Donald Trump faces snail fight for golfing heaven

Snail

Below the surface of a golfing paradise for many American tourists, the Trump Organization is battling on many fronts.

It's a maximum of 175 euros ($234) for a round at Donald Trump's golf course in Doonbeg on the west coast of Ireland. The manicured greens and rugged dunes offer a decent challenge to any sporting hopeful against the backdrop of some of the most stunning scenery in the country.

However, below the surface of a golfing paradise for many American tourists lies much-needed development. The Trump Organization is battling on many fronts: a receding coastline, wind turbines that could radically change the vista and an endangered microscopic snail that needs preservation and constant surveillance.

Trump's investment of a reported 15 million euros ($20 million) back in February looks like a bargain, but that bargain is at risk of turning sour. The eighteenth green is just one area that is in danger of falling into the sea as fierce winter winds, 30-meter waves and driving rain has chipped away at the landscape.

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Land erosion

Earlier this year, the quick fix solution of dumping tons of rocks on the site led to Trump coming head-to-head with local authorities, who served him with an enforcement notice before the rocks were removed.

Trump's new plan involves metal bars planted into the edge of dunes allowing the sand to naturally form once more. Staff at the course have been told to prepare for the temporary closure of the 400-acre golf resort at the start of 2015, but the council has yet to give permission to the U.S. real estate mogul.

As well as seeking further information on the new strategy, Clare Council want to clarify how this erosion management project will impact the Vertigo Angustior snail. The mollusc is a protected species that thrives in the area and has to be surveyed by Trump once a year, regardless of any development work.

 

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In the nearby village - a clutch of houses mostly belonging to farmers and fishermen - they are currently welcoming plans for a wave energy project. The offshore technologies involved in the plans are deemed to be less obtrusive than wind turbines that can be in excess of 120-meters tall. However, the latter still remains a possibility for the area and for Trump poses dangerous similarities to the well-known problem found at his golf course in Scotland.

Wind turbines

After a similar application last year was turned down, a firm called Clare Coastal Power Ltd - part owned by a German company, according to its website - has lodged a new application for nine new wind turbines to be placed a few kilometers south of the golf course. This plan was "invalidated" by Clare Council back in March due to the lack of relevant information but a council spokesperson has told CNBC that the applicant has corrected the application and details will be announced to the public very shortly.

Meanwhile, Trump has found common ground with campaigners working hard to make sure these turbines aren't built. Tony Lowes, a New York-born director at Friends of the Irish Environment even received a phone call from the U.S. business magnate with Lowes agreeing to team up and fight against any such future development.

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More holes?

But Lowes still harbors concerns. The golf course relies on a temporary marquee and as such means space is currently tight. This could mean more development and Lowes fears that an additional 18 holes could also be on Trump's mind. There is no application for this, however, and Trump's organization has not confirmed these plans and was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

"We can fight them with the planning system and with European laws. They are open and transparent...they are powerful tools," Lowes told CNBC via telephone, although he highlighted that the group has a good relationship with the Trump Organization and hoped it could remain productive.

Back in the Doonbeg village, the mood is positive regarding the new owner. Anecdotal evidence suggests that bookings have increased this summer and the resort is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. Locals are optimistic on new jobs and an injection of life into a golf course that was suffering under the old management. For Trump it seems, there are more battles ahead in the near future before this latest investment can really be classed as a bargain.

 

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