A debate on controversial plans for 550 homes at Trump’s Menie Estate left councillors with more questions than answers yesterday.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Formartine area committee met to discuss the plans for 550 residential and holiday homes on the Menie resort, near Balmedie.
But despite discussing the proposals for close to three hours, the committee was unable to say whether it was for or against the Trump International Golf Links Scotland scheme.
They had been urged by planning officers to back the development, despite a number of council departments and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency objecting.
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Planners believe the scheme would have a “considerable” economic impact and have also stressed the site is already allocated for the homes in the local development plan.
Both a planning permission in principle for the overall development and a more specific application for the first two lots of houses were laid out before councillors.
A number of concerns were expressed by members of the committee, including the impact on roads, poor accessibility for cyclists and walkers, and potential damage to local wildlife and trees.
Peter MacCallum, the authority’s roads development manager, said there had been “no progress so far” on resolving the accessibility issues.
He said: “The site is quite challenging in terms of being able to provide good accessibility and our objection is on the basis it was different to reconcile all of these issues, particularly a direct footpath link to Balmedie.”
The development was part of the wider approved blueprint when the golf course was given consent back in 2008.
But since then the Trump Organisation has been accused of breaking its promises by not building a second course and hotel, and instead moving forward with a latter stage of its masterplan.
The developer has denied that it has reneged on its agreement and has merely changed the phasing due to the “significant” economic unknowns.
Mid-Formartine councillor Paul Johnston argued there was a clear “deviation” from the original planning consent – which came after the Scottish Government overruled the authority’s decision to reject the entire Menie application more than a decade ago.
Mr Johnston said the developer should continue to follow the phasing built into the consent even if that meant it was a slower process due to the changing economic climate.
A motion by the Democratic Independent and Green Group (Digg) councillor recommending the plans be rejected ultimately failed to find support from any other committee member.
The committee struggled to find a consensus due to the range of views from councillors and instead submitted a response which stated there had been “mixed views”, with “some in support, some neutral and some not in support of the application”.
However their response also raised concerns about “insufficient information”, the deviation from the local plan, the lack of affordable housing, connectivity to surrounding areas, and the impact on ancient woodland and wildlife.
And they also recommended conditions be attached if the plans are approved to ensure construction traffic avoids Balmedie and tree re-planting takes place.
Full council will meet to discuss the plans on April 25.
Living in the past
Trump International’s executive president said many of the councillors had dredged up arguments from more than a decade ago.
Sarah Malone attended the meeting and spoke afterwards, saying the developer was “extremely confident” the proposals would be approved.
“I think today’s debate reflected the fact that a number of councillors don’t understand what’s been put before them,” she said.
“There’s a lot of discussion over transport and roads but these are arguments that were had, they were fought, and they were won many, many years ago.
“We’ve gone over a lot of old ground today and got caught up in extraneous detail so I’m sure that the full council will treat it differently.
“We’re confident of a positive outcome next month.”
Ms Malone added: “I have to have faith in the council.
“This is a £150 million of investment and absolutely in line with what we originally envisaged, which was a world class destination and leisure facility with a residential component for people to come and live in a beautiful, rich, mature, historic site.
“It will absolutely preserve and enhance the natural assets we have on our property in Menie.”
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