Yesterday, after almost five years of negotiations, nine planning applications, one public inquiry, and amid several protest campaigns and the threat of compulsory purchase orders, construction vehicles and heavy plant machinery of the Cork-based company SOL revved up and moved on to the site.
They wasted no time, as Aberdeenshire Council announced only on Tuesday that the Formartine Area Committee had granted TIGS (Trump International Golf Link Scotland) full planning permission for a championship golf course, driving range, short-game area, putting green and turf nursery.
The course is expected to be completed by 2012 -- although it’s estimated it will not be properly playable within three years.
Some 40% of the site includes the Foveran Links, which is a designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Further phased planning applications to build a 450-bed hotel, 500 residential homes and 950 holiday apartments are expected to follow.
George Sorial, Trump’s director of international development, said said: “We always felt a very strong support from the people who live here and work here.
“Did it take a little longer than we wanted? Yes. But there was never a doubt.”
Trump has already said he would like Sir Sean Connery and Colin Montgomerie to play the first tees, and some of Europe’s top golfers, including Rory McIlroy, have noted their interest in playing the course.
But Trump faces continued opposition from local protesters. A group called Tripping Up Trump (TUT) has been formed and bought land belonging to one of the residents, Michael Forbes, in an effort to thwart the development.
Trump -- who has recently adjusted his total investment in the development from £1billion to £750 million to take into account current economic downturn -- has offered residents a package which includes a promise to purchase their property at 15% above market value.
One of the TUT protesters is British filmmaker and Labour peer David Puttnam, who has bought a plot of land on the Menie estate in a bid to frustrate its development. He said: “This saga is the real-life version of a film I made over 25 years ago. Local Hero had a happy ending when the American developer came to his senses and withdrew with dignity. It would be great if Trump would watch it.”
Sorial said the question of compulsory purchase would not be raised until the hotel phase of the development. He said: “It’s not something we’re terribly concerned with at the moment.
“I don’t think any reasonable developer would spend hundreds of millions of pounds to build a hotel overlooking a slum.”
Despite the showcase event yesterday, the earth -- or, more accurately, the sand -- did not actually move. SOL merely mobilised its trucks for preliminary work on the site’s infrastructure requirements.
The appointment of an Irish firm, rather than local contractors, for the building project, is allowed under planning law.
Boon or bust for north-east? FOR: Lewis Macdonald MSP, Aberdeen Central
The Trump development has the potential for significant economic benefit to Aberdeen and the north-east, which is vital particularly in these difficult times. The value that golf tourism brings is already well established in the North East, which has some fantastic courses, and Trump’s will be another star attraction for people who love to come to Scotland for golf. Donald Trump is expected to both invest and generate very significant sums. The development of hotels, too, will mean a lot of construction jobs for local people.
To this end international and local transport links are vital. The extension of the runway at Aberdeen Airport, for which plans are already under way, will be very welcome. But we need a firm commitment to the construction of the Western Periphery Route round Aberdeen because it is an absolutely critical part of the infrastructure.
AGAINST: Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Green Party Co-Convenor.
“This damaging development is a serious threat to local people who are not being represented by their local council or the government, and who are living under the threat of having their homes demolished.
“This is a site which is nominally protected in law, but that law is being completely overturned. What is that protection worth if the local council just rolls over when big money talks? What does it mean for other SSSIs?
“There’s long been a suspicion in Aberdeenshire that the motorway and airport expansions would be used as an excuse for the Trump development, and vice-versa. The fact is that if the project does go ahead most of the visitors will fly in, be driven to Trump’s gated compound, play a round of golf and leave without having contributed anything to the local economy. What example does this set for our young people’s aspirations - are they just to be bag carriers for the super-rich?
“The dunes themselves are what makes the area particularly unique and they are going to be lost forever. The very reason for them being protected in the first place will be erased for the sake of satisfying one billionaire’s ego.”