The highly influential and widely supported Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) has registered its disappointment at the ‘failure’ of the Scottish planning process, calling Trump International Golf Links, ‘A model for unsustainable development’.
On Tuesday the Scottish Government declared that it is “minded to grant outline planning permission for this proposed development subject to conditions and the satisfactory conclusion of a (Section 75) agreement.”
“This decision is an extremely negative reflection of society’s pursuit of economic growth at the expense of environmental quality and natural spaces,” say The GEO.
“The fundamental failure to match an appropriate development model with an extremely sensitive site should have been sufficient for this proposal to be refused, and for the developers to be sent back to the drawing board.
“At the heart of the matter has been the reluctance to move the golf course out of a protected mobile sand dune system – one that cannot be re-created or translocated, and one that most certainly will not benefit from being stabilised under a dense cover of grasses – despite statements to the contrary from Mr. Trump.
“Meanwhile, the Scottish Government Reporters’ authoritative looking suite of 46 proposed planning conditions serves only to paper over gaping cracks in the developers’ proposal. This constitutes a complete failure to protect one of the last few remaining wild sand dune systems in north western Europe.
Jonathan Smith, CEO of the Golf Environment Organisation, has clearly set out its position, “This is not sustainable development. The irreversible loss of internationally important habitats and uniquely adapted species of plant and animal is a high and un-necessary price to pay for this form of poorly substantiated economic development. Society cannot continue to destroy ecosystems if it is to halt the decline of biodiversity and retain any wild areas.”
GEO has long maintained the principle that some sites are too sensitive for certain forms of intensive development.
However, GEO believes that multi-faceted golf development can be incredibly flexible, and need not be fixed in terms of scale and footprint. In particular there is no formula for the planning and design of courses themselves, and technology exists to create outstanding golf courses that are sympathetic to almost any landscape.
This gives golf developers the unique opportunity to avoid environmental conflict and deliver true environmental gain, but that requires adaptation of the development model to specific site conditions, and respect for fundamental social and environmental values.
“In this case,” says Jonathan Smith, “Trump International Golf Links Scotland failed to come up with the innovative and sympathetic proposal necessary for the sustainable development of this site. As such, the Scottish Government’s judgment flies in the face of international environmental policy and contradicts its own sustainability agenda.”
The Golf Environment Organisation has been driving environmental initiatives in golf since it was launched as the European Golf Association Ecology Unit in 1993. In succeeding years it has established partnerships with every major European golf organisation and been a catalyst for action across the sector.
Notable achievements include:
Greening 3 Ryder Cups: Valderrama, the Belfry and the K Club
Development of the GEO Certification system for golf facilities
Coordination of the Valderrama Declaration – a joint statement on golf, environment and sustainability signed by the European Golf Association, The R&A, European Commission, WWF International, UNEP and the International Olympic Committee Sport and Environment Commission
GEO brings together a community of scientists, industry representatives, leadership figures and businesses who recognise the need for golf to take action. An Advisory Council, Industry Forum and Scientific Network drive its projects and programmes.
GEO’s Vision: “Golf will achieve international recognition for enhancing environmental quality and human well-being.”
Its Mission: “GEO will work with the industry to raise standards, achieve tangible outcomes and objectively appraise performance.”