Trump may hold council liable over Doonbeg remedial works

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has threatened to hold Clare County Council responsible for any income lost as a result of “obstruction” of his efforts to carry out vital remedial works at his west Clare golf course.

Documents posted on their website by environmental lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment show tensions between lawyers for the US investment mogul and the council after Mr Trump brought “rock armour” on site to strengthen the defences of the Doonbeg golf course against coastal erosion.

The golf course suffered €1m worth of damage during storms that battered the coast last winter. However, the use of rock armour to protect the site is banned, according to the detailed 2011 planning permission document allowing the golf course’s development.

Mr Trump bought the site for a reported €15m in February and announced plans for a major rebuild.

Documents obtained by FIE under Access to Information on the Environment show Mr Trump attempted to reduce the risk of weather damage to the course following this winter’s storms which, according to his solicitors, led to “unprecedented damage” in a “major erosion event”.

The damage included 30 metres of coastline erosion which “accelerates daily” into the golf course due to wind and surge tides; significant flooding and drainage issues; the loss of greens, tees, and “critical” irrigation components”; and the fact that five holes are currently out of service.

Mr Trump said the situation risked making the course “unplayable and inoperable”, meaning his investment was potentially being put in jeopardy without storm defences.

However, Clare County Council’s parks and wildlife service warned that the use of rock armour “may cause more damage to the site” and that such damage ran the risk of court proceedings.

In a follow-up meeting, the course owners were told they “could not undertake works without going through the required planning process” and “no short cuts were available”.

After initially suggesting the course may close “with the loss of 350 jobs” if the defences continued to be blocked, Mr Trump’s solicitors agreed to meet all planning conditions.

However, they added: “Please be advised that, given the emergency nature of the situation facing the owner, any obstruction of these efforts — which are vital to the survival of the business — will force our client to hold you responsible for any resulting damages or lost income, business and the livelihoods of our many great employees.”

The legal row is not the first time Mr Trump and the council have clashed since he purchased the Doonbeg site.

Last month, he clashed with environmentalists over the presence of a microscopic snail on the dunes of the golf course.

A court case in 2000 saw the rare narrow-mouthed whorl snail, known as Vertigo angustior, receive protection from the State due to its endangered status.

This “letter of comfort” status means the owner of the site must pay for an extensive annual report by a qualified scientist to provide updates on the snail at Doonbeg.

www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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