Aberdeenshire Council has approved plans for the construction of a second 18-hole golf course on the Menie Estate near Balmedie.
Members of the council’s Formartine Area Committee voted 8-4 to support the application made by Trump International Golf Links Scotland at a meeting on Tuesday, September 24.
Councillors heard that the location of the ‘Macleod Course’ was logical as it will share the existing clubhouse and associated facilities on site and that the overall design of the proposals is considered to be well thought out and appropriate.
Recommending approval of the application, the council’s planning department said the principle of locating a further golf course within the Balmedie coastal landscape was long established and the developer had provided a golf course layout which would integrate well into the landscape visually and addresses environmental concerns adequately.
They stressed that the conditions attached to the application would address the significant issue of environmental monitoring and control.
The local authority’s Economic Development team said the proposal continued to fit well with Aberdeenshire Council’s strategy which aims to create conditions for sustainable economic growth.
Elected members were advised that the proposal would help promote the North-east as a key tourism destination in Scotland and improve the visitor experience by strengthening, supporting and diversifying the tourism industry. It was felt that the project continues to demonstrate a considerable commitment to invest in the region during what are difficult times for the oil and gas dominated economy of the area.
Councillors heard that the proposal will inevitably appeal to an international, as well as domestic audience, increasing the number of visitors to the region, which could have a positive knock-on impact for surrounding businesses, such as, hotels, shops and restaurants.
Although there were no objections from the Scottish Natural Heritage it had advised that either parts of the course could have been redesigned to make them less susceptible to future coastal erosion, or a commitment made for adaptive management as part of an agreed Shoreline Management Plan.
An objection from SEPA was withdrawn following the submission of a number of supporting documents and subject to a number of relevant planning conditions related to waterbody engineering, drainage, groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystems, flood risk and an environmental management plan.
The application attracted 18 objections and an objection from Belhelvie Community Council which raised various issues including environmental impact, loss of recreational access, lack of an adequate road network to and from the site, increase in volume of traffic and delivery of the existing development to-date.
During the hour-long meeting, councillors debated a number of issues including the strength of the economic argument of the new golf course, the impact on the surrounding environment, the proximity to Balmedie Park and what was seen as the ‘de-coupling’ of the current proposal from the original application.
A motion of refusal raised by committee chair Councillor Isobel Davidson and seconded by Councillor Karen Adam was defeated in an 8-4 vote by the amendment for approval of the application raised by Councillor Gillian Owen, seconded by Councillor Jim Gifford.
In addition to the conditions set out in officers’ recommendations, the application will be subject to an environmental management plan.
Afterwards, Committee Chair Councillor Isobel Davidson said: “This matter was given due consideration by members and will enable the applicant to proceed with their plans for a second golf course at Menie. However, there is a clear conflict between economic benefit and public interest. Therefore, it will be vital that the conditions to strengthen the environmental management plan added by the committee are strictly adhered to.”