Dunes at Trump golf course may lose protected status
Scottish Natural Heritage said the dune system at Menie, Aberdeenshire, has been damaged through the construction of the resort.
Sand dunes at Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort may lose their status as a protected wildlife site.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said there is no longer a reason to protect the dunes at Menie as they do not include enough of the special features for which they were designated a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
The designation is given to areas with rare species of fauna or flora, or with important geological or physiological features.
Friday marks the beginning of a three-month consultation on the future status of Foveran Links SSSI, of which the dunes at Menie form part.
Mr Trump was granted permission to build a golf course at the site despite concerns about damage to the dunes and Trump International Golf Links opened in 2012.
SNH said evidence showed permanent habitat loss following the construction of fairways and greens, and that the stabilisation of mobile sand “has destroyed the dynamic nature of the site”.
Trump International said the move by the government body was politically motivated and a “stitch-up”.
Sally Thomas, director of people and nature at SNH, said: “The denotification of SSSIs is unusual, however in this case we have found there is no longer a reason to protect the dunes at Menie as they do not include enough of the special, natural features for which they were designated.
“We work with developers across Scotland to ensure habitats and wildlife are protected when development work is undertaken.
“Most of the time, development can take place without damaging important natural features, but this was not the case in this instance.”
SNH said evidence showed around a third of the special habitats at the Menie section of the Foveran SSSI had been damaged.
“The remainder of the habitats in the Menie area have been significantly fragmented, and ecological processes disrupted,” it said.
Following the consultation the remaining SSSI at Foveran Links are expected to be merged with the adjacent Sands of Forvie and Ythan Estuary SSSI.
Sarah Malone, executive vice president at Trump International, said: “Before Donald Trump invested in the site, SNH had little interest in the SSSI at Foveran Links and did even less about it, and has barely been on property since.
“Trump International funds a team of leading geomorphological consultants, ecologists and environmental experts and has spent millions on the care, protection and maintenance of the small area of SSSI in Scotland that it owns and yet SNH has offered no support, guidance or help.
“All this government agency wants to do is score political points and undermine that investment, custodianship and environmental management.
“No other SSSI site in the country has been afforded the amount of funding or expertise that Menie has and continues to receive.”
Ms Malone added: “Historically, SNH has demonstrated its ignorance about the environmental qualities of the site and has relied entirely on our consultants for the information they are now using against us.”
Green MSP John Finnie said meanwhile that Scottish ministers must not repeat the “disastrous decision” of granting permission for such a course.
He said: “Allowing another American ‘billionaire’ to build a course on one of Scotland’s most protected sites – Coul Links – would signify that these international designations aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.”
Scottish ministers called in the decision at Coul Links at Embo in Dornoch after it was approved by the local authority.
A final decision is yet to be made following a planning inquiry earlier this year.