Environmentalists and wildlife campaigners called for a public inquiry last night after the American tycoon Donald Trump was given the go-ahead to build a 1bn golf resort on acres of delicate sand dunes in Aberdeenshire.
There were loud boos as well as cheers after the Formartine area committee of Aberdeenshire Council approved outline planning consent for the development by seven votes to four.
The US billionaire has said he hopes to build "the greatest golf course in the world" over the next five years at the Menie Estate a 1,400-acre site near Balmedie.
The proposed resort which has been in the pipeline for four years and has yet to be approved by Aberdeenshire Council's infrastructure committee includes two golf courses, a hotel, a teaching facility, nearly 1,000 holiday homes and 500 private houses. Speaking from America last night, Mr Trump said of the committee's decision: "It is a tremendous victory. I am feeling great, very happy. I'm honoured." He claims the complex would bring in 60m a year and create 6,000 jobs.
The dispute has come to a head over recent days. On Sunday, George Sorial, Mr Trump's main negotiator, flew to Aberdeen to answer concerns from councillors. The plans are opposed by conservationists, partly because the estate is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), and development could destroy delicate sand dune systems and rare plant species. A spokesman for RSPB Scotland said: "Areas such as this are a vital part of our environment that should be protected for the benefit of wildlife and generations to come."
Conservationists were buoyed by a flurry of complaints after a public row between Trump and Michael Forbes, a salmon fisherman who has refused to sell his ragged 9-hectare (23-acre) property on the edge of the site. Mr Trump accused Mr Forbes, 55, of keeping a ramshackle farmhouse in a bid to force him to increase his offer for the land. Mr Forbes told Mr Trump to "stick his money" in response.