A petition opposing plans for a new golf course at Coul Links has been signed by more than 84,000 people, two weeks before the deadline for objections.
The online campaign – led by ecological surveyor Andrew Weston – has received more than 63,600 signatures from across the UK in a week.
But those behind the push to build the course insist they have “the overwhelming support of the people who actually live in the area”.
Mr Weston said: “People believe in it and agree with the petition. If you look at the responses they don’t want to see Scotland ruined. It was slow to start, it has been up a year and it only recently got up to 10,000 signatures.
“I am very pleased it’s got the recognition. I am still worried as the golf course has a lot of support from councillors, MPs and MSPs but I think the more people that know about ecology, the more sceptical they would be.”
Campaigners hope the petition will reach 100,000 before the deadline for objections on December 22.
But East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Jim McGillivray, an Embo resident, said: “It’s a UK-wide petition and the quick answer is to acknowledge the 80,000 or more who have signed it. But there are somewhere over 65million people living in the UK, so it means most of them are not greatly bothered. We need to think about the wider context to this.”
The plans, submitted to Highland Council in September, highlight the potential for an 18-hole championship course and practice areas.
The “world class” course would stretch across an estimated 805 acres.
The development would be part-owned by the Embo Trust, and the cost is estimated at £8million-£10million.
If approved, work on the project is expected to begin next spring, with the first players teeing off in March 2021.
Project manager for Coul Links, Chris Haspell, said: “What gives us great heart is the overwhelming support of the people who actually live in the area. We hope the Highland Council will listen to the views and hopes of their constituents who have so much hanging on its decision.”
This petition is the latest in a line of objections, such as those from an alliance of conservation groups including RSPB Scotland and Buglife.