Scottish ministers call in Coul Links plans


The Scottish Government has called in controversial plans to build a golf course on one of Scotland's important and last remaining undeveloped dune systems, meaning it will make the final decision on whether the development can proceed.

This move has been strongly welcomed by the coalition of seven environmental charities that has campaigning to save Coul Links near Embo, Highland, from the damaging development.

In its letter to The Highland Council, the Scottish Government said the decision to call-in the application, was "in view of the proposed development's potential impact on nationally and internationally important natural heritage assets and the need for an appropriate understanding of the scale and degree of potential economic benefits arising from the proposal."

The future of Coul Links will now be decided by the Scottish Government (Vince Lowe).

An e-action has been taken by more than 11,000 people asking ministers to scrutinise the plans which The Highland Council voted to approve last December, despite strong public opposition to them, a recommendation for refusal by The Highland Council planning officers and an objection from NatureScot. Highland Councillors were split over the decision with six committee members voting to refuse the proposal, and eight deciding to go against the recommendation to approve it. The decision means Scottish Government ministers will consider the development plans and could refuse permission for the damaging proposal.

A previous attempt to build a golf course on the site was eventually quashed in 2020 when the Scottish Government rejected development plans.

Rebekah Strong, Terrestrial Policy Manager from the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: "Safeguarding Coul Links will demonstrate that the Scottish Government is serious about protecting the wildlife of Scotland. In the face of the nature and climate emergency, we must prioritise the protection of fragile habitats and species for future generations."

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, added: "This is a crucial moment for Coul Links and is only right that Scottish Government is looking at the plans given the damage they could do to this protected place. We're in the midst of a nature and climate emergency so protected places like this must be safe from the threat of inappropriate development.

"Over 11,000 people have urged Ministers to review these plans and we are very pleased that they will now be looked at afresh. The fate of this incredible place for nature is in their hands and we urge them to refuse permission to save Coul Links."