Scottish Daily Mail

The US tycoon and a links golf course row (er, sound familiar?)

- By Jenny Kane

DONALD Trump’s golfing rival is attempting to build an 18-hole course on a protected stretch of Scottish coastline.

American billionair­e Mike Keiser wants to lay turf over 800 acres of Coul Links, near Dornoch in Sutherland.

But, like the presidenti­al hopeful before him, he is facing fierce opposition from locals and environmen­talists who say the area is a vitally important habitat for rare birds and plants.

Local campaign group Not Coul is close to raising £10,000 to launch a legal challenge.

On a Crowd Justice page, which has raised £9,150, it says: ‘Coul Links is a sand dune system designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest Special Protection Area.

‘The proposed golf course will rip up this rare and special habitat and once destroyed, it will be lost – for ever.’

Chicago-born Mr Keiser is listed as a developer for the project, alongside Todd Warnock, who owns the nearby Links House

‘Absolutely horrified’

at Royal Dornoch. They have already held discussion­s with Highland Council and have submitted a proposal. A full planning applicatio­n is expected early next year.

As well as an 18-hole course, the plans include a practice area, club house and shop – but no hotel or accommodat­ion.

Mr Keiser made his fortune selling greeting cards before moving into golf. He now owns some of the top-rated courses in the world – including the four courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, all of which feature in Golf Digest’s top 75 in America list.

In 2010, when he was battling locals near his Menie Estate golfing resort in Aberdeensh­ire, Mr Trump said: ‘You know, everyone crows about Bandon Dunes. Well, I’ve been to Bandon Dunes. The views there are no better than we have – and the dunes themselves are like little toys compared to our dunes.’

Last year it was revealed Mr Keiser had contribute­d £100,000 to former Republican presidenti­al candidate Jeb Bush’s campaign. Speaking of Mr Trump’s political career, he said: ‘He’s bombastic, that’s his style. He’s not my candidate.’

Five conservati­on charities, including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland and the Marine Conservati­on Society, are opposing Mr Keiser’s new course.

Scottish Wildlife Trust chief executive Jonathan Hughes said: ‘These dunes will be irreversib­ly damaged if the golf course goes ahead and a precious asset for future generation­s will be lost.

‘It’s almost a decade since the Scottish Government’s approval of Trump Internatio­nal Links in Aberdeensh­ire, which devastated another nationally important dune system. Hopefully lessons have been learned since then.’

Alison Searl of RSPB Scotland said: ‘Developmen­ts such as the proposed golf course fragment and destroy these rare sand dune habitats as we have seen with the Trump Internatio­nal Links.’

Hugh Fullerton-Smith of Not Coul said: ‘It’s just another case of a piece of treasured coastline being turned over to golf. We are absolutely horrified.

‘The problem is the developers are very wealthy and pushing it forward on the promise of lots of jobs. We’ve never had anything like this divide the community so much.’

Mr Keiser said: ‘Our golf course developmen­ts aim for minimal intrusion on the landscape and the utmost care and respect for the environmen­t.

‘Our team of environmen­tal advisers is ensuring complete sensitivit­y to the land and its location.’

 ??  ?? ‘Rare and special habitat’: But Coul Links is facing destructio­n
‘Rare and special habitat’: But Coul Links is facing destructio­n
 ??  ?? Course proposals: Mike Keiser
Course proposals: Mike Keiser
 ??  ?? Rival billionair­e: Donald Trump
Rival billionair­e: Donald Trump

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