Highland Council grants permission for Coul Links golf course


Highland Council has voted to grant permission for a golf course development at Coul Links near Embo, Highland.

It is the latest twist in a saga that has run for at least six years. A previous attempt to build a golf course on the site was eventually quashed in 2020 when the Scottish Government rejected development plans.

But the fate of one of Scotland's last remaining undeveloped dune systems once again lies in the hands of Scottish Ministers after Highland Council's North Planning Applications Committee voted to grant permission for an 18-hole golf course development on the internationally protected site.

Councillors voted by eight in favour, six against to allow the plans by developer C4C, against the advice of Highland Council's own planning officers, and in the face of almost 750 objections including from statutory consultee NatureScot, Scottish Government's advisers on nature. Serious concerns have been raised about the wide-ranging impact the golf course would have on the protected sites and nature found within it, but these were not seen as important enough by a majority of Councillors on the Planning Committee to refuse the plans.

Coul Links is once again under threat from development plans for a golf course (Vince Lowe).

A conservation coalition of seven environmental organisations is extremely disappointed and very concerned by Highland Council's decision to grant permission for the plans and is now calling on Scottish Ministers to again step in to save Coul Links from development.

Kenna Chisholm, Area Manager for North Highland and the Hebrides at RSPB Scotland, said: "Due to the decision by Highland Council to grant permission for the golf course, contrary to its own official's advice and disregarding nearly 750 objections including from NatureScot, we are once again asking Scottish Ministers to save Coul Links. It's really regrettable the proposals are now at this stage given how clearly it's been shown that Coul Links is not the place for this kind of development.

"We're urging Ministers to call in the development to ensure that Coul Links is safeguarded for nature and people into the future rather than being irreparably harmed. Scottish Government has made impressive commitments to nature and the environment, and this is an opportunity for Ministers to show that there is substance and meaning to their positive words and targets. We urge people to sign our e-action asking Ministers to consider the plans and save Coul Links."

Bruce Wilson, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Scottish Wildlife Trust, added: "Protected sites exist to not only help preserve extremely valuable places for nature and people but also to signpost very clearly where it is not appropriate to place developments. In a nature and climate emergency, which the Highland Council themselves have declared, this does not represent a sustainable decision, we are once again in the position of asking Scottish Ministers to call this in."

Andrew Ramsey of Buglife commented: "This is a very disappointing decision from Highland Council. Coul Links is an internationally important site for wildlife and is vital for the protection of endemic species in Scotland. The site is irreplaceable, and its loss would seriously discredit the Scottish Government's recent pledges in the support of the natural world. This is a time when the whole world is shaping plans to halt and reverse the loss of biological diversity, if Scotland is going to play its part, then this development needs to be called in and nature given the priority that it deserves."

Alistair Whyte from Plantlife Scotland said: "In a nature and climate emergency, we should not have to fight development proposals on legally protected sites, which should be refuges for our beleaguered wildlife. Scottish ministers must now call in this proposal as a matter of urgency.”

Members of the public can raise their voice in support of saving Coul Links and ask Ministers to reconsider the plans by visiting action.rspb.org.uk/coullinks and signing this e-action.