If they pulled the course west (completely) off the SSSI then it would have absolutely made a difference. The trouble is you have a weaker course and in the end, itís really difficult to accept that for most developers and architects.
I remember Mike Wood (GCA and environmentalist) offered up an alternative routing at Balmedie that still used a lot of dune land, just not the mobile and unusual dunes. Clearly not accepted as a possible solution
Best example was probably at Doonbeg where they had to exclude 55 acres of the best land due to SAC flora and fauna.
Ally's got this.
Trump's course could have been built while avoiding the area of mobile dunes that was considered so sensitive. It might have been even better had he tried to use all of the best land for one course. But, he made the argument that he had to build in the mobile dunes in order to make room for two courses, in order to maximize the purported economic benefits to the community.
My guess is that Mr. Trump would have happily compromised and settled for one course, if asked -- he's a negotiator, after all -- but HE WAS NEVER ASKED. Instead, the planners rejected the proposal, and then the government overruled them and gave him the green light for 36 holes, without negotiating that point.
My sense is that because of that history, the planners at Coul were predisposed to reject the proposed course for its impact on the SSSI. They signaled as much with their comments on the plan, and from what I've heard, they were upset when the plan came back with lots of verbiage but no real changes to the footprint.
I have not followed this whole saga very closely, so I have no idea how early in the process the planners' "red lines" were clearly expressed. I know that it sucks to have to keep stepping backwards from your ideal design because of further planning input you didn't expect, so usually, I try my hardest to get all of the red lines on paper before I start getting attached to particular golf holes.
It's possible that, if that approach had been tried from the beginning, the architect and developer would have decided that the project that would be allowed wasn't worth doing, and saved themselves a lot of time and headaches. Or, they might have succeeded in negotiating with the planners on certain points, and wound up with a plan acceptable to both sides. But when you put a plan in for approval that the planners have objected to, you can't be too surprised when they say no.