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Plans to build eco hotel if Highland golf course development is revived

Coul Farm
Coul Farm

A £20 million eco hotel is being proposed for a site in the north Highlands where campaigners want to revive plans for a championship golf course.

A new group aims to put forward a community-led application for a world class course at Coul Links in Sutherland, almost a year after the Scottish Government turned down a previous development bid.

Now the owner of the land where the course would be built said he is submitting plans for a hotel that would overlook the golf course if it comes to fruition.

Edward Abel Smith who owns Coul Farm said the eco hotel would be in the form of “unobtrusive” lodges. Phase 1 would see four, four-bedroom units developed, with the aim to increase to 20, and would include a small reception and breakfast building at the centre.

40 new jobs

He said the venture, which would create 40 new jobs, will be a leader in the protection of the environment with plans including an offer to offset travel emissions from overseas visitors through native tree planting in the Highlands.

It is also intended to power part of the Coul Links Hotel using solar panels and to provide charging points to encourage electric vehicles.

Mr Abel Smith supports Communities for Coul (C4C) that plans to resuscitate the £50 million links golf course project that would support at least 180 jobs.

The course would sit on 1% of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and was opposed by environmental campaigners during a four-week public inquiry in 2019.

He said: “Independently I have been approached by a syndicate of private investors expressing interest in funding the erection of some accommodation on the Coul farmland which sits outside of the SSSI should the golf course be built. This is in anticipation for the vast increase in visitors coming to the area to play the new golf course.

Coul Links site

“Given the creation of Communities for Coul, I have decided to progress with a plan for accommodation in tandem. I am therefore in the process of submitting planning permission for a series of unobtrusive lodges to be built on the farmland overlooking the links, to form an eco-style hotel.”

“The initial surveys carried out by a leading Scottish surveying firm has advised that the investors should plan to spend £20 million to build the full hotel, which we are budgeting for.

Finalising design of the hotel

“We are in the process of working with local architects to finalise the design of the hotel and will be submitting a planning application for the first phase of the project imminently. However, we will not start any form of construction until Coul Links Golf Course is approved.”

He added: “This is an example of the attractiveness a golf course at Coul Links has to investors, demonstrated not least but their willingness to progress with this scheme despite the current economic situation and the impact this has had on the hospitality industry.”

The Coul Links plan was approved 16-1 by Highland Council but later rejected by the government in February 2020.

C4C chairman Gordon Sutherland said the eco hotel plan boosts the campaign for the golf course and adds to the number of jobs that could be created by the aligned projects.

“I always thought there was a lack of accommodation in the previous project. Having another world class golf course is going to pull in a lot more people to the area.”

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