11.6 million) for Doonbeg and vowed to invest up to €45 million (£35 million) in the golf resort.

Save the Waves, an environmental campaign group that sponsored a petition opposing the original plan, hailed the shelving of the proposal as a key milestone.

“Construction of this seawall will destroy the sand dune habitat, restrict public access to the beach, negatively impact the quality of the surfing waves, and ultimately result in beach loss,” said the “Stop Trump’s Irish Wall” petition, which garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

Tony Lowes, director of the Friends of the Irish Environment group, said: "There is no doubt the original proposal would have stopped the development of the dune system and scoured the beach, leading to a loss of one of the finest amenities on the west coast."

Trump Hotels estimates that up to 20m of dunes at the edge of the golf course has been eroded since 2002 and is lodging new plans for sea defences to protect the first, ninth and 18th holes covering about 600m at the south end of Doughmore and 250m at the north end of the bay.

A planning application will be made to insert metal sheet piles into the ground on the golf course and lay limestone boulders on the base of the piles. It said the defence would be invisible and covered by sand and a cobble bank at the back of the beach.

A spokesperson for Trump Hotels said the work would be "wholly within lands owned by the golf course", adding: "There would be no material effect upon the adjacent SAC [Special Area of Conservation] areas."

Trump Hotels added that it was closely considering expanding the Doonbeg resort to include more accommodation, leisure facilities and a banquet hall but that this was ”fundamentally dependent“ on erosion protection measures.

It said all efforts at soft management of the coastline have failed and efforts to readjust the course have been expended.

Joe Russell, the managing director of Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland, said the original plans were revised because of time pressures, after listening to concerns and because the resort could not afford another lost season due to storm erosion.

"That's time I don't have," he told Press Association. "We listened to what people had to say. This is a reduced version of the original proposal.

"What it serves to do is to protect the holes that are under immediate threat."

Mr Trump's son, Eric, is responsible for overseeing the Doonbeg course and was understood to have been centrally involved in the revised plans.

The President-elect's spokesman said he sold all his company shares in June, amid criticism over potential conflicts of interest in the tycoon's various firms.

It is not the first time his golf courses have angered locals, with residents in the Scottish town of Balmedie claiming earth walls were built around their homes after they objected to planned development.

Additional reporting by PA

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