Lawyers acting for Donald Trump made repeated attempts to persuade Scottish Ministers to order a public inquiry into the controversial offshore wind farm planned for Aberdeen Bay on the doorstep of his Menie golf resort, it has been revealed.
But senior planners with Marine Scotland, advising the Government on the contentious renewables development, took the view that the planning system did not exist to protect the interests of “one person or business against the activities of another.”
And they told Ministers: “Seventy-one golf courses in the UK are within 25 kilometres of offshore wind farms. It is clear that the potential visual effects of the development on golfers is not unprecedented and other world famous courses have, or are likely to have in the future, views of offshore wind farms.”
The concerted bid by lawyers, acting for the Trump Organisation, to secure a public inquiry into the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre – given the go ahead by Fergus Ewing, the Enterprise Minister on Tuesday – is revealed in the detailed submission document on the development. It was handed to Scottish Government Ministers by Andrew Sutherland, the marine renewable licensing advisor, and Mark Christie, a policy officer at Marine Scotland the day before the final decision was made.
Their joint report states: “Dundas & Wilson (Trump’s lawyers) have in a number of letters repeatedly asked Ministers to cause a PLI (public local inquiry) to be held with respect to the objections by the Trump Organisation and TIGLS (Trump International Golf Links Scotland).”
As far back as December 2011 Dundas & Wilson warned that the investment at the Menie Estate was being put at risk by the proposed wind farm development, and requested Scottish Ministers to exercise their discretion to call a PLI. They argued that a PLI was necessary to “explore all the material considerations and to ensure a proper evidential base to inform the Scottish Ministers determination of the application.”
The lawyers wrote again in October 2012 claiming that the “best use of evidence of whether or not the development at its proposed location will undermine the Trump resort must come from the Trump Organisation as funders, developers and operators of the resort.”
Dundas & Wilson also stated that they believed the Menie Estate had been found to be of “national economic importance” and that Scottish Ministers should allow for appropriate scrutiny of the proposal through oral evidence “so as to meet the requirements of the European Convention of Human Rights.”
The report continues: “Dundas & Wilson advised that, should Scottish Ministers fail to hold a public inquiry into the development, they would ‘strongly recommend’ that their clients pursue ‘all legal remedies’ available to them, including judicial proceedings, to protect their rights and to ensure that their legitimate expectations in respect of the Menie resort are met by the Scottish Government.”
In January this year the lawyers again called for an inquiry and stated that the Trump Organisation “would not proceed with the Golf resort should the development proceed in its proposed location.”
The two planners told Ministers they could accept that there would be “some impact” on the Menie Estate Golf and Resort complex, were the offshore development to be built in its proposed location.
They stated: “Our advice is that Ministers should consider that the Menie Estate development is one which has potential significant economic and social advantages at a national, regional and social level if it were built in full.”
But they pointed out that Scottish Government planning guidelines state: “The planning system operates in the long term public interest. It does not exist to protect the interests of one person or business against the activities of another. In distinguishing between public and private interests the basic question is whether the proposal would unacceptably affect the amenity and existing land use of land and buildings which ought to be protected in the public interest, not whether owners or occupiers of neighbouring or other existing properties would experience financial or other loss from a particular development.”
The planners told Ministers: “In light of the terms of the various reports that have been provided to the Ministers, taken together with all the other information on the subject that is publicly available, an inquiry into the issues as proposed by the Trump Organisation would not be likely to provide any factual information to assist Ministers to resolve the issues of risk and planning judgment raised by the application.”
And they warned: “A decision not to consent the development would risk creating a perception that Scotland had stepped back from its support for offshore wind. Such a perceived change in strategic direction would be likely to impact negatively upon investor confidence, reducing the potential for emissions reductions and opportunities for jobs in offshore wind energy.”
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