Revised plans for Trump golf resort dealt significant blow
Senior planning officials have rejected Donald Trump’s plans to expand his Aberdeenshire golf resort by building 2,750 new homes and holiday flats.
The President-elect had bid to build a far less ambitious and cheaper version of the vast holiday and sports resort he originally fought for in 2008.
However, according to The Guardian, officials appointed by Scottish Government ministers to review Aberdeenshire’s development plan have decided Trump must stick to his original master plan for a major hotel, timeshare and sports complex – one he priced then at between £750 million and £1 billion.
They have recommended to Scottish ministers and Aberdeenshire Council that Trump should also be told to build hundreds of affordable homes, a new primary school, other community facilities and a new roundabout on the main A90 road nearby at his own expense – as he had originally promised. Trump should also be forced to accept “robust” environmental checks on the site because of its proximity to legally protected dunes, their report said.
The rejection of Trump’s revised plans raises further questions about the fate of the resort, about 10 miles north of Aberdeen. Following his election as the next US president, Trump promised to divest himself of his vast property empire and investments.
He has yet to disclose who will take control over his businesses or when. His neighbours in Aberdeenshire believe his son Eric will run that resort and the family’s second resort, the Open championship course and hotel at Turnberry in Ayrshire.
Despite heavy opposition from Scotland’s environment agencies, Trump won planning approval in 2008 to build across rare legally protected coastal dunes in Aberdeenshire only because his resort would be an economic investment of national importance and would employ 1,200 people.
It would involve a multi-storey five-star hotel with spa and conference centre, two 18-hole courses, a golf academy, riding stables, shops, and a sprawling housing development involving time-share apartments, private villas and homes for local people.
But after admitting that “the world had crashed” after the 2008 recession, Trump dropped those plans, instead building just a single 18-hole golf course with a driving range and a small clubhouse, and converting the estate’s main house into a small 19-bedroom boutique hotel.
He also withdrew without agreement from a multi-agency environmental monitoring group which was set up as part of the 2008 planning approval. Company accounts suggest he has spent only £38.5m on the resort so far, with 95 full-time equivalent jobs.
He repeatedly claimed he would not build anything more until plans for an offshore windfarm project several miles south of his resort were dropped.
Even so, after lodging plans for a second golf course and an extension to the boutique hotel, Trump then applied early last year for outline planning permission to build 850 private homes and 1,900 “leisure accommodation units”.
Aberdeenshire Council then included that proposal as a normal development in the belief it was covered by the 2008 planning approval.
The planning reporters have now ruled that this scheme should be dropped.
They said: “The outline consent issued on 16 December 2008 was granted for exceptional reasons based on the predicted social and economic benefits of the proposed development.” The development plans should not “offer or imply” support for a different plan.
The Trump organisation said in a statement: “We remain committed to maximising economic benefits in the current economic and market conditions, locally and nationally. The report reaffirms our outline planning permission for 500 houses within the local development plan which has been endorsed by the reporters. Any future proposals that we may bring forward will go through due process.”
Martin Ford, a councillor whose casting vote on an Aberdeenshire local committee in 2008 forced Trump into a major battle to win approval for the site, said the reporters’ decision was “about as restrictive as it could be for planning policy pertaining to Mr Trump’s land.
“The reporters’ text is clearly intended to be a barrier to any attempt by Mr Trump to cherry pick from amongst the elements consented in 2008 or to use that consent as a Trojan horse to justify an alternative scheme.”
His colleague Debra Storr, a former councillor who was also heavily involved in opposing the original application in 2008, said: “The Trump organisation has attempted to subvert the planning system at every step and hitherto has been allowed to get away with this by local and national government. I am pleased that Aberdeenshire council’s attempt to simply include the land at Menie into the local plan as normal development land has failed.”