Donald Trump faces wall of opponent as he returns to Scotland

As billionaire arrives in UK to unveil his second Scottish golf course, opponents are still fighting him over the first one

When Susie and John Munro bought their cottage 35 years ago they had a clear view of Girdle Ness lighthouse in Aberdeen 10 miles to the south and of the rugged, towering, dunes which became their childrens playground. But all they can see now is an earth wall, which was built by Donald Trump for the worlds greatest golf course, to conceal their home from sight.

The berm, which reaches four metres in height and sits opposite the Munros front door, solely blocks out the horizon and view of the sea. A hefty locked gate blocks the public road they once used to reach the beach. In heavy rain, they say, the road now floods. At periods, they say Trumps security staff sit in 4×4 vehicles watching their movements.

He has just ruined it for us here. He has just hemmed us in, Susie Munro said. He just did what he pleased and the council merely turned a blind eye. And in a reference to his presidential campaign pledge to deal with immigration, she tells softly: Mr Trump likes his walls.

John and Susie Munro: He just did what he pleased and the council merely turned a blind eye. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

It is that divisive campaign on immigration, which has catapulted the businessman and Tv personality to presumptive Republican nominee for the White House, that will add even greater interest to Trumps latest visit to Scotland.

He touches down at Prestwick on Thursday before unveiling his second Scottish golf course at Turnberry in Ayrshire the following day.When he flies to Aberdeen on Saturday and heads north up the coast to Balmedie, the Munros will be displaying a Mexican flag in a symbolic protest at his pledge in the US presidential race to wall off Mexico.

In parallel with protests planned by anti-racist campaigners at Turnberry on Friday, David and Moira Milne are already flying a Mexican flag from the roof of their home, a former coastguard station overlooking Trumps clubhouse.

So too is Michael Forbes, the obstinate quarryman who became Trumps most well known foe after the property tycoon described him as a humiliation for refusing to sell to him his pigsty of a home which sits in the middle of the Trump estate.

David Milne is flying a Mexican flag from the roof of his home, a former coastguard station overlooking Trumps clubhouse. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

The Guardian has learned that Trumps neighbours now face fresh conflicts with the developer. Trump is a step closer to winning official approving for a highly-profitable property development of 850 private homes and 1,900 leisure accommodation divisions on the estate, despite a series of conflicts with the local council. In return he is expected to spend up to 15 m build homes for residents, and, maybe, a new school.

In a breakthrough for Trump, draft versions of Aberdeenshires next local development scheme the councils scheming blueprint for the next five years, include all the key features of his original 1bn resort scheme. Merely a fraction of that has yet been built.

The latest company accounts for Trump International Golf Course Scotland( TIGCS) proved in 2014 it was 38.5 m in debt nearly all of which was owed to Trump, and that it was losing well over 1m a year.

Trump claimed in 2008 that his planned resort would utilize 1,200 people; it currently hires 95, many of whom will be seasonal. The course is closed over the winter, thanks to the harsh weather. His original masterplan included two championship golf courses, with a five-star hotel, tower blocks of timeshare apartments, luxury villas, equestrian and tennis complexes, a golfing academy, and shopping village strung along a sweeping boulevard called Trump Boulevard.

A Scottish flag is assured on the Trump Turnberry golf course. Photograph: Reuters

Despite the bitter opponent of all Scotlands environment agencies and charities, Scottish government ministers, who were backed by local business and council leaders, decided the scheme was of national importance. In November 2008 they ruled that this allowed Trump to bulldoze through a third of the Foveran dunes complex, a legally protected site of special scientific interest( SSSI ), and breach the councils structural plans, which defined Menie as green belt land.

In striking contrast to the 200 m Trump claims to have invested in lavishly upgrading the Turnberry course and hotel only two years after buying it, he has spent only 38.5 m so far in Aberdeenshire, building an 18 -hole course, a single-storey clubhouse and converting the Menie estates manor house into a 19 -bedroom boutique hotel.

Local residents have been told the planned five-storey, five-star, hotel on the site has been fallen. Trump is now focusing instead on extending the house , now named after his mother Mary MacLeod, with a 400 -capacity ballroom and six new bedrooms.

Martin Ford, a Scottish Green party councillor, whose casting vote on Aberdeenshires scheming committee against the resort in 2007 forced Trump to appeal to the Scottish government, said: From the beginning, Mr Trump has in turn either bullied or dismissed the Scottish planning system. The promised investment in the large hotel and resort elements has not materialised , nor the jobs. The north-east has got the worst of all possible worlds. The amazing dune system at Menie has been lost to development, the jobs and financial benefits promised have not materialised.

Trumps reputation in Scotland has already been badly damaged by a conflict with his key allies in north-east Scotland, chiefly the former first pastor Alex Salmond, once his most influential supporter, over a windfarm two miles away from Trumps Aberdeenshire resort which the regions business and political leaders support but which Trump dislikes. He has opposed that up to the UK supreme court, losing at every stage.

Salmond was among the signatories of a petition recommending the UK government to ban Trump from entry to the UK after his outburst on Mexican migrants last year. Ford believes US voters need to learn from Scotlands experience. The human appears to treat the whole of life as a advertising stunt, Ford said. He appears to have no impulse control. I now insure a campaign in the US, which is again characterised by ridiculous affirms and ridiculous promises. And again theyre being believed by so many people. Our experience is that they shouldnt be believed.

But Trumps investment in Aberdeenshire could yet pay off. Due to be approved later this year, the councils draft development scheme will formally recognise the planning approving Trump won in 2008, designating the coastal dunes, farmland and woods he owns as set aside for his original masterplan. That stimulates it far easier for Trump to build his new homes and timeshare complex he can create the money.

Trump on the sand dunes of the Menie estate in 2010. Photograph: David Moir/ Reuters

But Aberdeenshire council has told the Guardian that when he does seek permission for the new houses and vacation flats, the council will expect him to spend up to 15 m on new affordable homes and potentially a new school in the nearest village, Balmedie.

Those expenses were tied to Trumps original 2008 scheme under a legally binding segment 75 agreement. If his next planning application is different, the council tells it will insist on a new binding commitment to build affordable homes, a spokesman said. Aberdeenshire council has advised the agents acting on behalf of the members of TIGCS that affordable housing would be required as part of any new proposal, he said.

Trumps critics believe this demand is likely to spark off a further series of conflicts with the tycoon. There have already been fresh disputes over Trumps refusal to uphold another key part of the section 75 agreement from 2008, to have an expert group of environmentalists advise him on the conservation of rare and protected plant and animal species affected by the development.

The Menie Environmental Monitoring Advisory Group included Scottish Natural Heritage( SNH) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency( Sepa) but it last is in conformity with January 2013. Tumps officials have now had reaffirmed that the advisory group has fulfilled its purpose and been closed down.

Council records also indicate TIGCS has meanwhile been building without first get planning approving facilities including the overhaul and alterations of Menie House to create the hotel; new entryway walls and distinctive Trump-branded black and gold entryway signs on the A90 main road; two 25 -metre-high flagpoles; a stone golf bag store; a soakaway for sewage runoff; illuminating and earthworks for building the clubhouse carpark.

In nearly all these cases the council dedicated Trump retrospective planning permission. In a rare case where council officials rejected an application, Trump was ordered to remove one 25 -metre high flag pole, which towers over the dunes and was erected without approving at the courses club house. Its removal is now the subject of an appeal.

Trumps organisation is adamant that its investment has been worthwhile, attracting tens of thousands of golfers from around the globe to the north-east of Scotland. It tells: It plays a vital part in the regions golf, leisure and tourism industry, and with the drastic downturn in the oil industry, Mr Trumps investment in the sector has never been more important.

This property is a long-term investment project, his spokesperson said. There are many more phases to come, including further luxury accommodation, a residential village, second golf course, banqueting facilities and other high-end leisure amenities.

James Bream, a research and policy director for Aberdeenshire tourism board, believes the opening of the first course in 2012 has increased tourism and devoted north-east Scotland a far higher-profile in the golfing world, helping its economy spread beyond a reliance on North Sea oil. We think this type and quality of development were critical, Bream said.

That was likely a factor in the decision to build a new 80m course at Ury near Stonehaven, designed by Jack Nicklaus. Hotelier seem significant fans of Trumps investment. As a golfer, its incredible, Bream said. Its a fantastic first-class golf experience. Weve plenty of these in Scotland but to have one in the north-east of Scotland is something to be proud of.

Vic Henderson, 87, a retired groundsman who worked for the previous owned of the Menie estates and live in a terraced cottage overlooking the course, has a framed thank-you letter from Trump on his wall: Henderson wrote to a local paper defending the resort in 2007. When I first came here, there was just 40 acres of windblown sand between me and the sea, Henderson said. Its an absolutely wonderful course. Its tremendous and, as for the carry-on and people from away down south saying it would disturb the wildlife, theres more wildlife than ever. Its good.

Read more:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *