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October 7, 2009

Local opposition to compulsory purchase

Reaction to Donald Trump’s proposal to build his billion dollar golf resort in Aberdeenshire has until recently appeared evenly divided.  However Trump’s efforts to gain Council approval to use compulsory purchase orders against those few residents who have refused to sell their properties may have turned the tide against him. A new local campaign to protect the rights of those families to stay in the homes has won widespread support

Tripping Up Trump has established itself as the popular movement against the use of compulsory purchase for private profit. This fresh and energised campaign is standing up for the people and environment threatened by Donald Trump’s development in Aberdeenshire.

This real life story is no longer just about whether you agree or not with the controversial housing and golf complex. This is now about protecting the families that are being threatened by compulsory purchase, not for a school or a hospital but for private profit.

The residents of ‘Menie’ have again and again stated they do not wish to sell and only ask to be left alone in peace but Donald Trump will not accept this fate. Worse still, planning permission was granted on the grounds that he had all the land he needed.

This is why Tripping Up Trump will stand strong and protect the residents of ‘Menie’ from the lurking threat of compulsory purchase. What is happening to the homeowners could happen to anyone else, once a precedent is set.

We ask the councillors to immediately take the responsibility to deal with the situation at hand.

We need your support to make this happen, spread the word, sign the petition and join the campaign.

The story of one of the families under threat

David Milne knows how to show a girl a good time. Eighteen years ago, when he was a 27-year-old just back off the rigs, the Aberdonian’s life was just beginning to slot into place. He’d met the woman with whom he wanted to share his life, and had just found the house where he wanted them to grow old together.

Their first date was an unconventional one, where he introduced one future love of his life to the other. He needn’t have worried. Moira, the bubbly hairdresser and object of his affections, was as smitten with the house as she was with him. She didn’t care that the mouldy old coastguard station was a wreck, that it was down a pot-holed farm track, that it was perched on a hill and being battered by the 40mph winds and lashing rain that roared off the North Sea. Instead, she looked at the panoramic views, of Aberdeen Bay to the south, Peterhead to the north, and she fell in love too. That’s when Milne knew she was the woman for him.

It is, says Milne, difficult to overstate how important Hermit Point is to Moira and himself. He carried her over the threshold here, and they have spent much of the past 17 years doing the place up, “taking it from being a pretty manky, disused coastguard lookout station to being a real home,” as he puts it. “I’ve rebuilt this place with my own hands; it’s been a two-decade labour of love and I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into this place. I love it here: it’s a home for life, and I expected to see out my days here. I always said that they’d carry me out of here in a box.”

Milne is one of the five refuseniks who have said they don’t want to sell their homes to Donald Trump so he can build the houses to accompany the “world-class” golf courses he wants to construct on his Menie Estate just north of Aberdeen. Standing outside Milne’s house on a preternaturally calm October morning, with some of the most spectacular views in Scotland before you, it’s easy to see why he isn’t interested in selling. You can see 40 miles from here, and the light coming off the sea from the mottled sky creates a memorable effect. From his living room you can watch the ships coming in and out of Aberdeen Bay; Milne says that it’s just as beautiful at night, with Aberdeen lit up and the ships specks of light in the gloaming. “Like the Bay of Naples,” he says.

Below us, between his house and the unique 8,000-year-old shifting dune system that fronts on to a long snake of white sand that separates land from sea, is a small valley of boggy grassland with a house here and there. The valley belongs to Menie Estate, home to one of the country’s most famous golf courses even though it has yet to be started. Anyone who has ever hacked their way around 18 holes can see it is the most perfect land on which to build a links; you can almost see where the fairways and greens would go, following the natural contours of the land.

Milne can remember when he first heard rumours the 1,400-acre estate had been sold to be turned into a golf course. “We just thought ‘oh aye, that’ll be right’,” he says. “And then I got this phone call from a man calling himself Peter White who said ‘I’ve been shooting on the Menie Estate and I’ve fallen in love with your house, would you consider selling it?’ to which the answer was no. A couple of days later we found that everyone (on the estate] had had the same call. It turns out it was (Trump operative] Neil Hobday. I don’t like liars.

“Can you really believe he thought we wouldn’t talk to each other? I think he thought we are all as stupid as he is. He’s incredibly thick. He appeared on the doorstep with some woman in tow, who he said was his wifeand I haven’t seen since. This time he said’you said you’d be interested in a really good offer…’ so I said ‘no I didn’t, I said no!’ and shut the door in his face.”

It wasn’t a good start to relations so Trump personally sought to allay the fears of those homeowners living either within the old Menie Estate or next to it.

“In May 2006 all the residents on the estate were invited up to Menie House – it turned out to be a tent in the garden, but never mind – at which they presented a very vague drawing, more like a zoning diagram, plus a plan in which there were going to be two courses, 150 houses and a 200-bedroom hotel. I was never mad keen on the idea, but compared to what you could get as a neighbour it was OK. So I was never a supporter, but I was never dead set against it. As long as they stayed off the SSSI (the dunes, a Site of Special Scientific Interest], I was happy to consider it.

“At that meeting, Trump made a point of saying ‘I only need 160 acres to build an 18-hole golf course, but I will do it in 200. I’ve got 800 acres, so I don’t need your homes.’