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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008, 22:00 GMT
Trump 'disappointed' over inquiry
Donald Trump swinging a golf club
Mr Trump wants to build the "best golf resort in the world"
The US tycoon Donald Trump has described as "disappointing" the decision to hold a public inquiry into his 1bn golf resort application.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said the billionaire's plans raised issues of importance which required consideration at a national level.

Ministers called in the planning application for the development at Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, in December.

Mr Trump said he would seek a different location if the process took too long.

He wants to build two courses, a hotel and housing on the Menie Estate, north of Aberdeen.

The plans were narrowly rejected by Aberdeenshire Council and have received strong opposition from local and environmental groups.

John Swinney
I am determined that there should be no unnecessary delay in considering this application
John Swinney
Finance Secretary

Mr Swinney said: "This application raises issues of importance that require consideration at a national level.

"I have now been able to evaluate fully the options open to us to ensure that ministers can give proper consideration to this major and controversial application.

"Given the nature of the application and the considerable public interest it is important that the process to examine the issues is as efficient, transparent and inclusive as possible."

Mr Swinney explained: "For those reasons I have determined that there should be a public local inquiry, under the stewardship of a very experienced reporter.

"There is already a large amount of information on the application in the public domain and I would expect the reporter to take full account of that and to focus the inquiry on the issues that are in dispute.

'No choice'

"I have now asked the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) to convene an early meeting of the parties to inform the preparation of a definitive timetable for handling the case.

"I am determined that there should be no unnecessary delay in considering this application and will make my decision within 28 days of receiving the DPEA report."

However, Mr Trump told BBC Scotland: "It's sad ... it's too bad.

"I'm committed to the project for now but if the process takes too long, I'll really have no choice but to go some place else.

"I don't mind the public hearing, in fact I think that's a positive thing as long as it can go quickly.

"But if it doesn't go fairly quickly it just doesn't make sense to hang in."

The leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Anne Robertson, said the development and the economic impact was important.

Andrew Macleod and Donald Trump
Mr Trump flew into Aberdeen to unveil the golf project

She said: "We look forward to the publication of the timetable and ultimately the final decision."

Protest group Sustainable Aberdeenshire welcomed the announcement, claiming it would publicly expose legal failures in the process.

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: "We are very pleased that Mr Swinney has decided to hold a public inquiry where the environmental impacts of this proposal can be fully considered and the potential solutions explored."

The Trump Organisation earlier described allegations of sleaze surrounding the role of ministers in the 1bn golf project as grossly inappropriate.

Mr Trump's spokesman, George Sorial, told a Holyrood inquiry that the organisation was very offended by claims of special treatment.

The Aberdeenshire councillor whose casting vote saw Mr Trump's plans rejected was sacked as the committee's chairman.

Councillors voted 26 to 10 to unseat Councillor Martin Ford as chairman of the infrastructure services committee at an emergency meeting.

He said it sent out the "wrong message" on the planning system's integrity.

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