Trump firm pledges to fund new school as part of luxury housing deal


The Trump Organization has promised to fund a new school and a health centre in order to win permission for a luxury housing estate near Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort.

The local council’s head of infrastructure, Stephen Archer, recommended councillors approve plans from Trump Golf Scotland to build 550 luxury homes and holiday villas in the first phase of a new development.

Archer said the Trump Organization had agreed to part-fund a new health clinic in the town of Ellon, about eight miles (13km) away, plus a primary school and a new waste and recycling centre in nearby Balmedie.

It has also pledged to build 150 affordable homes in later phases, in a change from the original plans. If Trump fails to construct affordable homes on the site, his company faces a £5m surcharge to pay for them elsewhere.

In a report to Formartine area committee, which meets on Tuesday to discuss the plans, Archer admitted the scheme broke the agreement Donald Trump signed in 2008 to win permission for his £750m golf resort.

But Archer said the new proposals came close enough to the original plans to justify council approval given the difficult economic climate. He claimed the housing scheme, which will be expanded significantly in later phases, would support more than 500 jobs and put £26m into the economy.

Given the Trump Organization was pressing ahead with plans for a second 18-hole golf course and had made other concessions, Archer said: “The planning service considers the potential economic benefits of the proposed development to have considerable merit.”

His backing for the project substantially increases the chances it will be approved at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire council later in September, despite the proposals having received a record 2,900 letters of objection and 18,722 people signing a protest petition.

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Debra Storr, a planning consultant who vigorously opposed Trump’s resort proposals when she was a Scottish Green party councillor in Aberdeenshire, described Archer’s position as “quite frankly, hogwash. I’m not surprised the council has shown no backbone.”

She said Trump had only won approval to build luxury villas and timeshare flats in 2008 because they were needed to pay for the major golf resort he planned, which included a five-star hotel with 450 beds, shops, a clubhouse, conference centre and golf academy. None of these are being built.

She said the original deal included money towards a local school and health centre, as well as affordable homes, but based on guarantees from Trump that the private homes would only be built once the whole resort was being developed.

“If they develop the houses, there is no incentive to deliver the resort. It is the resort which was supposed to deliver the massive economic benefit which justified trashing the dunes protected by a site of special scientific interest,” she said.

Martin Ford, a Scottish Greens councillor who first blocked Trump’s proposals in 2007, said Aberdeenshire would never have approved housing so far from public facilities or another settlement in any other circumstances.

“It only ever got on to the radar as a justification for Trump’s golf resort. So in the end, Trump gets to buy land for housing at agricultural land prices. If the council lets him away with that, they’ve been a bunch of suckers,” Ford said.

The transport department is the only section of Aberdeenshire council to oppose the development. It said there were no safe walking routes to Balmedie or its school, and there was no easy way to improve safety for cyclists.

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The department said there was “a high risk of non-delivery” of the Trump Organization’s “vague” promises to improve safety for walkers in the new estate and car usage would be much higher than the plans claimed.

Archer’s report argues the expansion of Trump’s boutique hotel to include new bedrooms and the pledge to add 200 beds and 50 “leisure units” goes some way to meeting the promise in 2008 to provide a 450-bed luxury hotel.



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