EDINBURGH, Scotland — Nature and sports have collided over tycoon Donald Trump's plans to build "the world's greatest golf course" on a stretch of remote and stunning Scottish coastline that is home to some of the country's rarest birds.
The billionaire property developer wants to turn sand dunes at the Menie Estate, 15 miles north of Aberdeen, into a $2 billion golf resort — complete with two 18-hole courses, a luxurious 450-bedroom hotel, 950 vacation homes, 36 golf villas and 500 upscale homes costing from $800,000 to $2 million each.
Standing in his way are the current inhabitants of the unspoiled sandy beach with rolling dunes: seven species of endangered birds including Skylarks and breeding waders, particularly Lapwings and Redshank on the World Conservation Union's "Red List."
Residents in the quiet nearby village of Balmedie also are up in arms over the proposed resort, branding it a "gated community" with too many houses that would spoil the bucolic atmosphere of the area.
Concerned that his investment is about to be pitched into the rough, Trump flew into Scotland this week to set out his plans ahead of a crunch meeting of local council members later this month. He warned he would drop the project if the houses are rejected and claimed the course would improve the local environment.
Trump: We've got eco-awards
"Each and every golf course I have built has got awards for environmental protection, and I do not think anyone has got as many awards as we have," Trump said at news conference on the estate. "When we are finished, the course will be better environmentally than before we started.
"It's possible I could lose a great deal of money," he said. "It would cost a lot less money if we did not care about the environment."
Protesters claim the visit was designed to put the heat on members of Aberdeenshire Council who are expected to make a decision on Oct. 29. If approved, it would then go to the Scottish government for final approval.
"It's definitely designed to put pressure on the councilors," said Menie resident Michael Foote of Sustainable Aberdeenshire. "We need housing in this area for local people ... while those built in his development would not be bought by locals. So tell me where the economic benefit is to this region?"
In July, planning officials recommended approval for the project, which would create more than 800 jobs during peak season. But the plan is so controversial that councilors have deferred their decision and are refusing to comment until the consultation process is completed.
The area has more than 125 miles of unspoiled beaches and residents have prospered, thanks to the North Sea oil boom in Aberdeen. But in recent years, the oil industry has declined from its peak in the 1980s.
Trump has spoken proudly of his Scottish roots — his late mother was a Macleod from the Isle of Lewis.
His spokesman, George Sorial, said the tycoon is anxious to build a course in Scotland because it is the home of golf.
Focus on dunes
Environmental protection agencies have locked horns with Trump over the back nine holes of the major course, which currently are sand dunes.
Stuart Housden, director of the society in Scotland, said: "It is disappointing that they will not compromise on the location of the proposed golf course. This would cause severe environmental damage to an important area."
If the resort is allowed, work could start in January, with the first tee-off in 2010.
Who would be first to tee up?
"I think that privilege with go to Mr. Trump," said Sorial. "He is, after all, the best golfer in the office."
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