It cost more than £750m, it has enraged local conservationists and incurred the wrath of the Scottish Parliament, but despite all this the controversial Trump International Golf Links has officially opened in Aberdeenshire.
The project, bankrolled by billionaire Donald Trump, has been blighted by problems since the magnate announced plans for the complex back in 2006. The initial plan was to build the “world’s greatest course” on the Menie Estate, near Balmedie in Aberdeenshire, along with a hotel and hundreds of new homes.
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But, after fierce opposition from local conservationists, Trump was forced to scale back a development which he claimed would bring £50m to the area per year in the form of tourism revenues, as well as creating thousands of jobs. Due to this pressure it is only the golf course that opens today, with the hotel and houses yet to be confirmed.
The top concern in the planning stage was that the Trump Golf Links would see local residents served with compulsory purchase orders - forcing them to sell their homes to the tycoon. But after guerrilla opposition from the group ‘Tripping up Trump’ the majority of blueprints had to be redrawn.
Local resident Michael Forbes was a particular thorn in Trump’s side. The farmer’s 23-acre property infringed on the proposed site of the planned five-star hotel. The 55-year-old salmon fisherman, who lives with his mother in a house called ‘Paradise’, hung several protest signs and publicly denounced Trump’s course as “scandalous”.
Billionaire Trump in turn called the fisherman a “loser” who “has always been dirty, sloppy and unkept”. He branded Forbes’ property as a “blight on the community” which would cause problems for his planned hotel.
"If we build a £300m or £400m hotel, I don't think you want the windows looking down on a slum,” he said.
Mr Forbes still remains in his home.
Concerns that the £750m golf course will seriously impinge on the picturesque shoreline still continue. The Scotland Wildlife Trust has strongly opposed the development, stating that the course has “destroyed” environmentally sensitive parts of an area that is classified a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Jonathan Hughes of the Trust has written a letter to former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and fellow golfers Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird urging them to pull out of attending the opening of the controversial development
It reads: “The construction of the course has killed the scientific interest of the dunes, and led to the loss of very rare dune wetland habitats.
“We are therefore writing to ask you not to play the nine holes built on the SSSI and in doing so send a clear message that unsustainable, environmentally destructive developments such as the Trump course have no place in Scotland.”
Wind turbine dispute
But Trump has not only been challenged by environmental opposition. He almost pulled the plug on the £750m project over plans from Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to increase the amount of wind farms off the coast.
Fearful that proposed wind turbines near the golf complex would be an eyesore, Trump instantly branded the idea as a “bad version of Disneyland” and lobbied Mr Salmond to change his mind. In a heated exchange of words the Scottish First Minister said that Trump’s investment, while welcome, “does not imply ownership” of Scotland.
The tycoon subsequently alleged that he had been “betrayed” by Mr Salmond and former First Minister Jack McConnell, who both want Scotland to be powered entirely by renewable energy by 2020.
Fallout from the argument has left Donald Trump wondering whether to press ahead with plans for the five-star hotel, although it didn’t stop him building the golf course. Sean Connery has officially been made its first member.