Plans for a golf course and eco hotel at the Coul Links site in Sutherland offer the chance for “real, new sustainable opportunities” for the area, supporters say.
Highland Council this week approved the first phase of a £20 million hotel close to the site of the proposed championship course.
Communities for Coul (C4C), the group behind moves to build the course, has welcomed the move.
Hotel dependent on golf course being approved
The hotel development consists of four, four-bedroom ‘croft-inspired’ lodges, with a reception and breakfast building at Coul Farm, near Embo.
Future phases could see the number of lodge buildings increase to 20.
The venture is forecast to create more than 40 jobs, but is dependent on the golf course going ahead.
C4C submitted a revised plan for the course earlier this month.
A bid by a previous group to develop a golf course at Coul Links was rejected by Scottish Ministers in 2020 after a public inquiry.
C4C revived the project in 2021 and lodged a pre-Planning Application Notice (PAN) for the development in June 2022.
It says its new plans are guided by environmental concerns raised previously and now offer the best chance for the site to retain its Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status.
C4C director, Gordon Sutherland, said: “We were very pleased to hear that plans for the first phase of the Coul Links Hotel have been approved.
“Like our own proposals, they can create real, new sustainable opportunities for people in an area where the long-term decrease in working-age population is a rapidly growing problem.
“They also share our central aim of putting the environment first and restoring and protecting the unique environmental features of Coul Links.
Hopes of course getting planning permission
“We hope that we achieve planning permission for an environmentally sensitive world-class golf course at Coul Links to enable this exciting development to go ahead.”
Edward Abel Smith, who owns the site and heads Coul Enterprises, the company behind the eco hotel, submitted plans in July 2021.
Designed by Embo-based architect, Iain Levens, the hotel is said to minimise the visual impact of the development on the Loch Fleet SSSI.
It includes green roofs on the single-storey buildings to provide habitats for local wildlife, wildflower gardens and beehives.
Mr Abel Smith also intends to work with the University of the Highlands and Islands and other hotel owners to develop training opportunities for staff.
Last year an alliance of seven environmental organisations raised concerns over the new golf course plans.
The Conservation Coalition said a development of the type and scale planned would impact on national and international protected areas.
But C4C said current management of the Sutherland site poses the greatest risk to the coastal environment.
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