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Trump tightens grip on Aberdeenshire land

December 08 2011
The residents of Milnie Links continue their David and Goliath struggle against the billionaire tycoon


For over a year, The Pavement has been keeping readers up to date with the epic battle of American billionaire tycoon Donald Trump to build what he claims will be "the greatest golf course in the world" on a scenic and environmentally protected stretch of coastline in the north-east of Scotland.

A storm has been raging amidst the idyllic sand dunes of Balmedie. Local families have locked horns with Aberdeen's councillors, who have buckled under the pressure of Mr Trump's carefully orchestrated media and legal campaign. In October 2009, homeowners in Aberdeen were dealt their first major blow as the local council refused to rule the issuing of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs), which would force residents from their bought homes. The council had refused to even hold a vote about the motion, which added to the residents' disappointment.

In March 2010, a public exhibition unveiled detailed plans for the controversial £1bn resort, which Mr Trump hopes will include two golf courses, a hotel and residential village. To the dismay of the tenants, Mr Trump's plans assume the eviction of four families living on the edge of the Melnie Links estate. The aerial view of the proposed resort depicts a block of holiday flats standing where one of Melnie Links properties is currently situated, and shows another home being swallowed up by Mr Trump's golf course.

Mr Trump initially proposed to purchase 200 acres for an 18-hole golf course. However, his plans soon grew to encompass 1,400 acres, as a luxury hotel, 400 houses and an incredible 900 apartments were merged into the development. Mr Trump now insists that, without the additional 1,200 acres, "the whole project is likely to collapse."

Melnie Links residents now fear that Trump will use Compulsory Purchase Orders to force them from their homes to make way for his development. In response to the plans unveiled in the spring, Martin Ford, who is leading the opposition against Trump, said: "The question now is how long before Mr Trump renews his demands for compulsory purchase of residents' homes."

However, Sarah Malone, vice-president of Trump International Scotland, insisted: "Our position of compulsory purchase has not changed – it is an option of last resort within the Scottish planning process."

Despite Ms Malone's encouraging statement, Mr Trump's team of lawyers have subsequently found buried in Scot's law a legal loophole, known as a "quirk," which allows the Trump project to apply for planning permission on the contested land, while the residents still live on it. Mr Trump himself is leaning on his mother's Scottish roots as a means of legitimising his thirst for a game of pitch and putt.

A recent BBC documentary gave voice to the Aberdeenshire homeowners whose properties stand in the way of Trump's vision. Resident and former record producer of The Clash, Micky Foote, maintains that his recent stroke was a consequence of the ongoing battle for land. David and Moira Milne explained how they have spent 17 years nurturing a home that risks being swept aside to make way for Mr Trump's 18th green.

Another of the homeowners under threat is Michael Forbes, one of the last of the salmon fishermen on the bay of Aberdeen. The home that Mr Forbes shares with his elderly mother and describes as "paradise" has been described by the billionaire as untidy, while Mr Forbes himself has been dismissed as an "eccentric" timewaster.

Despite the seemingly bleak prospects for Mr Forbes and his neighbours, the residents of Milnie Links stand firm in their opposition to Mr Trump. David and Moira Milne are adamant: "the bottom line is, the bugger isn't getting it, that's all there is to it".

Anthony Walsh & Amy Hopkins

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