Battle lines have been drawn over multimillion pound plans to build 500 homes at Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf course.
Proposals to create the Trump Estate – a mix of luxury housing, 50 hotel cottages, a gym, equestrian centre, shops and offices – at Menie, near Balmedie, were unveiled yesterday.
They were accompanied by predictions that the development would bring about 2,000 jobs during construction, almost 300 full-time posts and contribute £250million to the region.
Yesterday, Aberdeenshire’s tourism body said the scheme will “strengthen the appeal” of the north-east while Gordon MP Colin Clark lauded its possibilities.
The Conservative politician hailed the investment pledge as “very good news for the economy” and said it demonstrated that Aberdeenshire was a “great region” for international visitors.
But the councillor who came close to sinking Mr Trump’s original application for the site more than a decade ago has predicted that the new £150million proposal will be rejected by the local authority.
Martin Ford used his casting vote as chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s planning committee to reject the billionaire’s plans for the site in 2007.
The application was subsequently called in by the Scottish Government, who approved a £750million masterplan to create 2,750 homes on the 1,500 acres owned by the tycoon – providing that the golf course came first.
Yesterday, Mr Ford suggested that his colleagues will be wary of The Trump Organisation’s promises on employment and economic boosts.
Mr Ford said: “The Trump Organisation has been announcing and re-announcing plans for a golf resort and housing development at Menie since 2006.
“And for the past 12 years, Donald Trump has also been threatening not to go ahead.
“Plans have been announced, changed, withdrawn or just not implemented.”
But Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, believes the proposals would make the north-east a more lucrative tourist destination.
He said: “The announcement of these plans complements the significant infrastructure developments ongoing within the region, which strengthen Aberdeen’s appeal to visitors from across the UK and from around the world.
“The renowned course is a large part of the portfolio we promote to our golf visitors from the UK, Europe and North America, and helps this region compete on a global scale.”
Estate agency, Aberdein Considine, is preparing to help sell the new homes – which are to range from two-bedroom properties starting at £295,000 to five-bedroom mansions “brimming with opulence” starting at £1.3million.
Its national estate agency director, Alan Cumming, said he anticipates a “high level of interest from local and overseas buyers”, due to the appeal of owning a home “next to one of the best golf links in the world”.
He said: “There is nothing like this anywhere else in Scotland.”
But Menie resident, David Milne, shares Mr Ford’s doubts and said he “sees no reason” why Aberdeenshire Council should approve the application.
He contested that when consent was granted for the creation of the course, conditions were attached regarding the scheduling of the rest of the development.
Mr Milne believes the application represents a “cynical” attempt to bypass sanctions which state private homes should only be built after the holiday cottages.
He said: “It is a cynical ploy, and I believe there is a strong likelihood the council will view this in a pragmatic manner.
“I don’t think people are willing to take promises made by the Trump Organisation about jobs and economic benefits at face value in the way they did before.”
Mr Milne also raised fears that the construction process would “make life difficult” for those who live nearby and questioned how the 300 permanent jobs promised would be created.
However, executive vice-president of Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Sarah Malone, last night branded Mr Milne’s criticism of the application “ill-founded”.
She said: “He has been a vexatious opponent of the project since its inception and cannot concede that he is wrong.
“We are bringing forward major investment plans to further prosper the land surrounding his property.”
Ms Malone added that the jobs estimate had been provided by leading economist, Richard Marsh, who produced an independent assessment.
The Scottish Government said it would “not be appropriate” to comment on the application.