Scotland puts crimp in Trump’s golf vision
In 2006, businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump bought an 1,800-acre estate in Scotland’s northeast, near Aberdeen. It was beautiful, with views of the North Sea and surrounding sand dunes.
Then he announced plans to build a golf course. In true Trump style, he promised the world. He envisioned a grand complex with two world-class golf courses, a luxury hotel and 1,450 homes on the property. It would be, he said, a US$1.5 billion investment.
But then came a string of setbacks: The 2008 financial crisis roiled Trump’s businesses. The local planning commission called his proposal “extremely implausible” and refused to support it. Recalcitrant neighbours would not surrender their land.
Eventually, though, the Trump Organization broke ground.
So far, the Trump International Golf Links complex hasn’t lived up to Trump’s vision. There is only one golf course, which by many accounts is rarely busy. Instead of a hotel and pricey stretch of homes, there’s a single clubhouse with a few rooms for rent. Corporate filings in Britain show that the course lost US$1.8 million in 2015.
Experts say that to make serious money, Trump needs the hotel and developments he promised. But it’s been hard to get those projects launched.
This week, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, a conservation agency, made things even harder. Both groups are objecting to the Trump Organization’s expansion plan unless significant changes are made. Officials say the current plan breaches strict rules on sewage, environmental protection and groundwater conservation.
Their concerns are myriad. SNH says there is “substantial risk” that significant parts of the course could be damaged by drifting dunes, which happened at Trump’s alreadybuilt course in Scotland — Turnberry, on the west coast — in 2016. SEPA objects to the Trump Organization’s use of a “soakaway” (basically, a pit filled with rubble) to dispose of wastewater, and it wants the company to connect the course and clubhouse to the public sewage system before building the second course. The agency also worries that the current irrigation plan could contaminate local water supplies.
Local officials also want Trump to make good on his promise to build hundreds of affordable housing units and a school.
According to Eric Trump, tasked with overseeing the Trump Organization while his father serves as president, things are moving along.
“We have huge plans for future investment he told Scotland’s The Press and Journal.