From The Times
October 10, 2007
The fisherman standing in way of Donald Trump’s golf course
David Lister, Scotland Correspondent
He is the man standing in the way of one of the world’s most famous billionaires. A gruff, obstinate Scotsman who has refused to bow to the financial might of Donald Trump and his vision for the world’s finest golf course.Michael Forbes, a humble salmon fisherman whose family has lived behind the sand dunes at Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, for 40 years, yesterday pointed to the boundary of his land and shook his head. “That’s where the golf course will be,” he said. “Fifty yards away on that side and fifty yards away on the other.” To say that Mr Forbes, 55, is a thorn in Mr Trump’s side is an understatement. His 23 acres of land sit directly between the tycoon’s two proposed 18-hole golf courses and a planned 450-bedroom five-star hotel. A golf academy and driving range would be next door. Just a few hundred feet away would be the majestic sweep of Trump Boulevard, the main access road to the £1 billion resort. “I’m right in the middle, you see,” Mr Forbes said yesterday. “I wasn’t against the golf course from the start, but then they just went mental because I wouldn’t sell. They said they’d make my life a misery and they are.” Mr Forbes’s land, where a saltire hangs in one corner and a barn emblazoned with the words “No Golf Course” greets visitors as they arrive along the single-track unmade road, has become an embarrassing symbol of defiance to Mr Trump. “All my family came from around here. My grandfather fished down here and all my uncles as well. I’m the last in line and I’ll see it out.”
Although the billionaire has insisted that he will build around Mr Forbes’s property, his irritation burst into the open this week when he launched an extraordinary attack on his neighbour. Describing the land as “in total disrepair”, Mr Trump said: “Take a look and see how badly maintained that piece of property is. It’s disgusting. There are rusty tractors, rusty oil cans. I actually asked him, ‘Are you doing this on purpose to try and make me look bad, so I have to pay some more money?’”
The dispute has all the hallmarks of the plot of Local Hero, the 1983 cult film in which an American tycoon seeks to buy a tiny Scottish village, though on this occasion the dispute is about golf, not oil. Mr Trump has submitted plans to turn a 1,400-acre site at Balmedie, 13 miles north of Aberdeen, into “the world’s greatest golf course”, with two championship links courses, a five-star hotel, a golf academy, almost 1,000 holiday homes and about 500 private houses. He hopes permission will be granted in the next few months, but faces strong opposition from conservation groups, who claim that the plans will do irreparable damage to the dunes and the wildlife they contain. But while Mr Trump has fought environmental concerns with flattery and argument, his problem with Mr Forbes is one with, at the moment, no apparent solution. Mr Forbes’s 83-year-old mother, Molly, who lives opposite, will see the golfers as they pass her mobile home, which has the name Paradise hanging on the wall. She said: “I came here to live in peace and quiet in my Paradise, but the golf course is going to spoil the look of our quiet area.”
Mr Forbes refuses to apologise for the state of his land. “If I had the money [Mr Trump] has this place would be a palace as well. You should have seen it here eight years ago, it was much worse.” He said the tractors were used on his land and the oil drums were needed to burn rubbish. Over the past 18 months Mr Forbes has received two offers, the first for £350,000 and then, a month ago, the second for £375,000. He claims that he is now being pestered. He insists that his refusal to sell is not a ploy to force a higher price, but a desire to stay in his own home.
A spokesman for Mr Trump denied that Mr Forbes was being pestered.
George Sorial, one of Mr Trump’s senior advisers, said that Mr Forbes had been abusive and aggressive towards his colleagues on at least two occasions. He said: “We have been the good neighbour. Mr Forbes is the bad neighbour here.”