Revealed: Donald Trump's plan for 87 Ayrshire homes near Turnberry resort

The Trump Organisation is planning to build swathes of housing and luxury villas on hundreds of acres of land next to its loss-making Turnberry resort, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Sunday, 11th November 2018, 7:36 am
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 1:54 pm

The firm, owned by US president Donald Trump, is urging officials to greenlight the major development across vast tracts of farmland.

Neither the Trump Organisation nor Trump Turnberry have made public the controversial plans, but Trump’s second son, Eric, has been overseeing the project for the past ten months.

Ralph Porciani, general manager of Trump Turnberry, told Scotland on Sunday the Trump Organisation was “excited” by the plans for the land, which was used only for “the odd bit of cattle grazing”.

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Donald Trumpat his Trump Turnberry clubhouse.

Trump has previously boasted of having the right to build “at least a thousand houses” at Turnberry, and while Porciani expressed hope the venture would be “welcomed”, the 72-year-old may yet become embroiled in another battle with Scottish authorities.

South Ayrshire Council’s planning service believes the housing would result in the loss of “prime agricultural land”, and says the benefits of expanding Turnberry are “unsubstantiated”. However, a final decision has yet to be made.

While Trump’s purchase of Turnberry in April 2014 attracted international media attention, it remains a little known fact that he also acquired a sprawling expanse of land surrounding the historic golf course.

Spanning around 200 acres along the Firth of Clyde coastline, it consists of agricultural land, outbuildings and a disused runway which formed part of RAF Turnberry during the Second World War.

Now, the Trump Organisation has enlisted Covell Matthews, an Aberdeen-based architectural practice, to convince the local authority to approve a “logical extension” to Turnberry.

It promised that if two adjoining sites are included in its new local development plan (LDP2) – a planning framework which decrees which sites will be developed or protected – Trump’s company will seek full planning permission as soon as the plan is adopted, which could be as soon as late 2019.

Under the Trump Organisation’s proposals, some 87 new houses would extend the southern boundary of Maidens, a coastal village with just 262 dwellings.

Correspondence sent to the council by Covell Matthews, obtained by Scotland on Sunday via the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004, claims the housing would reflect “a continuation of the town’s quaint spirit”.

Another letter sent by Covell Matthews in support of the extension to the Turnberry resort, states: “The proposed site represents a logical extension to Trump Turnberry’s current hotel and leisure complex, expanding out from the existing villas whilst maintaining a connection to the golf courses.

“The vision for the site is to develop more villas to support the operations of the hotel and provide customers with alternative accommodation options.”

In both letters, Covell Matthews point to the Trump Organisation’s “excellent track record of investment in the area”, and claims the new villas would create jobs.

Porciani, general manager at Turnberry for the past 15 years, said previous owners had tried and failed to develop the land, but he expected the Trump Organisation to prevail.

“What Eric has done in the last year is zone the land out that he thinks is the best fit for it and basically notify the council that it’s our plan to do it,” he said. “We’ve still got at least 12 months of renovations to do at our villas, the spa, and leisure club, and then we need to add on some more venues. That’ll take us another 12 months, so it’ll probably be at the end of that [period] that we start to look at more in-depth meetings and plans.

“But definitely, does Turnberry want to do it? A hundred per cent yes. The Trump Organisation have it in their radar and are quite excited.”

He added: “It’s land that is used for the odd bit of cattle grazing. We rent the land out to a farmer so he maintains it, it just sits there ticking over. I’d hope it would be welcomed and we would be able to do it, because I think it’d bring a lot to the area.”

In a June 2016 interview with Reuters, Trump insisted he had the right to create a major housing development at Turnberry, but stressed his focus was on politics.

He said: “I would have the right to build at least a thousand houses on Turnberry, if I wanted to, again, if I wanted to. Right now I am doing something far more important than building houses.”

However, Trump’s presumption that he can build houses next to his prestigious resort appears misplaced, given South Ayrshire Council’s planning service is critical of the plans.

Its said the “large scale proposed development” for housing would result in the “loss of prime agricultural land and likely significant visual impacts”, adding that the landscape is “highly sensitive to new development”. It described the land proposed for the luxury villas as an “extremely large” and “insensitive” site suggestion, noting: “Potential for economic development but any benefits unsubstantiated.”

However, with the proposed LDP2 yet to be finalised, Trump’s plans remain on the table.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “As we have no settled position in terms of a proposed plan at this point, nothing has been definitely included or excluded at this time.”

Under Trump’s ownership, Turnberry has run up losses of around £33 million. A source at the resort said the development was seen as integral to stemming the heavy losses. However, Porciani denied the project was being pursued for that reason. He explained: “I’ve been given a job of getting Turnberry into the black. 2018 was always the year that I personally guaranteed we’d break even. We’re still working on renovating bedroom stock, and once we’ve finished that, we want to get it into profit.

“The strategies are there to get Turnberry solid and into the black without any of that development.”

Covell Matthews is currently working on £150m plans for a new development adjoining Trump International Golf Links, Trump’s inaugural Scottish resort. A planning application before Aberdeenshire Council proposes 500 homes and 50 “hotel cottages”.