Sand dunes damaged by Trump’s golf links at Menie stripped of conservation status

Sand dunes damaged by Trump's golf links at Menie stripped of conservation status

Rare sand dunes on the Aberdeenshire coast have lost their conservation status following the construction of the Trump International Golf Links course at Menie Estate.

Public natural heritage body NatureScot, formerly Scottish Natural Heritage, said parts of the dunes on Foveran Links have lost their status as a nationally important protected wildlife site, after consideration of the scientific evidence by its Protected Areas Committee (PAC). The PAC concluded that, following the construction of the golf course on the dune system at Menie Estate, this area no longer merits being retained as part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

PAC, acting on behalf of the NatureScot board, took its decision following a formal consultation by NatureScot on the future status of Foveran Links SSSI and on consideration of advice from NatureScot staff, other representations and independent specialist advice.

Dialogue on potential denotification of the site between NatureScot and landowners has been ongoing since 2016. The decision comes after NatureScot set up a formal three-month stakeholder consultation period from June 2019 for stakeholders, who have been regularly advised of the process and given further opportunities to present their case before the statutory deadline of 18th December 2020.

Eileen Stuart, NatureScot’s interim director of nature and climate change, said: “There is now no longer a reason to protect the dunes at Menie as they do not include enough of the special, natural features for which they were designated. 

“Trump International Golf Links Scotland have undertaken to deliver nature conservation management on the golf course and we value the work they have done to protect the remaining rare habitats and the rare plants on their site however they no longer have sufficient scientific interest to merit special protection.”

Foveran Links SSSI was a very high quality example of a sand dune system characteristic of north east Scotland, and was of exceptional importance for the wide variety of coastal landforms and processes. The site’s notified features included its dune habitats, especially the dune slacks and pasture, and the geomorphological interest of its sand dune system, due especially to its dynamic nature. 

The remaining reduced SSSI at Foveran Links will be merged with the adjacent Sands of Forvie and Ythan Estuary SSSI next year.

Responding to the recommendation to denotify the course last summer, Scottish Wildlife Trust chief executive Jo Pike said: “As the Scottish Wildlife Trust and many others warned more than a decade ago, building Trump International Golf Links on a unique dune system has destroyed the dynamic nature that made it special. It is therefore wholly unsurprising that the area will lose its SSSI status.

“Coastal sand dunes are one of the world’s fastest disappearing habitats. Globally, they are rarer than rainforests. We should show international leadership here in Scotland by ensuring our remaining dune systems are well protected.”

“Scottish Ministers can show that lessons have been learned from the destruction of Menie Links by putting a stop to plans for a golf course at Coul Links in Sutherland. This threatened site is a fragile network of wildlife-rich sand dunes which is also recognised as an internationally important wetland.”

Plans to build a championship golf course at Coul Links in the Highlands were refused planning permission by the Scottish Government earliier this year.

Consent was sought for the construction of an 18-hole course, along with the erection of a clubhouse, the renovation of existing buildings to form a maintenance facility, along with a pro shop, caddy hut, workshop, administration building, and information booth.

About 32 acres of the planned development was proposed for dunes at Coul Links at Embo, near Dornoch.

The Highland Council voted in June 2018 to approve the development, which lies within the Loch Fleet site of scientific special interest (SSSI).

But the application was notified to Ministers due to an outstanding objection by Scottish Natural Heritage.

A notice published alongside the planning decision stated: “This decision has been made as the harmful impacts of this development to protected habitats and species would outweigh the potential socio-economic benefits.”

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