Trump golf course dunes' special status 'to be reviewed'

Image caption The development required the stabilisation of the dunes with the planting of marram grass

The special scientific status of the area where Donald Trump built his golf course in Aberdeenshire is under review, BBC Scotland has learned.

Scottish Natural Heritage said the Menie golf course had caused habitat loss and damage to the dune system.

The environmental agency is assessing the scale of the impact to decide whether all or parts of the site should lose their special status.

The Trump course said its environmental approach was "first class".

Donald Trump Image copyright PA
Image caption Donald Trump built the golf course at the Menie Estate, which opened in 2012

Donald Trump officially played his first round at the Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire in July 2012.

The golf course covers part of the Foveran Links Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), north of Aberdeen, which was considered one of the finest examples of a mobile sand dune system in the UK.

Before the course was built, the dune system moved north at substantial speeds - up to 11 metres per year - across an area of about 15 hectares.

Scottish Natural Heritage, which objected to the golf course development, has been monitoring its environmental impact.

Trump opens course in 2012
Image caption Trump opened his golf course just over five years ago

An SNH spokesperson said: "We're currently reviewing the SSSI boundary of Foveran Links and hope to complete this by the end of December.

"As expected, there are areas where there has been some permanent habitat loss - for example, where tracks, tees, fairways and greens have been constructed.

"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."

SNH regularly checks SSSIs for the special features they were selected for.

"If they have changed, it's sometimes necessary to adjust the boundary and de-notify all or parts of the site," the spokesperson added.

Dr Jim Hansom, a geomorphologist from Glasgow University, said he would be "absolutely surprised" if Foveran Links did not lose special status.

Dr Jim Hansom
Image caption Dr Jim Hansom, from Glasgow University, is an expert on land forms

"It really should be de-notified because there's no dynamism involved in that site now and that was the original justification for its notification," he said.

"It's been ruined from a virgin undeveloped wilderness site into something that's relatively manicured."

The Trump Organisation was granted outline planning permission to build a golf resort in Aberdeenshire by the Scottish government in 2008.

It decided after a public local inquiry that the economic impact of what was proposed outweighed environmental concerns.

Trump International Golf Links Scotland's executive vice-president, Sarah Malone, said the future of the SSSI was "for the authorities to decide".

Sarah Malone
Image caption Sarah Malone questioned why the company would damage the dunes, when the site was bought because of them

"I don't think it matters to us. It may matter to other people and we'll be comfortable with whatever the option and the decision on that is," she said.

"We bought the site because of these extraordinary sand dunes. Why would we do anything to damage them?

"The fact of the matter is, contrary to what is propagated by a very small group of people, our environmental approach was first class."

Trump International has submitted a planning application for a second golf course on its Aberdeenshire estate, which has also been met with environmental objections.

Donald Trump: Scotland's President will be broadcast on BBC One Scotland, at 21:00 on Thursday 9 November.