(Picture: Andrew Weston)
We are delighted that the Scottish Government has ‘called in’ the proposals for the controversial new golf course at Coul Links near Embo in Sutherland.
Sadly, Highland councillors had voted in June 2018 to grant planning permission for the course.
This was despite their own planning officials, concerned residents and a range of environmental groups – including Ramblers Scotland – urging them to refuse the application.
Now the application will be investigated further by planning reporters in the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals.They will make a recommendation to Scottish Ministers on whether it should be given permission or not.
We have concerns about this development because we fear the impact that the 18-hole course will have on informal public access and the special dune environment, which is protected by national and international nature conservation designations.
A coalition of environmental groups, including Buglife, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, the Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – also called for the Scottish Government to review the proposals.
At Ramblers Scotland, we are particularly concerned that:
• The wild nature of the landscape will be lost, with some dunes flattened to make way for holes.
• Fences will be required to protect some holes from wind-blown sand, intruding on the beach and surrounding views.
• Seven holes will cross an existing core path, causing unacceptable risks for walkers
• The application underestimated the number of people informally accessing Coul Links for recreation.
• The course will impact on the John o’ Groats Trail – an exciting long-distance route being developed by local volunteers, which has been praised in a parliamentary motion. This trail has the potential to bring many visitors into the area, with associated benefits to the local economy.
We sent Highland Council two responses letters of objection, which you can read here and here.
We will continue to keep track of this proposal and post any relevant updates on this page.