Highland Council votes to grant permission for golf course development despite overwhelming opposition.
The fate of one of Scotland’s important and last remaining undeveloped dune systems, home to a variety of rare butterfly and moth species, now 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 nationally and internationally protected site for nature.
Councillors voted by eight in favour, six against to allow the plans by developer C4C for Coul Links, near Embo in East Sutherland, 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, including one of the largest colonies of Northern Brown Argus butterfly in the UK, but these were not seen as important enough by a majority of Councillors on the Planning Committee to refuse the plans.
The Conservation Coalition 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 step in to save Coul Links from development.
Dr Tom Prescott, Butterfly Conservation’s Head of Conservation for Scotland, said: “Coul Links is a vitally important site for a variety of rare butterflies and moths, including the Small Blue, Portland Moth and Black Isle Groundling moth.
“With 80% of butterfly species having declined in the UK since the 1970s and moth numbers down by 33%, now is the time to strengthen protections for ecologically important sites like Coul Links, not harm them.”
This is the second time in five years that Highland Council have decided to support a golf course at Coul Links against officers’ advice and despite the plans being overwhelmingly opposed. The last development was ultimately turned down by Scottish Ministers in 2020 due to the detrimental impact it would have had on nature.
Kenna Chisholm, Area Manager, North Highland and the Hebrides, 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, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “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, Manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Buglife said: “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.”
Raise your voice in support of saving Coul Links and ask Ministers to reconsider the plans by signing this e-action