Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Coul Links: Environmentalists issue new appeal to public to stop golf course plans

Comments for and against the proposal to be made by April 9.

Sea rocket, Coul Links SSSI beach. Image:  Andrew Weston
Sea rocket, Coul Links SSSI beach. Image: Andrew Weston

A coalition of environmental groups has issued a new appeal to the public to help stop a planned golf course at Coul Links.

Communities for Coul (C4C), the group that revived the course proposal, submitted a revised plan in February.

It says the development would bring in over £50 million of private investment and create 175-250 jobs.

But the coalition of seven organisations says it remains concerned about the damage a golf course would do to rare coastal dunes.

Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust argue the new proposals differ very little in scale from a previous application.

Rejected – then revived

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. It says its new plans have been guided by previous environmental concerns and offer the best chance to retain the area’s Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status.

Comments on the application can be submitted to Highland Council by April 9.

The coalition says not all the factors that led to the 2020 refusal have been addressed.

It says the proposed course location includes parts of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area and Ramsar site and the Loch Fleet SSSI.

This would still result in “irreparable harm” to the complex dune habitat which is home to a wide range of wildlife, it claims.

The Coul Links site is earmarked for a championship golf course. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Craig Macadam, conservation director at Buglife said: “The coalition is very worried by these proposals which differ very little from the previous application deemed too damaging to nature to go ahead.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that our concerns and the reasons for the refusal of the previous application have not been addressed, and that once again we are having to fight to save this protected place.”

He said members of the coalition will object to the plans and asks members of the public to do the same.

“This incredible place for nature is at serious risk of being destroyed and lost forever – please help us save Coul Links.”

‘Rare dune ecocystem’

The coalition says the site is made up of a rare dune ecosystem of national and international importance and home to a wide range of plants, birds, insects and other wildlife.

Many of the species are either unique to the area, rare, or in severe decline elsewhere in the UK.

These include Fonseca’s seed fly, the Waxcap fungi, a nationally rare bryophyte, a nationally rare lichen, and several nationally rare species of invertebrate.

Alistair Whyte, head of Plantlife Scotland said: “We again stand shoulder to shoulder with our conservation partners in opposing the development of Coul Links.

“Many others also oppose these inappropriate plans. The site, one of Scotland’s last remaining undisturbed wild dune systems, offers a safe haven to special wild plants including Baltic Rush, Curved Sedge and internationally important lichen populations.”

A view from the 18th hole on the planned golf course at Coul Links.

Jo Pike, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said he is “greatly saddened” to see the new application.

“This nationally and internationally important site is unsuitable for development due to its unique sand dune habitat and its value for breeding and wintering birds, endemic invertebrates, and rare lichens.

“Habitat loss is one of the main drivers of biodiversity decline across Scotland.

“This triple designated site must be protected, respected, and celebrated for its natural riches.”

C4C says its environmental measures will include closing the course to players between November and the end of March to protect the habitats of over-wintering birds.

Green-keeping staff will be on full time contracts “because there will always be work to restore and protect the SSSI”.

Hotel plan depends on golf course going ahead

Last year C4C challenged the coalition on how they would protect the natural habitat it says is threatened by the golf course plan.

It said environmental experts predicted natural features at Coul Links, cited in the wider Loch Fleet area’s designation as an SSSI, will be largely destroyed within the coming decade under existing management arrangements.

In February C4C welcomed Highland Council approval of the first phase of a £20 million eco hotel close to the site of the proposed championship course.

The venture is forecast to create more than 40 jobs, but is dependent on the golf course going ahead.

The first phase of an eco hotel was approved but is dependent on the course going ahead.

C4C says the hotel and course can create new sustainable opportunities for people in an area where the long-term decrease in working-age population is a growing problem.

Meanwhile, opponents of the course have also claimed a promotional video used by C4C featured agency stock clips rather than footage of local people.

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy called the video “embarrassing” and said it gives viewers the impression they are watching supporters of the course plan.

A spokesman for Coul Links said as a small community group it could not afford to hire a crew, cameras and a drone to film on location.

He said 70% of local people support the creation of the golf course.

Are you interested in more exclusive and breaking Highland and Islands news from The P&J? If so, why not join our dedicated Facebook page HERE.