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Donald Trump may fail to follow through on Scottish golf resort plan

Millionaire poised to give up on ‘world’s greatest golf course’, blaming offshore wind farm application

Donald Trump is on the brink of abandoning his plans for the “world’s greatest golf course” near Aberdeen after claiming his £750m project is being threatened by an offshore wind farm.

The billionaire property developer has disclosed he has frozen plans to build the second 18-hole golf course, the five-star hotel, the luxury villas and houses and the timeshare apartments that make up the planned resort until a final decision is made on the wind-power project.

Instead, the scheme will feature only the first golf course, which is now due to open slightly earlier than expected, in June, and a small, temporary clubhouse. That building would, Trump said, eventually be replaced by a large, “super-luxury” clubhouse, for which Aberdeenshire council has just granted planning permission.

But Trump’s threats are fuelling suspicions that he is using the wind farm, known as the European offshore wind deployment centre, as a reason to abandon the golf resort rather than admit the project is no longer viable or affordable.

His criticisms of the scheme have intensified significantly over recent months, and included a direct appeal to Alex Salmond, the first minister. Initially an enthusiastic supporter of Trump, Salmond has refused to intervene over the wind farm, which has already been substantially reduced in scale.

In a statement issued from his New York headquarters, Trump said: “All further plans for future development, including the hotel, are now on hold until the Scottish government makes a decision on the application for the European offshore wind deployment centre submitted by Vattenfall and Areg [Aberdeen renewable energy group].

“If the north-east of Scotland is serious about tourism and creating a global golf destination it cannot allow the coastline to be ruined by an ugly industrial park (11 64-storey test turbines) directly off the shoreline.”

Trump admitted in June that the global recession had forced him to delay construction of the five-star hotel, apartments and large luxury housing estate, which were at the centre of the resort plans.

He said “the world has crashed” since he bought the Menie estate, in Aberdeenshire, and its vast area of dunes in 2005. Trump is now linking the delay to the wind farm, a position he did not take in June.

David Milne, an immediate neighbour and a critic of Trump who has resisted pressure to sell his home to the developer, said: “I firmly believe he is just trying to sell. The planning permission he gained [for the clubhouse] was the final piece to increase the sale value of the golf course. That is the only reason they bothered going for it.

“The course is not selling as well as he thought. He has only sold 3,000 rounds of golf, and that’s less than a month’s worth of golfing after months of intensive marketing. He hasn’t got the money, no investors are interested, and he is going to cut his losses and run.”

No one from Trump International Golf Links was available to respond.

Suspicions about Trump’s tactics have intensified because there have been clear signals that the wind farm project is extremely likely to be approved, as it is central to the Scottish government’s strategy of making the country a global leader in wind farm technologies.

Backed by the European commission, it will be a test-bed for some of the most advanced offshore wind turbine designs. The £200m project, which will be 2.5km (1.5 miles) south-east of the Menie estate coastline, is also being championed by many of Trump’s prominent supporters in Aberdeenshire.

The state-owned Swedish renewables giant Vattenfall is due to build the wind farm. The consortium behind the project includes Aberdeenshire council, which backs Trump’s resort; the Wood Group, owned by a local millionaire and avowed fan of Trump, Sir Ian Wood; and Robert Gordon University, which gave Trump an honorary degree, presented to him by Wood. Other board members are from Aberdeen University and Aberdeen city council.

Trump’s senior staff have had a series of meetings with the consortium, which has already adjusted its plans, cut the number of turbines from 33 to 11, and reduced the visual impact of the scheme after Trump’s initial complaints and concerns from organisations, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds