Sep 302013

Another day at the Menie Estate, another breach of the approved planning permission occurs, and another retrospective planning application appears:  it certainly seems like business as usual. However, this latest application is a step too far for residents.
Suzanne Kelly provides background, and tells you how to object to the application and thereby help the residents of Leyton Cottage get their sunlight back.

Susan window 2

View from Munro kitchen of bund with vegetation preventing access where it previously existed, blocking light and view. July 2013_

Trump came, saw and continues to conquer both nature and our planning laws. What was meant to be temporary ‘stockpiling of earth’ has turned into a nightmare for Susan Munro and her family at Leyton Cottage.

Currently, there is an application and an accompanying report (written by environmental consultants working for Trump, Ironside Farrar) which would see giant bunds made permanent between Leyton Cottage and the rest of the estate to the detriment of those who live there.

Susan Munro has this to say about the bunds:-

“The bunds caused  drainage problems with water unable to get away due to the car park [formerly a green space, now tarmac] and washed our road away for weeks – we were unable to get home.  The large bund is blocking light from the house and also our views.”

Dirt blows into the house, into car engines; dirt and sand have killed many garden plants. The law as it stands doesn’t care about the views – but surely it must care about blocking light and property damage?

Anyone opposed to this proposal to keep and enlarge the bunds is advised to lodge their objections to Aberdeenshire Council’s Planning offices before 6 October.

Objecting is straightforward and can go a long way to helping one of the many long-suffering families. Again, people are literally living in Trump’s shadow, and this giant wall of earth serves to immure a cottage and its residents.

The application can be found here:
Here is where to lodge your objection: –

-and here is why you may wish to do so.

In an audacious, unannounced, callous move which was captured by Anthony Baxter in documentary You’ve Been Trumped, a huge mound of sand and earth was bulldozed into place between Leyton Cottage and its view of the land and sea back in 2010. No warning was given. At one point the assurance was given that these bunds were just part of construction and were temporary.

In fact Sarah Malone Trump VP, wife of supportive local newspaper editor Damian Bates said at the time:-

“With regard to the stockpiling of soil … this is a necessary part of the golf course construction process, for which we have full planning permission…  No-one is being intimidated – we are merely getting on with the business of building. The landowners in the vicinity know that they are now living in the middle of a very large construction site and work will only increase over the coming years.”

Perhaps Ms Malone should attend the hearing and explain the construction process and the engineering requirement for the bunds.

SignSandBundThis ‘stockpiling of soil’ ruined car engines at the Munro property, killed many of their garden plants, damaged their home – all from soil and sand blowing from the mound into their property from the bund.

They have not been able to view the sea from their home since.

A wooden bench on their land sits empty; it is on a hillside, and they used to sit up there and look out to sea.  Now they look out on a mound of earth covered with dying pines on top of it.

Perhaps Ms Malone – a woman who admits she has zero experience of building golf courses or housing complexes – believes this mound was business as usual, and was an approved, temporary measure. It’s still there, landscaped on the side viewed by the golf club visitors, covered with weeds and dying trees on the Munro side.

While there is some grass slightly lessening the effect of the blowing earth and sand, this constant stream of windblown dirt can be seen on a sign outside the cottage.

Ironside Farrar have not answered any emails from Aberdeen Voice, nor has its professional body, the Royal Institute of Town Planners. The RITP’s website boasts of the professional calibre of its members. Despite Ironside Farrar writing in its report to the Council the bunds have been lowered, the largest one is still there, unaltered, and the bunds do not appear to have been part of the approved original plan.

There has been some lowering of a short, tiny bund between the parking lot and the Munro house.

Trump said he didn’t want to see the houses – so he basically walled the people in, or so it seems.  Now he’s fighting to keep the bunds, submitting the Ironside report with his application concerning parking. If this nodded through, it will be a dark day for more than just the Munro family; it will mean seeking retrospective planning permission is an acceptable way to build.

I have been dealing with Susan Munro for some years now, I have seen the bunds and the damage they have done, the bunds have been a topic of conversation at every meeting we’ve had:  the family want the bunds gone.

Photos of Susan by her kitchen window looking out at the bund where sun and sea used to be seen, are both iconic and symbolic of how Trump treats his neighbours – with contempt.  Can you imagine looking out of your home one day at sea, sky, wildlife and sunlight – and the next day looking at nothing but a mound of earth?

This bund must not be allowed to stay. There is some possibility that this action breaches her human rights – it certainly looks to any feeling person like a gross act of bullying and intimidation.

The Report

The report by Ironside Farrar is at best illogical; at worst it seems to be misleading.  The report can be found here: extension=.pdf&id=9855674&location=VOLUME7&contentType=application%2Fpdf&pageCount=5

While Ironside Farrar start off their report by acknowledging  the conditions which were put on Trump for his non-spec parking lot, they have decided that the best thing to do is to ignore this rather clear directive, decide that they know what it really means, and then things get even less logical from there.  They start off:-

BundReportOf course, no reinvention or reinterpretation of the condition was required.  They did so anyway with their design proposal:-

BundReport2 When it comes to audacity, the report has no equal:

“This will in turn protect the residential amenity of the owner/occupier of the property.”  is their astonishing and easily disproved claim.

In an ideal world, planners, councillors and objectors would complain about this unsupported and illogical conclusion appearing in the report. In summary, rather than sticking to the instruction to take the bund down, the environmental consultants working for Trump decided a bund is somehow needed, and they have the nerve to suggest it is Susan Munro’s amenity they are being considerate of.

The consultants talk of using native species on the bunds which they propose to be made even larger. Clearly their concern for Susan Munro doesn’t extend to the drop in her property value these bunds so blatantly would mean.   They seem to be aware that the existing bunds are very steep (not great for tree root systems) and mostly composed of sand (perhaps why the doomed pine trees keep dying).

trees_to_be_planted_on_bund_near_S_Munro_trees_already_planted_not_doingvery_well_16_feb_13These trees by the way are perpetually planted in the sandy bund, watered by clumsy, unattractive plastic pipe systems, and inevitably die and get replaced.

It is wasteful and disrespectful to the environment that these trees are used in such a manner, but surely the report writers can’t stretch the truth so far as to say removing the trees constitutes reducing the bunds in height, can they?

Not that there is any sign of the trees actually coming down, until they finally turn brown and are dragged away to one of the rubbish tips on the estate.   The report closes with drawings showing massively high bunds, mature trees – but with no trace of the cottage on the plan; this is quite an oversight.

If you didn’t know precisely where the cottage was, these drawings are of little use.

They do however give you an idea of a massive wall of earth, a Great Wall of Menie, which will cut the Munros off from light even more so than the present bunds do, leaving the cottage in a claustrophobic cell: and these environmentalists, Ironside Farrar, have the gall to say it is for the Munro’s benefit.

It is hard to think that the planning authorities can possibly grant permission for the bunds to stay, or that any councillor, sworn to uphold the rights and needs of their constituents, would allow a neighbour to build a great wall of earth on a property boundary.

What they decide to do will speak volumes, and it will be widely reported.  Again, objections are due before 6 October; your help is needed.

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Mar 212013

By Suzanne Kelly.

An eight-month old application for retrospective permission at Trump Golf Links International at Menie has suddenly been altered with no warning or publicity.

A new document was added earlier this week to the retrospective App 2012/2342, and after eight months of relative inaction, the application which would allow the bunds to stay put is now going to be decided by the relevant councillors:  on Tuesday 26 March.

The very short lead time – less than a week – between the changes to the application made on the Council’s web page means little chance for meaningful consideration – and the people who made representations have not heard anything about the changes or the upcoming meeting. 

These developments may well be against protocol.

How this happened, who was involved, and the legalities of the situation are being questioned by residents and campaigners.  Arguably, the application if changed should be re-submitted, allowing people the chance to respond to the new document, and those who made a representation should have been  informed of the changes and the meeting.

These bunds – which seem to serve no purpose but to make life difficult for those living close to them – should just be taken down as originally promised.

They block light, they block views, and crucially the wind has blown earth off of them into the Munro home, at times leaving an inch of sand and dirt inside the front door, and damaged her cars, with sand and dirt getting into the machinery.  The bunds have arguably devalued the Munro property.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Planning Department, already one of the targets for a requested independent inquiry (15,000+ people have signed a petition so far), had previously given assurances that the bunds (steep, high mounds of earth) built around residents’ homes were temporary.  This assurance was repeated in an email from now-retired Aberdeenshire officer, Gordon Lyon in May 2012.

So far, the Trump Golf Links International Scotland operators have deviated from approved planning permission with the bunds, parking lot, and other issues:  all of these deviations received retrospective planning permission.
See: Menie Estate Report by Suzanne Kelly 

Why the developer is going against the approved plans without any challenge by Aberdeenshire Planning officials, is unclear.

Planning were supposed to visit the site frequently to prevent issues such as deviations arising.

The Government Report on the development recommended the developer would be expected to stay to the approved plan, and that monitoring would take place for planning and environment compliance.

This hardly seems to be the case with the bunds, parking and other deviations, and MEMAG, the environmental monitoring group is not meeting (last posted meeting minutes are for June 2012) and not answering correspondence (no questions answered from a 26 January email to date).

A resident, who discovered the changes on Aberdeenshire’s planning website this week, made the following observations:-

“As well as an amended drawing of the small bund (and change of title so that it no longer mentions Leyton Cottage), there is now a completely new drawing called ‘LANDSCAPE PROPOSALS – AS BUILT EARTH   BUND ADJACENT TO DRIVING RANGE’ which details the ‘big bund’ immediately south of Leyton Cottage and adjacent to the Access Road.

“As far as I know there has been no public notification of this expansion of scope. And there appears to have been no notification to the people who had previously submitted objections to the original content of this application (the author of these comments received no notification himself).

“The ‘Expiry Date for Public Comment’ is still shown as 16/08/2012- and ‘The time period for submitting comment has expired’.

“When the bunds first appeared back in October 2010, the Council’s enforcement officer at the time, Gerry Main, wrote: ‘The mound of sand to the south of Leyton Cottage is of a temporary nature and will be utilised.’

“Furthermore, the APP-2012-2342 web page now shows a ‘Committee Date’ of 26/03/2013 (next Tuesday) when the application will come before the Formartine Area Committee. ( See: )

“As is normal practice, the planners have prepared a report to the Area Committee. It was posted there sometime in the past 24 hours (it wasn’t there yesterday morning). The report recommends that permission is granted, subject to removal of the trees planted on top of the small bund.

“Strangely, the report states in para 6.7 that ‘With reference to comments made through representation that have not been taken into account in the above assessment, this application is solely for the car park area and not for the landscaping for the access way’. This needs clarifying as it is inconsistent with the fact that the ‘big bund’ drawing has been published on the planning page, which the report appears to overlook completely.

“Also the ‘Additional Document 1’ presented to the committee is drawing no 71236/8007 Issue D and includes contour detail of the lower section of the ‘big bund’, whereas the version of this same drawing on the planning page (as of last night) was only at Issue B and had no detail of the big bund.

The writer of these comments feels  that:-

“this looks suspiciously like TIGLS and the planners attempting to sneak through retrospective planning consent for the highly controversial and unauthorised ‘big bund’ hoping that no-one will notice, and without allowing public comment”

The following questions have been asked of Anne Ramsay of Planning:-

1.  Have new documents been added to this application as it appears?  IF SO:

2.  Who agreed to add these documents?

3.  How has this information been conveyed to interested parties and those who sent in representations?

4.  Who made the decision not to throw this amended application out and start with a new application reflecting the changes?

5.  Is Aberdeenshire Planning confident it is proceeding in a legally-acceptable, transparent manner in this instance?

6.  Why, after an 8 month wait, is a newly amended application to be determined with under a week for council members and stakeholders to digest?

7.  In due course, please send a response to the resident’s concerns listed above.

If the answer to Question 1 is negative, then:-

a.  Please explain the appearance of new documents on the application?

b.  Have stakeholders/those making representations been advised the matter will be discussed this Tuesday?

The response received will be printed as soon as can be arranged.

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