ABERDEEN, Scotland – Donald Trump argued his case Tuesday for the construction of a $2 billion golf resort on a stretch of coast in northeast Scotland after months of acrimony between the billionaire developer and local residents.
The brash American known for his New York developments and for his television show, "The Apprentice," was in a bullish mood as he batted back environmental concerns from a panel of planners and environmentalists' lawyers in a public inquiry in Aberdeen.
"The Donald," as he is sometimes called, told the inquiry that his golf course will be the greatest in the world -- better than the Royal & Ancient at St. Andrews, Turnberry, Carnoustie and Troon, all in Scotland; and better than Pine Valley in New Jersey, which he called the best course in the world.
"People won't play a course if it is environmentally harmful," Trump said. "They don't like it, they don't feel good about it and they won't play it."
He wants to build the course at the Menie Estate, 12 miles north of the oil town of Aberdeen. The development has divided political opinion in Scotland and embroiled Scotland's first minister in a dispute about overstepping his jurisdiction in planning law.
The plans to create a course on a legally protected site of scientific interest have been met with opposition from local environmentalists and a landowner who steadfastly refuses to sell his property. Local fisherman Michael Forbes became famous after he refused the Trump Organization's offer of $690,000 to sell his family's run-down farm in the center of the estate.
The proposals for two golf courses, 900 timeshare apartments, a 450-bed hotel and 500 luxury homes were narrowly rejected by the Aberdeenshire Council late last year after local residents and conservationists said one course should not be built on the Foveran Links, a stretch of shifting sand dunes that are home to some of the country's rarest wildlife, including skylarks, kittiwakes, badgers and otters.
But local business leaders, tourism agencies and Scotland's nationalist First Minister Alex Salmond approve of the development, which could bring much needed jobs and money to the area.
Trump used Tuesday's hearing to make a last-ditch appeal to push through the golf complex. The panel will meet until early July, and draw up a conclusion at some point after that.
David Tildsley, representing the Scottish Wildlife Trust, told the billionaire that he had ignored his own consultants on environmental issues.
Under cross-examination by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Trump drew snickers from the audience when he said he knew more about the environment than his consultants did. He acknowledged he had not read environmental reports that he commissioned.
"I would consider myself an environmentalist in the true sense of the word," Trump said.
Trump said that the moveable sand dunes would benefit from having a golf course on them as they will be stabilized and would not be blown away in a storm.
Trump was expected to play on his Scottish roots as he faced the panel of three senior planning officials appointed by Salmond's government and lawyers representing environmental agencies.
On Monday he visited his mother's childhood home on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides and after touring the humble house in Stornoway he told journalists: "If it weren't for my mother would I have walked away from this site? I think probably I would have, yes. Possibly, had my mother not been born in Scotland, I probably wouldn't have started it."
Trump seemed cheerful despite the grueling session.
"I think it's going well, what do you think?" he told The Associated Press after the morning hearing. "I think we're swaying them."