Donald Trump said yesterday that protesters could not derail his plans for a golf course and housing – but admitted they could affect proposals for a £250million hotel at the heart of the resort.
The American billionaire jetted into the north-east yesterday to review work on his “greatest golf course in the world” at Menie, and insisted any compulsory purchase moves against his biggest opponent would have to be taken by the local authority.
He branded Michael Forbes’s small farm a “slum” and revealed he had twice shaken hands on deals to buy it from him.
He questioned whether the hotel and the hundreds of jobs that would come with it would be built if the view from it was “obliterated” by the “pigsty” at neighbouring Mill of Menie.
“I don’t think you want the windows looking down on to a slum,” he said of the proximity of Mr Forbes’s farm to the planned hotel.
Mr Trump will tour the estate at Balmedie, near Aberdeen, today with his design team. He will hold a reception for the local and national business leaders who have backed the project so far, before finalising the designs for the whole development.
He said: “It has been five years since I first saw the site and it’s wonderful to be back in Scotland now that the project is under way. I am going to spend the next two days with the entire development team going over every square foot of the property so that the final design is perfect.”
Shortly after his private plane touched down at Aberdeen Airport yesterday morning, Mr Trump confirmed that Menie dunes, which will form part of the course, are to be renamed The Great Dunes of Scotland as a tribute to his Scottish mother.
But the future of the residents living around the site topped the agenda at Mr Trump’s press conference.
The detailed masterplan for the site, which was submitted earlier this year, includes four homes – Mill of Menie, Menie Fishing Station, Hermit Point, and Leyton Cottage – not owned by the businessman.
Asked if he was planning to ask the council to use compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) if the residents refused to sell, Mr Trump said: “No I am not – it has got to be their (the council’s) decision. But it will have a major impact on the hotel.”
The council has refused to rule out using compulsory purchase powers against the homeowners, although it is understood it would need to be asked by Mr Trump before considering the use of CPOs.
Mr Trump said the properties in question would have no impact on the two golf courses, 500 homes and 950 holiday apartments he plans to build.
However, he fears that the impact that Mill of Menie – Mr Forbes’s home – would have on the planned 450-bed hotel would make the five-star development unviable.
“He does have an impact on the hotel – because if we build a $300million or $400million hotel, I don’t think you want the windows looking down on to a slum,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone wants to build when your view is obliterated by a slum.”
Mr Trump said he had twice shaken hands on a deal with Mr Forbes – but that a handshake “means nothing” to the quarry worker.
“Forbes made a deal twice with us – this man is not married to the land, but he is enjoying the press. He made a deal with us twice to sell, but then he broke the deal.
“This isn’t a man so in love with his land that he can’t see straight.”
Asked if the hotel part would go ahead should Mr Forbes remain at the site, Mr Trump said: “I will have to make that decision at the time. The hotel is really not yet being designed.
“We will see what happens over the course of a number of years. I am in no rush. The council will really have to make that decision. The hotel has a chance to be something outstanding, but it is awfully hard when a window is overlooking a slum to say ‘come to Aberdeen and come to Scotland’.”
He added: “I just wish he would clean up his property, it is a pigsty. It’s terrible, his barn is all rusty and falling down.”
Mr Forbes has vowed never to sell to the American, and yesterday it emerged he had sold part of his land to the Tripping Up Trump campaign group.
It has taken more than an acre of his ground and will place the deeds in as many names as possible to disrupt any moves to use CPOs. The plot mirrors a campaign in England where a group of environmentalists, including actress Emma Thompson and impressionist Alistair McGowan, bought a field earmarked for Heathrow Airport’s third runway.
Mr Forbes insisted he had never done any deal with Mr Trump.
“It doesn’t bother me what he says,” he added.
His 85-year-old mother, Molly, who lives in a mobile home next door to him, said Mr Trump had come up against “a better man” in her son.