Plans to create a “world class” golf course in Sutherland have taken a step forward after a key objector withdrew their concern.
Coul Links developers want to create an 18-hole championship course that could cost close to £10million near Embo.
But the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) had objected to the scheme, along with hundreds of others.
It argued the project would have “significant adverse environmental impacts if the golf course is developed in its current form.”
To mitigate the impact a number of greens, tees and fairways would have to be relocated.
Its report also highlighted the disruption to groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystems, such as dune slacks, which are wetlands protected under the EU Water Framework Directive.
However, following extensive talks with the developers and further materials being submitted, the agency has now withdrawn its objection.
In a letter written to Highland Council, Sepa said previous areas of concerns had been removed after what the developers described as “constructive dialogue.”
The move has been warmly welcomed by Todd Warnock, one of the American developers behind the Coul Links project.
He said: “We are very pleased with the thorough and professional dialogue we have had with Sepa over the last almost three years.
“We have taken the time to work constructively together to ensure the environmental integrity of the site and at the same time to advance one of the largest private investments in the history of Sutherland.
“We are now also looking forward to the response letter which is expected from Scottish Natural Heritage.”
However, one member of the campaign group Not Coul, said he was “very surprised” at the decision.
Tom Dargie, said: “I am simply very surprised but until I see more details of what Sepa has said I cannot comment further.”
The group is concerned the course could upset what they say is one of the last remaining dune landscapes in Scotland.
However the proposals have considerable local support, with about 250 jobs expected to be created.
The scheme is backed by the Embo Trust, a company which seeks to develop and manage local assets in a way that benefits the area.