0 Trump course architect insists it won’t be a world-class resort without dunes

Martin Hawtree told yesterday's part of the inquiry that he had not examined the council's planning policy on sites of special scientific interest.

The golf course architect working on Donald Trump's proposed £1billion resort north of Aberdeen yesterday insisted there was "no sense" in avoiding the area of protected dunes and said it was vital to ensure it gained world-class status.

Martin Hawtree admitted he had not read Aberdeenshire Council's planning policy on developing on a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) before designing the course.

He was cross-examined on day two of the local public inquiry into Mr Trump's planning application to build two golf courses, a 450-bedroom hotel, 900 holiday homes and 500 residential houses at Menie Estate, near Balmedie.

David Tyldesley, for the RSPB in Scotland, asked the architect three times if he had read and considered a report examining the dune system, written in 2001 for SNH.

Mr Hawtree refused to give a definite answer and said he had "assumed" the previous architect, Tom Fazio, would have read the report.

He said: "My understanding was that I was there to produce a links golf course and that I attempted to create a layout that disturbed the dunes as little as possible."

Mr Tyldesley then asked Mr Hawtree for his thoughts on a course design commissioned by the RSPB by Scottish golf architect Mike Wood which avoids the SSSI.

Mr Hawtree said: "I don't believe it would be world-class because agricultural or pasture land he has substituted for the sand dunes is really no substitute."

He insisted there was little point in deliberately weakening the course at Menie by building outside the SSSI.

"This is why I'm so enthusiastic about this site because from a links golf course point of view it has very few weaknesses," he said.

"There's no area of dull play, there's no dull hole, there's no hole which is on arable land, there is no hole where there's not a view of the sea.

"The holes that Mr Wood has placed behind the dunes have lost a lot of that spirit of being close to the sea."

Mr Hawtree confirmed Mr Trump's "ambition" to create a world-class course, but said the end result would be up to others to judge.

Public access to the site was the focus of questioning to the course architect by John Mackay, director of the Scottish Rights of Way Society.

Mr Hawtree said he was aware through negotiations with Aberdeenshire Council that a network of footpaths had been established over the years and his layout allowed those rights to continue.

However, he was pressed to concede that at least one path would have to be diverted as a result of extending the fairway for the fourth hole.

He acknowledged that a large number of people staying at the resort would not be playing golf and expected they would use existing paths to reach the dunes or beach.

Councillor Martin Ford asked if Mr Hawtree was aware when he started designing the course that the policy in the Aberdeenshire Local Plan was that developing an SSSI site would only be considered if there was no suitable alternative.

Mr Hawtree said he had not examined that policy but stressed: "Within two weeks of my appointment, planning officers of Aberdeenshire Council reported they were recommending approval.

"I had that behind me when I was doing the plan. In other words I felt I didn't need to go through the whole issue of planning consideration, as the planning department had already gone through it."

Mr Ford asked what provision had been made for the very large numbers of spectators at a major championship on the main course.

Mr Hawtree said such arrangements were normally prepared two to three years in advance of any championship and organisers would employ their own consultant to determine the most suitable paths between dunes.

"This site has more space between individual holes than any other golf course I know," he added.

Mr Ford asked if that meant large crowds would damage the environment.

Mr Hawtree said the role of the ecologist would be to choose routes which minimise damage, but experience had shown these were expected to fully recover within nine months.

He said disruption to the landscape would also be minimal, as the areas where he intended to stabilise sand and plant grass to create fairways would be largely hidden by dunes and only small parts of the course would be visible from the A90.

Asked by inquiry reporter Michael Cunliffe about pressure on the water table and the potential for pollution, Mr Hawtree said irrigation practice was only to add as much water as necessary, but if more water was needed to preserve the water table that could be arranged. He said modern greenkeeping uses as little fertiliser, herbicide and insecticide as possible, and the type of grasses proposed needed less water, fertiliser and pesticides than most.

Colin Boyd QC, for the Trump Organisation, asked about the Mike Wood course. Mr Hawtree said he knew Mr Wood and had been approached by him when he was taken on by the RSPB to come up with an alternative.

He said he would have been happy to meet him to see if they if they could reach agreement on any issues, but was unable to do so as he would be out of the country. But three weeks ago an e-mail from Mr Wood said he would not be able to meet him after all because his clients were reluctant for that to happen.

Yesterday, Aberdeenshire Council leader Anne Robertson read her opening statement to the inquiry.

Ms Robertson, who supports the plans, said she respected the position of the development's opponents but did not think that "those views reflected the views of the council generally".

She said reliance on oil "cannot continue", and the resort would provide jobs and "diversify our economy".

"It provides a world-class facility that enhances the reputation of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire in the global economy," she said

Ms Robertson is due to continue her evidence today.

Source :- The Press and Journal

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