LONDON, November 3, 2008 -- Scotland's government said on Monday it was granting outline planning permission for U.S. tycoon Donald Trump to build a controversial $2 billion golfing development on a pristine stretch of northeast coast.
The permission is subject to Trump and the council satisfactorily concluding legal agreements with each other.
"Unless something striking happens ... this is essentially approval for the project," said a spokesman for the Scottish government, which is run by the Scottish National Party.
Last November a committee of Aberdeenshire council -- which is administered by a Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition -- rejected on environmental grounds the project to build two championship golf courses, 500 homes, four blocks of holiday flats, a luxury hotel and 36 villas.
But the council later reversed that decision shortly after the Scottish government said it was intervening because the development was too important to be dealt with by local legislators.
Real estate magnate Trump had threatened to relocate the project to Northern Ireland.
Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said he agreed with the conclusions of the leaders -- or "reporters" -- of the government's own planning inquiry.
"The reporters found there was significant economic and social benefit to be gained from this project, which has been a major consideration in my decision to grant outline planning permission," he said.
Environmentalists had feared extensive construction on the sensitive site would damage wildlife and local habitats.
About a third of the land that Trump wants to build on is classified as an area of special scientific interest because its coastal sand dunes support many unique and rare species.
Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Jon Boyle