28/02/2008

Ulster Keeps Eye On Trump Golf Project Inquiry

The already contentious application by Trump International Golf Links Scotland to develop a golf resort is now set to go to a Public Local Inquiry - with the outcome eagerly watched by political representatives in Northern Ireland who aim to 'steal' the project for the Province.

John Swinney, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth said the Inquiry comes on foot of his Ministers 'calling in' the planning application for the Trump development at Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, last December.

However, they'll also need to keep a wary eye out, as around the same time as the 'calling in' took place, Northern Ireland's First Minister, Ian Paisley made a point of holding his own talks with the developer, Billionaire tycoon Donald Trump in the USA.

He said these were aimed at securing the controversial Trump Links development for the Province, as an alternative to the troubled Aberdeenshire location, followed the initially rejected planning bid.

NI Assembly First Minister Ian Paisley had a 25-minute meeting in New York with Mr Trump and told him that Northern Ireland would welcome the £1 billion golf resort to County Antrim.

He said, "We had a good exchange together and I told him he would be encouraged if he came because we are looking for people to invest and also for anything which is going to help tourism."

Dr Paisley will now be watching developments across the Irish Sea with renewed interest and will be monitoring the decisions that follow.

Mr Swinney, the Scottish politician said today of the Trump application in Scotland: "This application raises issues of importance that require consideration at a national level.

"I have now been able to evaluate fully the options open to us to ensure that Ministers can give proper consideration to this major and controversial application.

"Given the nature of the application and the considerable public interest it is important that the process to examine the issues is as efficient, transparent and inclusive as possible.

"For those reasons I have determined that there should be a Public Local Inquiry, under the stewardship of a very experienced reporter.

"There is already a large amount of information on the application in the public domain and I would expect the reporter to take full account of that and to focus the inquiry on the issues that are in dispute.

"I have now asked the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) to convene an early meeting of the parties to inform the preparation of a definitive timetable for handling the case."

Aberdeenshire Council officials originally rejected Mr Trump's controversial proposals for a huge golf complex and housing development, and the Scottish local government stepped in to look at Trump's application amid concerns that Aberdeenshire Council's infrastructure services committee voting against would be the death knell of the huge project.

When they "called in" the application - this meant the local Scottish government would have the final say and that remains controversial.

Also, First Minister Alex Salmond had met members of the Trump Organisation - although the SNP leader has said this was done as part of his role as an MSP.

See: Scottish Government Plays Trump Card On Golf Project

(BMcC)






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