The Trump Organization has spent years trying to develop swathes of farmland around its flagship international golf resort at Turnberry, with plans to build hundreds of luxury properties, leisure facilities and shops on the coast from the Firth of Clyde.
In a development aimed at wealthy golf enthusiasts and retirees, architects hired by the former US president have drawn up a master plan detailing hundreds of ‘high-end’ private homes which they say would offer ‘tranquility and respite permanent,” while helping to meet what he described as “an ever-increasing demand for investment opportunities.”
But in what represents a significant setback for the Trump Organization’s attempts to turn Turnberry into a profitable business, its ambitious expansion plans have been delayed by government planning officials.
However, Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Scotland, said the Trump Organization still intended to develop the site and would file a planning application “in due course”.
Mr Trump’s company had requested an amendment to the Rural Area Development Policy to support any development proposals seen as “upgrading” the status of the resort, a four-time host of the prestigious Open Golf Championship. He also urged planning officers to allocate land he owns around the South Ayrshire property for recreation, recreation and housing development.
Now, Scotland Sunday learned that after nearly a year of reviewing the proposals, reporters from the government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) made it clear that the Trump Organization’s demands should not be granted.
Donald Trump’s Turnberry company sever ties with CFO
After reviewing South Ayrshire Council’s new Local Development Plan (LDP) – essentially a framework that decrees which sites in the area could be developed – senior reporter Claire Milne pointed out that neither the Trump Organization nor its representatives had advanced cases to show an acknowledged lack of housing in the area and provided ‘no evidence’ regarding the need for retirement housing.
Ms Milne added that the site in question is far from medical facilities and other major services, and that the impact on local infrastructure is unknown, “it is not clear whether the development would be viable or effective during the plan period”.
She concluded: “Nothing in the submission convinces me that this proposal would fit with the spatial strategy of the plan by promoting a model of sustainable development adapted to the region.
Ms Milne’s journalist colleague, Philip Barton, also rejected the Trump Organization’s demand that the planning policy should be changed to show support for proposals “that could improve the status” of Turnberry.
Disputing such theoretical promises of improvements, he described the request as ‘not well justified’ and noted: ‘The suggested change is aimed at principled support for any proposal which ‘might’ improve the status of Turnberry and Royal Troon. It would be more appropriate for a developer to explain on a case-by-case basis, and with reference to good quality evidence, how their proposal would do it.
The rapporteurs’ review, together with conclusions and recommendations, will now be submitted to the board. He must accept the recommendations and modifications, and can only refuse them in a limited number of circumstances.
The Trump Organization and its Scottish affiliates will still be able to submit a planning application for any new development project. Even if any request is deemed contrary to the new LDP, it could still be approved by the advisers.
However, planners from South Ayrshire Council have described these initial plans – drawn up by Covell Matthews, an Aberdeen-based architectural firm – as an “insensitive” development with “unsubstantiated” benefits.
Undeterred, the Trump Organization returned to the table. Far from reducing his proposals to 87 homes in order to appease officials, he instead drew up plans for an even bigger development on 120 acres of land.
The revised project was never announced or made public, but Scotland Sunday obtained documents in 2020 detailing the scope of the “coastal retreat”, consisting of no less than 225 properties, covering residential homes, holiday homes, retirement villas, rental chalets and luxury serviced apartments .
Such an expansion, according to a document, represented a “natural extension” of Turnberry’s current business assets and would strengthen its future as a “world leader in the leisure and tourism market”.
He added: “This is not a traditional hotel and tourism offer, but responds to an ever-increasing demand for investment opportunities through the purchase and co-ownership of private holiday homes in tourist and leisure complexes in world class.”
Asked about the Trump Organization’s future development plans for both Turnberry and its first Scottish resort in Aberdeenshire, which won planning permission in 2019 to build 550 homes, Ms Malone said the organization Trump remained “fully committed to his long-term investment plans” in Scotland.
“We have not yet made a formal request to develop the Turnberry site but we will do so in due course,” she explained. “Our plans for Trump International in Aberdeenshire have not changed and will be advanced over the next 12 months.”
It comes after Turnberry’s corporate body, Golf Recreation Scotland Limited, recorded losses of nearly £5.3million in 2020, marking the seventh year in a row that it has been in the red under Mr. Trump.
Since the 75-year-old took over the resort in 2014 his losses have totaled almost £50m, and latest accounts filed with Companies House show he remains dependent on more than £113m of loans from its parent company, a state of Florida. trust of the licensor on behalf of Mr. Trump.