Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 16:13 UK

Trump team denies 'gagging' claim

Martin Ford
Martin Ford was sacked as chair of the infrastructure services committee

Claims Donald Trump has tried to stop councillors giving evidence at the inquiry into his 1bn golf resort plans have been denied.

A letter to a planning reporter sought to clarify the status of Martin Ford and three Aberdeenshire colleagues.

Mr Ford - whose casting vote blocked the Menie project before it was called in by the Scottish Government - claimed Mr Trump did not want an open debate.

Lawyers for the Trump Organisation said the information was needed.

Dundas and Wilson, the legal firm acting for the Trump Organisation, wrote to the reporter "asking for clarification on the status of councillors at the public local inquiry (PLI) as it was not easy to reconcile the decision of the full Aberdeenshire Council with Councillor Ford's position at the pre-inquiry meeting".

We wanted to know if these councillors are representing their constituents or their personal views
Ann Faulds
Dundas and Wilson

His colleagues Paul Johnston, Alastair Ross and Debra Storr were also mentioned.

Mr Ford said: "It would appear that the applicant is now looking for a way to prevent me and my colleagues appearing at the forthcoming Menie inquiry - or to get our status at the inquiry reduced.

"Only yesterday, I was welcoming the news that Mr Trump was intending to appear at the inquiry himself. I was pleased he was coming because the inquiry must examine all the relevant issues in a thorough and transparent fashion, and that depends on all sides being heard.

"It would seem, however, that Mr Trump does not want an open debate in which everyone can have their say."

'Absolute nonsense'

However, Ann Faulds, of Dundas and Wilson, said: "Aberdeenshire Council had reiterated that its status at the PLI would be one of an enhanced consultee in support of the planning application and that any councillor taking an opposing view would be speaking as an individual.

"We wanted to know if these councillors are representing their constituents or their personal views."

George Sorial, on behalf of The Trump Organisation, added: "This is absolute nonsense and would appear to be a desperate attempt by this very small group to distort the truth by deliberately misinterpreting our letter and the intentions behind it.

"We have procedural, legal reasons for seeking clarification but we also believe the public taxpayer and voters should know these councillors are not representing their constituents but their own personal views.

"Mr Trump is looking forward to making his case in an open forum, as he knows that the facts about the proposals speak for themselves."

Ministerial decision

Mr Ford was sacked as chairman of the council's infrastructure services committee after his casting vote saw the Trump plan thrown out.

On Wednesday Mr Trump said he would give evidence in person at the public local inquiry.

The hearing will take place in June ahead of a final ministerial decision.

The US tycoon's plans for the Menie estate complex involve two championship golf courses, 950 holiday homes, 36 golf villas and 500 private homes.

Environmental groups and local campaigners criticised the project, while many leading business figures backed it.

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