Tuesday, January 09, 2007

COM: Trump shapes world to his whim

From that end, it must be pretty heady to be able to completely revamp the world to your own vision. From this end it is excruciatingly frightening in its implications, and with the arrogance to threaten economies.

Trump threatens to pull Scots golf resort as ecologists object
By DEX MCLUSKEY, BLOOMBERG NEWS, (Original publication: January 7, 2007)

Donald Trump is threatening to abandon his planned golf development on the northeast Scottish coast as environmentalists object to the $2 billion project.

"I do have other alternatives," Trump said in a telephone interview. "They have a chance to have the greatest golf course anywhere in the world, because of the land, because of the ocean, because of everything, so it would be a shame to waste it."

The 60-year-old billionaire wants to sculpt two golf courses from a 1,400-acre tract of sand dunes on the Menie Estate 10 miles north of Aberdeen and add a 450-room, five-star hotel, 950 holiday apartments and 36 golf villas.

The plans pit America's 94th richest man, backed by Scottish politicians, companies and the local tourism agency, against birdwatchers and ecologists. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is "extremely concerned" about the potential harm to guillemot, kittiwake and eider duck populations, while Friends of the Earth is balking at the prospect of a further 1,000 or so homes being added along the isolated coast in future.

"He thinks he can push through his plans without any debate," Friends of the Earth spokesman Gregor McAbery said in an interview. "Well, he's wrong. This development would change an isolated coastline massively and permanently."

Trump will submit environmental, transport and economic impact assessments in February before planners vote on the development around June. Trump will then know what obstacles lie in the way of the project and whether to go ahead.

The dune complex also includes a 25-acre swathe of shifting sands that's been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest by U.K. conservationists.

"We're spending a huge amount of money studying bird populations and movements, seasonal flowers and all sorts of other habitat issues," Neil Hobday, Trump's project director, said in an interview. The layout can be altered if necessary, he said.

Developers elsewhere have compromised to get planning consent. South Carolina-based Kiawah Island Development Partners agreed to fence off 50 acres of dunes to protect a rare snail population before receiving permission to build Doonbeg golf resort in southwest Ireland.

In March, Trump said the Scottish resort would cover 800 acres and cost $500 million. That was then extended in both scope and budget to include housing and land purchases, he said.

The RSPB is examining the plans, while Friends of the Earth wants to ensure that the resort creates as little pollution as possible.

"We will seek to ensure that all the environmental impacts of this proposal are subject to careful scrutiny," the RSPB said in an e-mailed statement.

On Trump's side are politicians including Nora Radcliffe, the local Liberal Democrat representative in Edinburgh's parliament, along with businesses keen to cash in on the influx of wealthy golfing tourists heading to the new resort.

Radcliffe said she's "quite hopeful that there is a will to address" transport and environmental issues. "The sheer scale of both the proposals and their potential economic spin-off is formidable," she said on her Web site.

Access to the resort will be eased by a 328-yard extension to Aberdeen airport's runway that will allow transatlantic flights, while a new highway around Aberdeen will give it a fast link to the north and south. The road from the city to the estate is also to be widened.

"We need investment and here's a man offering us a billion pounds," said Stewart Spence, owner of Aberdeen's only five- star hotel, the Marcliffe. "What kind of fool would say no to that?"

Trump predicts his resort will inject at least 147 million pounds over 10 years and create 800 jobs.

"This is a large development opportunity that would be foolhardy to pass up," Geoff Runcie, CEO of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said. "It would put Aberdeen on the map."

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