The group behind plans for a world class golf course at Coul Links says there is a “clear indication” of local support for the project.
The controversial application has so far attracted nearly twice as many objections as messages of support – 546 to 282.
However, Communities for Coul (C4C) says there is more support from people living in the area.
‘Genuine local enthusiasm’
By the end of last week, it says 129 letters to Highland Council from people from Dornoch Firth communities are in favour of the proposed development, with 47 opposed, a ratio of almost 3:1.
Letters from the Dornoch and Embo postcode, near the Coul Links site, includes 88 for and 19 against – more than 4:1.
C4C also says just one local business has expressed opposition to the plan.
C4C director, Gordon Sutherland, said: “The figures clearly show a genuine enthusiasm locally for our plans and an understanding of the economic and environmental benefits they can bring.
“A number of national organisations, with little or no first-hand knowledge of the issues facing our communities or Coul Links, have been urging their supporters around the country to send objections to the council, which largely explains why there are so many letters sent from outside our local area.”
One of the supporters is Rory MacDonald, a former member of Celtic rock legends Runrig, who lives in Dornoch and said approval would be “life enhancing”.
He said Scotland, and particularly Sutherland, has experienced a long history of neglect and de-population.
“Indeed, the untold miseries of the Clearances of the 18th and 19th Centuries still resonate.
“It’s a wound and a legacy that continues to define, even now, as many of the young continue to leave due to lack of employment opportunities.
“The exciting part of this for me, also as a walker and a nature lover, is that the dune system and waterways will be restored and managed in a manner significantly beyond the present status quo where neglect is visibly evident, showing unmanaged incursion of invasive species and signs of stagnation within the water systems.
Jobs v environment
“Although I am retired, a non-golfer, and with no vested interest whatsoever, I so wish this to happen. The alternative, at this juncture, is actually unthinkable.”
C4C revived the project in 2021 after a bid by a previous group was rejected by Scottish Ministers in 2020 following a public inquiry.
The group says the development would bring in over £50 million of private investment and create 175-250 jobs.
It also argues the revived plan differs from the previous unsuccessful bid in many ways, including a 90% reduction in the area of the Loch Fleet SSSI that would be developed.
But the plan has divided opinion.
Among its opponents is a coalition of conservation groups which says it is concerned about the damage a golf course would do to the 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 the previous application.
The groups have appealed to the public to try to stop the course being built.
Serious concerns about the Coul proposals
Speaking for the coalition, Esmé Clelland, RSPB Scotland’s senior conservation planner, said: “Coul Links is such an important place for nature that it has national and international protection.
“All seven members of the conservation coalition have very serious concerns about the proposals for a golf course here.
“The current application differs very little to the previous application that was turned down by Scottish Ministers in 2020 as too damaging to nature.
“This incredible place for nature is at serious risk from the current plans, and we note that many others share our concerns.”
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