Sunday, March 16, 2008

In Someone's Back Yard, Just as Long as it's Not Mine?

The arguments over Trump’s development continue and today there’s news that the British and Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors (IoD) have all said they back the plans for the development. Of course that doesn’t make the idea right, but it’s a powerful endorsement.

Big business is frequently at odds with what is best in the environment; profit and our natural heritage don’t often sit comfortably together. The protesters against Trump’s plans claim it’s a smokescreen to hide a housing development that would hand the Trump a vast profit. According to the assistant director of the CBI, said: "We have consistently argued that Scotland's planning system ought to give far greater weight to the economic benefits of development." Now I’m sure he believes what he says but I wonder how he might feel if some major construction or industrial development was going to be put close to his home.

The SCDI manager Ian Armstrong said: "The proposed development at Menie Estate by the Trump organisation can be a significant economic driver." Now this economic driver argument is the one that is always used by business and of course our economy depends on growth but it also depends on how well you think the Trump Town development might play. I believe that the US style model that he’s proposing may well falter here in Scotland. Of course that’s just my opinion, but then again that’s what most of this is about - opinion.

In Scotland on Sunday they’ve done a typical ‘both sides of the fence ‘ argument saying.

“This newspaper understands the concerns of those who believe the Menie sands should be left undisturbed, and we share some suspicions that the golf course could be a Trojan horse for property development that could follow. However, having listened to both sides of the argument, we believe that Scotland should welcome the financial injection the development will bring. Politics must be taken out of this project. Planners must take cognisance of the economic benefits and arrive at the sensible conclusion – that it is right to create a magnificent golf course, which feeds the economy and is sensitive to the environment."

So while they understand both sides of the argument they come down on the side of Trump. Fair enough, but there’s one statement amidst all their fence sitting, which resonates.

‘Politics must be taken out of this project. Planners must take cognisance of the economic benefits and arrive at the sensible conclusion.’

What utter tosh. If this were the case no politicians would look at any planning application, this is just not MSPs or MPs, it’s local councilors too, and things would just be left to local government managers. There’s long been suspicion throughout the country that sometimes these people are ‘got at’ and it may well happen. But whatever the case, to take out the checks and balances of politicians at every level would be a major blow to the democratic process. I can think of a few wind farms and housing developments that would have gone ahead on the planners say so that would have been a disaster. I wonder how the business leaders would like houses or factories or whatever built right next to their second or even first homes just because a planning official gave it the nod?

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