A final decision on whether the controversial plan for a golf course at Coul Links in Sutherland will be allowed to go ahead has been delayed by another month.
Scottish Ministers have decided that they need more time to consider the proposals for the course near Embo.
The 18-hole course would be built on on a stretch of land covered by numerous conservation designations.
Highland councillors approved planning permission on June 20 despite recommendations for refusal by officials. They appreciated the environmental concerns but supported the economic and employment boost the course would bring to the area.
This gave Scottish Ministers the opportunity to “call in” the application to reconsider the decision.
But yesterday a government spokeswoman said: “In order to fully consider the application Ministers are extending that period by a further 28 days from August 1 to consider whether or not to call in the application for their determination.”
Green MSP John Finnie said: “Allowing this proposal to go ahead, in the face of all the evidence, would completely undermine environmental designations across Scotland. I have been inundated with correspondence from constituents in the Highlands and Islands, over 1300 to date, opposed to this environmental vandalism.”
He added: “I once again urge the Scottish Government to stop prevaricating on this issue and call in the application without further delay.”
Coul Links developer Todd Warnock said: “The Scottish Government is right to take its time to consider the issues. After more than three years of thorough consideration of the project we are happy to wait a few more days.
“Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee took an emphatic decision in June, recognising the significant economic benefits the course will bring to east Sutherland and the extensive mitigation measures that will be put in place to protect the environment.
“We await Scottish Ministers’ decision with interest.”
A campaign to protect the site involving many Scottish nature conservation organisations attracted more than 10,000 signatures.
These organisations also welcomed the move to take more time over the decision.
Aedan Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland said: “Coul Links is an incredibly special place for wildlife and it is encouraging that Scottish Ministers are taking more time to fully consider the nationally and internationally significant implications for nature of this damaging proposal. However, if Scottish Ministers genuinely want to show to the world that Scotland can hold its head up alongside other nations as a world leader on environmental issues, they shouldn’t hang about in stepping in to save this special place.”