Trump Gets Approval for Golf Resort in Scotland

Though it took awhile, American developer Donald Trump finally won out and received approval to build what could become a $1.6-billion luxury golf resort on Scotland's east coast. The project has been bitterly opposed by local residents and environmentalists.

The Scottish government approved the project on November 3. Finance minister John Swinney said then that there was "a significant economic and social benefit" in approving the application for the one-billion-pound (1.3-billion-euro) complex north of Aberdeen.

Trump welcomed the decision, saying: "We are greatly honored by the positive decision and believe that the people of Scotland will be extremely happy with the final product. It will be a tremendous asset and source of pride for both Aberdeenshire and Scotland for many generations," added Trump, a New Yorker whose mother was a Scot.

Trump says the project could create at least 1,200 permanent jobs and promises to build "the greatest golf course in the world."

The planned 1,400-acre (570-hectare) resort involves two 18-hole courses, an eight-story five-star hotel with 450 rooms, golf academy, nearly 1,000 holiday homes and 500 private residences.

Last year local planners rejected the development over concerns from environmentalists about its impact on protected sand dunes and wildlife. Trump also received opposition from a farmer who has, to this date, refused to sell his land at any price.

But with centralized powers over planning policy, the Scottish government set up an inquiry and eventually approved the proposal. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said the course would create 6,000 jobs and give the area a timely economic boost. "The economic and social benefits for the northeast of Scotland substantially outweigh any environmental impact," Salmond said.

"In tough economic times, substantial investment of this kind is at a premium," he added. "Six thousand jobs, including 1,400 which will be local and permanent, is a powerful argument."

Salmond said the "natural beauty" of the area should be used to Scotland's benefit. "It is entirely right and proper that the resources of the country are harnessed to boost one of our great industries and tourism is a great Scottish industry."

Opponents voiced anger over the approval. "I think this is a damning verdict," said Rob Ashlin of the Sustainable Aberdeenshire group. "Donald Trump is not just planning a recreational facility, it is a huge housing development that goes against Aberdeenshire Council's planning policy. It's very disappointing."

Martin Ford, a councilor from the opposition Liberal Democrats that originally turned down Trump's plans, criticized the decision and said the course was a "vanity project." Ford added: "This is a very, very bad precedent indeed and sends out a bad message about the protection in Scotland of our natural heritage sites. I don't think we can claim this is a nationally important development, and it certainly did not need to be built on this site."

Michael Forbes, whose farm lies in the middle of 15,000-acre site, continues his staunch opposition to the development. "I don't know where else I can go. It's my home, it's all I know," he said in January.

Before ground can be broken, Trump will need approval for the final part of the plan. On November 4, Neil Hobday, project director for the Trump Organization, said the development was so complex that several separate, phased applications will have to go before the Aberdeenshire Council before they can proceed.

Trump officials are in the process of crafting a detailed master plan for the Menie Estate development and then seek approval by local authorities. Trump will need to submit separate proposals for the two golf courses - one of which will be built on part of the protected Foveran site of special scientific interest - followed by submissions for the hotel and housing elements.