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Scottish authorities reject Trump resort

Donald Trump
Charles Krupa/AP
Donald Trump's plan would turn a stretch of sand dunes north of Aberdeen into a $2.1 billion golf resort.

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — A Scottish council on Thursday rejected a plan by Donald Trump to build a golf course on a stretch of remote and stunning coastline that is home to some of the country's rarest birds.

"Mr. Trump is shocked, extremely disappointed and dismayed at this decision," said George Sorial, managing director of Trump International Golf Resorts. "This is certainly not something we expected."

After a heated debate lasting 2 1/2 hours, Aberdeenshire Council's Infrastructure Committee rejected plans for the Trump International Golf Links after a tie-breaking vote from the committee chair. An initial vote was 7-7.

Opponents of the development said sand dunes at the Menie Estate, 15 miles north of Aberdeen, should be protected as the habitat of rare birds such as Lapwings, Redshanks and Skylarks.

A week ago, Trump and his organization were jubilant when the council's Formartine area committee approved the golf course in a 7-4 vote. But Thursday's vote takes precedence over the earlier decision.

Sorial, who attended the Infrastructure Committee meeting, said: "On a personal basis the Menie project has been of great importance to Mr. Trump. I have just spoken to him and he cannot believe this.

"The council failed to take into account the wishes of the people, and ultimately they are the losers here."

He said Trump was now looking at an alternative site in other European countries, including Ireland, but did not rule out appealing Thursday's vote to ministers in Scotland's government.

The vote is the latest hurdle in Trump's four-year odyssey to turn a stretch of sand dunes north of Aberdeen into a $2.1 billion golf resort complete with two 18-hole courses, a luxurious 450-bedroom hotel, 950 vacation homes, 36 golf villas and 500 upscale homes costing from $827,000 to more than $2.1 million each.

Residents in the quiet nearby village of Balmedie objected to the proposed resort, calling it a "gated community" with too many houses that would spoil the area's quiet atmosphere.

Michael Forbes became a cause celebre after refusing to sell his farm in the middle of the estate to Trump. The tycoon called Forbes' ramshackle land with dilapidated barns and abandoned tractors "a disgrace to Scotland."

On Thursday, Forbes said: "I am delighted at this result. At last someone's seen sense. The whole project was about building houses, not the golf course."

Councilor Alastair Ross, who led opposition to the plan at Aberdeenshire Council, said: "Very little of the money generated from the project would have remained in the area. There was a fast buck to be made."

Trump supporters said the resort would benefit Scotland's economy, create 6,000 jobs and boost tourism. But environmentalists and some local residents continued to oppose it.

The area has more than 125 miles of unspoiled beaches, and residents have prospered, thanks to the North Sea oil boom in Aberdeen. But in recent years, the oil industry has declined from its peak in the 1980s.

Trump has spoken proudly of his Scottish roots. His late mother was a Macleod from the Isle of Lewis.

Sorial also has said the tycoon wants to build a golf course in Scotland because it is the sport's home.

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