Trump's course in trouble over rare birds

Donald Trump, Trump International Golf Links
Colin Rennie/AP
Donald Trump plans to turn to sand dunes at the Menie Estate, 15 miles north of Aberdeen, Scotland, into a golf resort complete with a pair of 18-hole courses, a luxurious 450-bedroom hotel, 950 vacation homes, 36 golf villas and 500 upscale homes.

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Developer Donald Trump's plans to build "the worlds greatest golf course" on a stretch of remote and stunning Scottish coastline are drawing opposition because the land is home to some of the country's rarest birds.

The billionaire property developer aims to turn sand dunes at the Menie Estate, 15 miles north of Aberdeen, into a $2 billion golf resort with a pair of 18-hole courses, a luxurious 450-bedroom hotel, 950 vacation homes, 36 golf villas and 500 upscale homes.

Standing in his way are the feathered residents of the beach and rolling dunes - seven species of endangered rare birds including Skylarks and breeding waders, particularly Lapwings and Redshank.

Local residents in the quiet nearby village of Balmedie are also up in arms at the proposed resort, branding it a "gated community" with too many houses which would spoil the bucolic atmosphere of the area.

Concerned that his investment is about to be pitched into the rough, Trump flew into Scotland this week to set out his plans ahead of a crunch meeting later this month by local council members. He warned he would drop the project if the houses were rejected and claimed the course would improve the local environment.

"Each and every golf course I have built has got awards for environmental protection, and I do not think anyone has got as many awards as we have." Trump told reporters at a press conference on the estate. "I believe environmentally, when we are finished, the course will be better environmentally than before we started.

"It's possible I could lose a great deal of money. It would cost a lot less money if we did not care about the environment."

Local protesters claimed the visit was designed to put the heat on members of Aberdeenshire Council, who are expected to make a decision on Oct. 29. If approved, it would then go to the Scottish government for final approval later in the year.

Local opinion is divided. The planning application lodged at Aberdeenshire Council in June has attracted more than three times as many letters of support as it has of objection - 327 to 105. There is also a petition objecting to the proposal with 28 signatures.

In July, planning officials recommended approval for the project, which would create more than 800 jobs during peak season. But the plan is so controversial that councilors deferred their decision and are refusing to comment until after a consultation process is completed.

The area has more than 125 miles of 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, and he promised a visit there later this year.

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