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Trumped: Fisherman With A Knockout Punch


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Trumped: fisherman with a knockout punch


Pile of sand ... the property owned by Michael Forbes that stopped Donald Trump in his tracks.

Photo: AFP

IN ONE corner, a world-famous property developer with serious dollars to spend and some of the most prestigious real estate in places such as New York, Chicago and Dubai. In the other, a ragtag of staunch Scottish conservationists and a salmon fisherman who has become a local celebrity by refusing to sell his unkempt nine hectares to make way for "the world's greatest golf course".

The billionaire is not used to losing, but he got a bloody nose on Thursday. In a surprise decision, the local council threw out Donald Trump's plan to build a £1 billion ($2.3 billion) golf resort on a rare and vulnerable stretch of sand dunes on the coast north of Aberdeen in eastern Scotland.

After the project was voted through last week by the council's Formartine local area committee, Thursday's meeting of the council's infrastructure committee was seen as a formality.

George Sorial, Mr Trump's managing director for international development, had hailed the earlier decision as vindication of the care and thought the Trump Organisation had given to the planning application.

But on Thursday night, a bitterly disappointed Mr Sorial said Mr Trump was "very shocked" by the decision. "It's not just a loss for us but for the people of Aberdeen and the shire. The members of the council's infrastructure committee have chosen to protect a pile of sand."

Concerns about the proposed resort, which included two championship golf courses, a five-star hotel, a golf academy, nearly 1000 holiday homes and 500 private houses, centred on the fact that part of it would be built on a site of special scientific interest containing sensitive sand dunes.

Mr Sorial rejected accusations the Trump team had been "arrogant and patronising" in its approach. "There's a view we are arrogant. We are not arrogant. We set certain standards. It may be incomprehensible to smaller minds, but we have always set high standards. We presented them with a plan and hoped they could open their minds, but it was too much for them."

Complaints to the council surged after a row erupted between the property developer and Michael Forbes, a fisherman who refused to sell his land despite spiralling offers of up to £373,000. Mr Trump described Mr Forbes's property as a "disgrace" which was in "total disrepair" and which had damaged his visionary scheme for an award-winning resort.

The ruling was close, with the vote locked at 7-7 after 2½ hours of heated debate, but the casting vote by the committee chairman, Martin Ford, ensured Trump's vision would have to be carried out elsewhere. Mickey Foote, of Sustainable Aberdeenshire, said: "The council has been involved in a very lengthy and contentious debate over the economic benefits versus national heritage. They chose to protect the national heritage … They have chosen not to indulge an over-ambitious property developer." But the defeat will come as a blow to many in the business community who supported Mr Trump's plans.

Guardian News & Media

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