Scottish Ministers have “called in” the controversial Coul Links golf course proposal.
Yesterday Planning Minister Kevin Stewart said that it was “right” that a decision of “national importance” was taken at the “national level”.
Now an independent reporter will reconsider the case and deliver recommendations to Scottish Ministers who could refuse permission – a process that could take months.
Highland Council only granted consent two months ago, going against advice from its own planning officers.
Yesterday’s development was welcomed by MSPs, conservation bodies and campaigners who opposed the course for years claiming it would seriously harm an EU and UK protected environmental area.
Mr Stewart said: “As Planning Minister, I have called in the application as the proposal raises issues of national importance in relation to natural heritage issues and its compliance with Scottish Planning Policy and requires further scrutiny. It is right that the decision is taken at the national level.”
Coul Links developer Todd Warnock said it would delay a much needed economic boost for the area.
Mr Warnock said: “Whilst this decision delays bringing significant economic and environmental benefits to the area, we welcome the opportunity to set out again the compelling case to create a world class golf course in east Sutherland.
“The project also has overwhelming support from local people. We thank them again for their help and encouragement and are sorry for them that there is a further delay in a process that has already taken more than three years.
“We have made our case consistently to anyone prepared to listen objectively and we look forward to doing so again with the independent Reporter.”
Jonny Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “This is one of the most important planning decisions to have affected Scotland in recent years so it is only right that it is considered by the Scottish Government.
“Nearly 13,000 members of the public wrote to MSPs asking them to take a closer look at this vitally important case, and we are heartened that these plans will now be given closer scrutiny.”
Stuart Brooks, Head of Policy and Conservation for the National Trust for Scotland said: “Scotland is home to some of the World’s best loved wild landscapes and wildlife sites and it is right that our government ensure that when these are threatened by development they are subject to the proper level of scrutiny and decisions are made in the national interest.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “Highland Council acknowledges the decision of the Scottish Government and will participate in the examination process in due course.”