A nationally important dune system on the eastern coast of Scotland is at risk of losing its legal protection after Donald Trump built a golf resort on it. It is claimed that the development has ruined the rare habitat, and that a new assessment of the site is likely to mean it will be stripped of its status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
In a new documentary about the US President and his relationship with Scotland set to be aired in the UK on BBC One, it is claimed that Trump has not honored the promises he made in 2008 when applying for permission to build the golf course and resort on the Foveran Links, as the site is known. This included the creation of 6,000 jobs, two courses, a five star 450 room hotel, and timeshare flats by a total investment of around $1 billion.
Under these proposals, and despite fierce protests from locals and the knowledge that the development would likely damage the environment, the Scottish government, then led by Alex Salmond, decided that the economic benefits outweighed the ecological. To date, just $100 million has been spent, with only around 150 people employed by the 16 bedroom hotel and single golf course.
The coastal region north of Aberdeen was considered ecologically important due to its mobile dune system, which was considered one of the finest examples of such an environment in the UK. The sand dunes, driven by the wind that comes off the North Sea, moved north by a surprising 11 meters per year. That drift, however, has now been impeded by the development of Trump’s golf course.
“As expected, there are areas where there has been some permanent habitat loss – for example, where tracks, tees, fairways, and greens have been constructed” explained a spokesperson from Scottish Natural Heritage, to the BBC. “There have been other habitat changes where, for example, mobile sand dunes have been stabilised through the planting of marram grass.
"Part of our review will be to assess the significance and scale of this loss and damage.”
The main reason the area was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest was its dynamic dune system, and the pristine condition that it was in before development began. One expert on coastal ecology, Dr Jim Hansom, told the BBC that he would be “absolutely surprised” if the site did not lose its status. “It's been ruined from a virgin undeveloped wilderness site into something that's relatively manicured,” he said.
The decision over future protections of the dune system is expected to be made by Scottish Natural Heritage later this month.