Nov 072014

Donald Trump bought the Menie Estate in 2006; by 2008 unprecedented planning permission was granted to create ‘the world’s greatest golf course’.

Environmental protection was swept aside for the optimistic promises made: a one billion pound investment, jobs for local people in the thousands, a massive increase in tourism and, er to ‘put Aberdeenshire on the map’. Menie Estate residents and those who stood up for them or the environment were vilified in the press. Farmer Michael Forbes was said by Trump to live in a ‘pigsty’. Residents had their lives transformed, but not for the better.

Some would argue that putting profit before the environment and the rights of the affected families was justified. No one could argue that these promised benefits never materialised. Part 1 of Trouble with Trump focused on how rubbish and waste are dealt with by the 5 star resort, showing that if anyone is treating the land as a pigsty, it is not Michael Forbes.

What is life like at the estate for residents now? What are some of the issues and problems? Why is nothing being done by the Aberdeenshire planners, outdoor access officers, and the residents’ MSP, Alex Salmond? Suzanne Kelly reports.

Bunds: Not per planning permission – so why no enforcement?

Munro bunds gate

The gate erected by TIGLS which conspires with the bunds to restrict access between the Munros’ property and the Menie golf Links car park.

Menie Estate residents at Leyton Farm Cottage and Hermit Point once had views across open land filled with wildlife; they saw the coast and the sea.

However, Trump had giant mounds of earth bulldozed into position between Leyton Farm Cottage and his resort.
He also planted scores of conifers between Hermit Cottage and his land.

The mound was not given planning permission in advance.The bund at the Munro property is over 2 metres high.

Dirt and sand from it has blown into the Munro’s Leyton cottage property, damaged their garden and got into their automobile engines.

The bunds serve no other purpose but to screen the cottage from the resort visitors’ delicate vision. Trump’s objection to offshore wind farms is also to avoid stressing golfers from having to see anything they might not like. The cottage used to enjoy the sunlight; the bunds has changed this. The mounds seem even higher than their 2 metres, as they are covered with trees which are routinely replaced when the plants which cannot thrive die.

There was apparently an order issued to the resort to reduce the height of the mounds; this has not been done. Trump had at one point commissioned an environmental report which made the outlandish claim the bunds were good for the cottage occupants. The report’s authors had made no contact with the residents when coming to this conclusion; in fact it was already very public knowledge that residents wanted the bunds removed.

No one at Aberdeenshire Council’s planning office seems to be doing anything to remedy this situation.

Right of Access – A worsening problem; an impotent enforcement system

In Scotland people have the legal right to access the countryside for recreational purposes – even to cross golf courses if they wish (with certain conditions when golf is being played). No one is interested in enforcing these rules at the Menie Estate.

Aberdeenshire has officials who are specifically charged with ensuring land owners comply with the access code; they have over the years largely ignored the Estate and ignored specific claims brought to them. The officers initially sent emails saying they were meeting with residents; then they admitted they had not met with either the Forbes or Munro families.

They have complaints and photographs of the issues. They refused calls to come and meet with the residents and see the situations and discuss them. Instead, they handed out forms, which many were reluctant to fill out, given their access was being blocked by an organisation known the world over for its litigation. Gorse blocks some of the paths; some frequent visitors believe the gorse was planted deliberately to block their way.

A main issue is the gate locked shut separating Leyton Farm Road from the parking lot. (The parking lot itself was not as per the planning permission – and nothing seems to have been done about that either).

Here is how the main gate currently looks which separates the club’s parking (itself apparently not built to the agreed specification) from Leyton Farm Road, the track the Munro property is on. The situation is worse than it was a few months ago – the locks seem nearly fused by rust, and the right-hand side of the gate is all but impassible. This contravenes the right of access laws without doubt.

Anyone who is old, infirm, has mobility issues, or who would wish to cycle is not getting past this gate, whatever the law says.

The Shire will again be asked again to have this situation remedied. They are long aware of the problems including the gate, and have sat back as the situation continues to deteriorate.

Michael Stow Your Boat Onshore – another access block

Michael Forbes used to take his small wooden boat from the farm to catch salmon in the sea. Access from the Forbes’ farm to the sea has been halted. While this is not an absolutely clear cut access right, Michael caused no damage to the area when moving his boat, something he did for years with the previous owners’ consent.

The access pathway is not part of a course or being used in any way at present by the Trump organisation. But one day a gate was erected and was locked shut, contrary to access laws. The police told Michael that he if touched this gate that was put on the path he would be arrested – a very interesting interpretation of access rights, and a curious way for police to enforce the will of a landowner over the long standing use of a resident.

A senior politician has written a letter many months back saying he would look into the matter. Michael is still waiting for action. The boat sits unused on the farmland.


Reliable running water is no longer a right for Michael and Sheila Forbes – and Michael’s 90 year-old mother, Molly. When construction was initially underway some years ago, a Trump vehicle broke the water pipe serving Michael’s farm. The site manager is filmed in the Anthony Baxter / Richard Phinney documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ telling the journalists that the pipe will be restored and made better than before.

This never happened. What did happen nearly immediately after the pair visited the site office was that they were illegally arrested, bundled into the back of a police car and had their gear confiscated. The National Union of Journalists condemned the arrest.

It was made clear in the new Anthony Baxter / Richard Phinney documentary, ‘A Dangerous Game’ that despite several years going by, the pipe has never been fully repaired. Michael and Sheila recently confirm that the water supply is not always reliable and they still need to take water from a nearby burn on occasion.

Surely someone in the Aberdeenshire administration would intervene to ensure residents and taxpayers have reliable running water like they once did?

The built historical heritage – optional

There were a number of traditional outbuildings near Leyton Farm Road constructed in traditional materials. After the Trump organisation arrived, a new building sprung up which is hardly in keeping with the other buildings, and which may not have had complete advance planning permission. If someone elsewhere in Aberdeenshire erected a similar building without advance permission, they would likely be ordered to take it down.

Did this have permission? The indications are that it did not. The Shire’s officers are welcome to clarify this point.

Other deviations from planning include the parking lot, the lights in the parking lot (two which shown in Susan Munro’s cottage windows all night long were eventually ordered removed: this seems to be one time that the enforcement of planning actually took place).

One Law for the Rich and another for the poor?

It seems as if the agreed environmental conditions and the agreed planning specifics and access laws are neither being followed nor enforced with any conviction. The losers are the residents and those who want to exercise their right to access the countryside.

It’s hard to argue that the Shire’s planning department, the outdoor access officers, and the MSP Alex Salmond are doing anything to help these people. Salmond has sent representatives to the property before; one or two letters were subsequently sent. And as a result – absolutely nothing has changed. The invitation for Alex to personally visit his constituents still stands. We would hope he will make this as much of a priority as he made dining with Trump.

Is it politics, the fear of Trump legal action, an incompetent system, or a reluctance to acknowledge the problems here that is allowing these situations to go unchecked? You may wish to think on what is going on at the Menie Estate the next time you hear of the shire enforcing a minor piece of planning. The law is not applied equally or fairly in this corner of the North East Scottish coast, and the people who are meant to uphold the law are doing nothing.

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  11 Responses to “Trouble With Trump Part 2 – Unresolved Problems”

  1. Slow news week at the Voice HQ??

    • Well hello Bill – yes, a slow week. No one interested in this issue except me, the national press, and the several hundred who have read it so far. Some pictures showing the access problems at present can be found here

    • I, for one, am extremely grateful that this scandal continues to be highlighted and that the apparent willingness of council officers and politicians, including First Minister Salmond, to encourage and condone unlawful behaviour by individuals on the basis of their wealth is exposed.

      The infamous meeting between Salmond and Trump, which resulted in the the Scottish Government taking the unprecedented step of overturning established democratic process by “calling in” the original planning application and led to the similarly unprecedented building of a commercial development on land which had the highest possible level of legal protection, is ample evidence, in my opinion, that we live in a corrupt state in which our own national leader puts the interests of foreign billionaires before those of his own constituents.

    • Thank goodness for the AV and other outlets for reminding us of the wrongs committed in support of this golf course, because the likes of the EE and the P&J will never do so.

  2. Vote for change in May.

  3. The dilemna John is what/who to vote for in terms of the Menie residents. Their MSP is Salmond and he has done nothing to support them, and look at the composition of Aberdeenshire council. This situation is a shocking indictment of how our councils are run, especially in terms of the permanent officials. I would be pleased to hear how you think this situation could be resolved in May.

  4. GUESS THIS COULD BE TITLED “WE TOO (at least I, for one) HAVE BEEN TRUMPED BIG TIME by a cruel land grabber/plunderer who has managed to dupe 38% of the US population into electing him President. If not for gerrymandering, i.e., districting and the unnecessary electoral college, well….For one thing, the planet has been given less than 12 years to slow climate change. Under this gargoyle he ousted the EPA and Endangered Species Act, opened the Arctic for oil drilling, and speculated buying Greenland. Thank Odin, the latter isn’t for sale. If a golf course or casino was built on that ice, and drilled for oil, the Atlantic and North Sea would rise in 5, not 12 years. Surely the president of Denmark seen what our President hath wrought on Aberdeen’s dunes. She knows he bowed out of the Paris Climate Accord and committed enough violations to fill a volume or two. But you already know this.

    Only recently have I discovered the Aberdeen Voice having looked around the Net, looking for updates for 2018 and 2019 on the status of the Forbes’ (especially Molly), the Munros, and the Milnes’ situations and found nothing. Somehow I found the Aberdeen Voice. “The Trouble with Trump” 1 and 2 were such a relief to be able to comment here. Everyone who knows me, listening to my impotent anger at Trump and his abuse of power, shares my feelings. I warned people not to vote for him (pleading “look what he did to an environmentally sensitive area of a country not hjs own–don’t turn him loose on the USA!”) after watching Anthony Baxter’s film in 2014. A lot of people heeded my plea, some just to shut me up.

    At this juncture, 2019, this is my first chance to voice deep concerns on many levels. I am from New York, Arizona, and Southern California, respectively. I was visiting Savannah, Georgia when the film You’ve Been Trumped woke me up on Free Speech TV. Then buying the DVD, I was appalled by his inhuman x, his elephant tail- brandishing pipsqueak son; be was plundering another country, denigrating and eventually punishing property owners who dared say no to him. Anyone with a TV already knows how despised Trump is by a majority of us over here. As a senior aged 82 next month, living 3 miles from the California and Mexican border, in a 98% Mexican-American neighborhood, many Latino families and other friends share my feelings. It was a great honor and a real treat, they said, that those property owners fly Mexican flags over Aberdeenshire skies!

    My question is, then: Why, if Alex Salmond finally got wise after he and his put-upon constituents have been thoroughly bilked by the Tangerine Tyrant, hasn’t he still got up off his parliamentary arse and seen to it that the violations of the rights of his constituents were HIS top priority? Has he fined the departments in Scotland that have not complied? What kind of power does the MSP have? Trump’s power can’t be absolute. Why hasn’t Mr. Salmond finally “manned up” and visited the people’s needs, sincerely apologized and listened to them, inspecting properties, taken copious notes, and got things done, i.e. was at the ready for them? He isn’t timid about voicing his opinion in public or in his office. Now he has the dubious honor of being on Trump’s insult list, maybe even has a nickname. He should never have allowed this invasion to occur and he knows it. He is a fellow Scot, Donald isn’t–he’s an invader from another country.

    If the earthen cliffs with loose soil that kicks up on a windy day and gorse still prevent the Munros from getting any sun, aren’t they legally considered an impediment to the owners’ health, tranquility, comfort, and sunlight? All this should be corrected a.s.a.p. How high up can an MSP go? Or are there greedier people who out-rank him? From the photo of the Milne cottage and Munro station, attractive white buildings, scenic, classically built, neatly maintained, they need never have been deliberately concealed from view. The berm and the gorse are inside the Munro property—-NOT Trump’s, aren’t they? So their property line is intruded upon–a gross violation of property ordinances, right? And, the Munros should not be harassed by absentee Trump’s local armed bully police preventing the Munro egress-ingress to their own property. The hired goons routinely trespass and intimidate and follow Susan whenever she walks her dog to the beach There should be a higher authority to protect the property owners. Money is one thing, but aren’t there laws? Trump has wilfully set property lines to intrude on private property, i.e, David Milne’s. It’s his country, not Trump’s. He violated your land.

    Salmond should not just be miffed because Trump gave HIM “10 cents on the dollar”. But he should go all out to restore rights and reparation, be a pubic servant for a change. He is not helpless, is he? The government’s responsibilities are ignored. It shouldn’t cost the victims a cent. Trump owes them. He admitted the Forbes pipe was an accident. HE acts wronged, not Forbes. If he doesn’t fix the problem, then Aberdeenshire legislators should step in. Salmond (or whoever may have replaced him by now) should stand up for his constituents. He serves them, not vice versa. If there’s anything I got wrong, please straighten me out.

    As for Mike and Sheila Forbes and their fearless mom, Molly, admired and loved by people worldwide—and by the way, my role model—were their water, plumbing and electricity finally properly restored by now? Has anyone responded? It’s 10 years.

    While watching the crowds of supporters to whom the Forbeses opened their wholesome barn to talented artist David (who got Trump down pat) and other loving friends and supporters. Their old farm is exactly like thousands of working farms of all sizes in our country.

    Those who live in glass high rises shouldn’t throw stones. Donald Trump is used to tacky, baroque gilded, ostentatious surroundings. The photos of Trump’s debris-strewn junk, plastic and boards are shameful. As an absentee owner, his garbage is collecting, yet he trashes Mike Forbes’ tractor, machinery—and maybe of the nice white pony with a full mane of his own natural hair. Hypocrisy comes to mind.

    I for one am now a fan of the Aberdeen Voice and would like to subscribe.

    • Dear Ms Stewart, Suzanne Kelly here, and I just wanted to thank you for your kind words. I am a bit late in seeing this comment, as I only write occasionally for aberdeen Voice these days, so apologies for the delay in posting it. Your thoughtful comments come just as Damian Bates, former Aberdeen Journals Ltd editor, has been chosen to address an annual Aberdeen business dinner to talk about his pro-Trump book. For a dozen or so reasons, I find this disappointing. Thank you for reading AV; I’m going to put out an ‘Old Susannah’ column for the first time in a while, perhaps you might enjoy it. All the best

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