The Scottish Government’s approval yesterday of the Trump Organisation’s plans for Menie in Aberdeenshire is unsurprising and shameful. Obviously this is a political decision in the face of compelling environmental, economic and planning reasons for refusing the application. Scotland’s politicians, like their counterparts at Westminster are so obsessed (and impressed) by money, developers and business that they have facilitated the destruction of an irreplaceable piece of landscape and habitat for a vast gated estate of timeshare and executive homes. It seems that it is acceptable and necessary to lay waste to these assets to propitiate greedy individuals and corporates and the Government have no shame about dressing this up in specious economic development arguments – First Minister Alex Salmond hailed the news, citing 6,000 possible jobs but of course this is improbable to say the least.
There are a number of levels at which this process is disturbing. One of these is expressed by Edinburgh architect Malcolm Fraser: “I suppose this is us learning to be a good service-economy: to give up our most fragile and valuable natural environments to allow the rich to helicopter in for a spot of golf with associated gated-luxury housing, all tartanised by an architectural style the worst volume housebuilders would recognise, a Trumpton-meets-the-Shining confection of pointy heritage bits”. The jimmy-hat architecture of the outline proposals speaks of these trivial and patronising ambitions.
In an article in the Guardian in June 2008, Simon Jenkins noted that, “The point of environmental planning is not to capitulate to short-term market forces but to channel them to the public good. There can be no public good in building over the Balmedie dunes.” and “The truth is that Scotland is a victim of another colossal Trump try-on. This project is primarily about luxury holiday homes, not fairways. Scotland’s gullible politicians have been taken in by a New York billionaire.”
Wikipedia’s current definition of a banana republic contains much that doesn’t apply to Scotland and much that does, for example, “…a banana republic typically has large wealth inequities, poor infrastructure, poor schools, a “backward” economy, low capital spending, a reliance on foreign capital and money printing, budget deficits, and a weakening currency – rings bells yes?.” Worst of all for planning and the future of Scotland is the absolute lack of confidence and dearth of ideas that this decision says about what the country could be and should be.
For an refreshing view and intermittent commentary on the whacky world of regeneration and economic development look at John Lord’s blog at http://yellowbookltd.blogspot.com.
See also an article in the Economist on 6 November 2008 on why the controversial golf development may not make much money entitled “Trump’s Scottish Venture – Birdie or Bogey?”
Update: since the original post was written, Gareth Hoskins Architects have been appointed to masterplan the development ‘from scratch’ but obviously within the terms of the planning consent. This appointment may help to answer some of Malcolm Fraser’s concerns above. The development has also won the coveted Pock Mark Award for the Worst Planning Decision in Scotland by a substantial number of public votes organised by Prospect Magazine.