In his bid to become the next US president, Donald Trump has been accused of insulting Muslims and Mexicans, offending women and mocking the disabled. But now The National can reveal that he’s really done it: he has slightly upset Aberdeenshire Council.
The council has ruled that two 24-metre flagpoles erected by the property billionaire at his luxury golf resort at Menie on the northeast coast have broken planning rules. Officials say he will have to apply for retrospective planning permission to “regularise” them - or else.
Trump has asked for planning permission to do something he has already done at Menie seven times since 2012. According to the council’s planning database, he has applied for retrospective permission for signs, a soakaway, a fountain, walls, a car park, a bag drop and accommodation.
The two flagpoles, both flying the Saltire, prompted a complaint to the council in October by local resident, Chris Edwards. He pointed out that the council had previously rejected planning applications for flagpoles because they were too high and would be visible for miles.
Aberdeenshire Council launched an investigation, and sent officials to inspect the site. “These flagpoles would not benefit from permitted development rights and therefore constitute a breach of planning control,” enforcement officer Robin Currie told Edwards.
He added: “However the planning service are of the view that the position could be regularised by the retrospective submission of planning applications for these flagpoles.”
The council asked Trump International Golf Links Scotland to submit applications. According to Currie, if no application is received “we may pursue formal enforcement action to compel the submission of the required applications.
Edwards, from the village of Chapel of Garioch near Inverurie, described the flagpoles as a “monstrosity”. He criticised the council for its “lax” enforcement of planning rules.
“The erection of these massive 24-metre flag poles without planning permission just adds to the litany of retrospective planning applications on which the Trump organisation seems to rely,” he said.
“This transgression is yet another flagrant abuse of the planning system in this country. The council seem oblivious to the ire it generates in the local populous who conform to the rules.”
Trump objected to the prospect of “ugly” wind turbines on the sea off his golf course, Edwards recalled. “Should the population of Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen be complaining louder about his flagpoles?”
The Trump Organisation in New York responded by attacking Edwards. “There are flags flying all over Aberdeen and Scotland so his claims are ridiculous,” said the organisation’s senior vice president, George Sorial.
“We are proud to fly the flag and if he is shameless enough to challenge that, so be it. Mr Edwards should focus on something productive, like fighting wind turbines, instead of wasting everyone’s time with this nonsense.”
In his race to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate for next year’s US elections, Trump has called for “a total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the US. He has accused Mexican immigrants of “bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists”. He criticised a female Fox News journalist for having “blood coming out of her wherever”, and has been accused of mocking a disabled New York Times reporter.
The Aberdeenshire councillor, Martin Ford, pointed out that councillors were not allowed to lobby on particular planning enforcement actions. “From the start, Mr Trump has in turn either bullied or ignored the Scottish planning system,” he said.
“I can think of no other developer who so routinely relies on retrospective applications for planning permissions." His behaviour as a presidential hopeful meant his association with the northeast was “an embarrassment not an asset”, Ford argued.
Aberdeenshire Council pointed out that it was obliged to consider each planning application on its merits. “There are no legislative or regulatory powers which allow for punitive action to be taken based on the number of retrospective applications that any one site or applicant may have submitted in the past,” said the council’s head of planning, Robert Gray.
“In all cases where unauthorised development has been identified the planning authority must take into consideration whether the development is, in principle, acceptable in planning terms and can therefore be addressed by way of a retrospective planning application.”