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Bullish Trump presses ahead with $1.6bn golf course in Scotland

By Anouk Lorie for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Billionaire Donald Trump has unveiled his plan for 'world's greatest golf course'
  • The project in Scotland will include 950 holiday homes, a hotel and village
  • Local residents have attempted to delay the project through litigation and planning process
  • Trump is bucking global trend with other similar projects mired in debt and delays

London, England (CNN) -- Despite the financial downturn affecting property prices and construction projects around the world, bullish American billionaire Donald Trump remains committed to building what he has dubbed the "world's greatest golf course" in Scotland after unveiling designs for the new complex.

Trump's proposal includes 950 holiday homes, a hotel, an equestrian center, tennis courts and a residential village, on top of the championship golf course.

With latest official statistics showing unemployment in Scotland has risen to 7.6 percent, the move has been welcomed by the country's government who are anxious to bring investment to the area.

A spokesman for the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party told CNN: "Ministers agreed with the public inquiry conclusion that there was significant economic and social benefit to be gained from the application by Trump International Golf Links Scotland to develop a golf resort at Balmedie."

When I create anything - a building, private club or resort -- it is the highest quality available in the world
--Donald Trump
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The recent unveiling of the design masterplan for the resort comes at a time when similar projects around the world struggle for a positive return on investment.

The $1 billion "Tiger Woods Dubai" a golf resort originally planned for September 2009, has been delayed indefinitely with only eight holes been built so far.

Trump's project, which has been marred by controversy and litigation since its inception in 2008, will cost a staggering $1.6 billion to complete.

Richard Gillis, editor of Platform Magazine, told CNN that: "Trump is betting that the market for the very top end has not been detrimentally affected by the recession and banking crisis.

"It will be interesting to see the effect of the Trump brand on sales, as it is untested as a means of selling golf outside of the U.S."

But Trump, an avid golfer who already owns 13 courses around the world, is said to be confident his resort will be profitable within a decade.

"When I create anything - a building, private club or resort - it is the highest quality available in the world," he stated.

"The project is in really good shape with no financial concerns," the project's executive vice president, Sarah Malone, told CNN.

She revealed Trump has recently bought another two courses in the United States.

However, to realize his vision, Trump will still need to acquire four plots of land owned by families on the Scottish coast, who have thus far been adamant in their refusal to sell their homes.

Last year a 15,000-strong petition, which included Hollywood actress Tilda Swinton, backed the four residents who face possible eviction.

But Malone insisted that the project would bring much-needed financial benefits to the region."This would regenerate an area that needs to diversify its business. It will also create thousands of jobs," she said.

Gillis is more skeptical. "The billion dollar figure, the thousands of jobs promised and the always unreliable 'economic benefit' arguments look like winning the day," he said.

"I only hope that in return for giving up this stretch of their coastline the locals can at least make some money from the caper.

"Because given the level of green fees needed to make back Trump's investment, very few of them will be playing the course," he added.

Trump fought a long battle to gain planning approval for the course north of Aberdeen.

It was finally granted by the Scottish government in November 2008, who imposed a series of stringent conditions to protect the habitat of the area, but were swayed by arguments over job creation, with up to 6,000 forecasted, and regeneration.

Trump is due in Scotland in May to officially mark the start of construction work on his course and hopes to talk to local people about the project, his spokesperson told CNN.

Paul Gittings contributed to this report