Trump Defends Golf Course Plans in Scotland

Donald Trump argued his case Tuesday for the construction of a US$2 billion (1 billion-pound ; euro1.3 billion) golf resort on a stretch of coast in northeast Scotland after months of acrimony between the billionaire developer and local residents.

Trump was in a bullish mood as he faced a panel of planners and environmentalists' lawyers in a public inquiry in Aberdeen. He said his golf course will be the greatest in the world -- better than the Royal & Ancient at St. Andrews, Turnberry, Carnoustie or Troon.

"The sight has superb topography and who's to disagree it has great vistas and magnificent views," he said.

He wants to build the course at the Menie Estate, 12 miles (19 kilometers) north of Aberdeen. The development has divided political opinion in Scotland and embroiled Scotland's first minister in a dispute about overstepping his jurisdiction in planning law.

The plans to create a course on a legally protected site of scientific interest have been met with opposition from local environmentalists and a landowner who steadfastly refuses to sell his property. Local fisherman Michael Forbes became famous after he refused the Trump Organization's offer of 350,000 pounds (US$690,000) to sell his family's run-down small farm in the center of the estate.

The proposals for two golf courses, 900 timeshare apartments, a 450-bed hotel and 500 luxury homes were narrowly rejected by the Aberdeenshire Council late last year after local residents and conservationists said one course should not be built on the Foveran Links, a stretch of shifting sand dunes that are home to some of the country's rarest wildlife including skylarks, kittiwakes, badgers and otters.

But local business leaders, tourism agencies and Scotland's nationalist First Minister Alex Salmond approve of the development, which could bring-much needed jobs and money to the area.

Under cross-examination by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Trump drew snickers from the audience when he said he knew more about the environment than his consultants did. He acknowledged he had not read environmental reports that he commissioned.

Trump said that the moveable sand dunes would benefit from having a golf course on them as they will be stabilized and would not be blown away in a storm.

The tycoon is facing a panel of three senior planning officials appointed by Salmond's government and lawyers representing environmental agencies.

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