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Coul Enterprises lodges planning application for first phase of its £20m eco hotel development in Sutherland

By Philip Murray

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The main building at the eco hotel.
The main building at the eco hotel.

A MAJOR £20m eco hotel has taken a step forward after plans for the first lodges were submitted – but developers have warned it is reliant upon a new golf course being green-lit at Coul Links.

Developer Edward Abel Smith, of Coul Enterprises, has submitted an application for the eco hotel's initial four lodges on Coul Farm, each of which would boast four rooms. His "ultimate ambition" is that the site could one day stretch to as many as 20 lodges and 80 rooms.

He also revealed that he plans to "work with a local housing provider to build affordable accommodation near Embo to help provide for the more than 40 new jobs this hotel project would create".

But he warned: "However, the whole scheme is fully reliant on there being a world class golf course on Coul Links, to not only bring in the £20 million required investment for the hotel, but also to provide demand for the hotel from international golfers.”

Plans for a new golf course on Coul Links have proven controversial in the past, with the Scottish Government throwing out the last such proposal – an 18-hole championship course – in early 2020 over fears of the damage it could do to the dune system, which is a designated site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a special protection area.

Ecologists and environmental groups had vocally opposed that application, citing the damage done by a new golf course on a similar dune system in Aberdeenshire. That site later lost its SSSI status because its ecological worth had been denuded by the course.

Following last year's rejection a new, separate proposal for a golf course at the links was floated by Communities For Coul, with that organisation's Gordon Sutherland arguing that such a development was needed in order to provide opportunities for local young people and to reverse population decline.

Under Coul Enterprises' proposals for its new eco hotel Mr Smith said he hoped to create "as much of a local supply chain as possible".

Lodge living.
Lodge living.

The hotel development would also include the likes of a wildflower green roof, providing habitats for local wildlife while also "minimising the visual impact" of the hotel from the SSSI. Marram grass, and wildflower gardens would also be planted.

And he hopes that, between the hotel's proposed "aquaponic food production system" and the wider Coul Farm, all food will be produced on site.

Other eco features include lodges which would be built of walls with a solum "avoiding any concrete floor slabs", ground/air source heat pumps, solar energy, rainwater harvesting and a grey water system.

Electric vehicles to shuttle guests, 100 per cent organic linen, and on-site recycling are also envisioned.

Edward Abel Smith.
Edward Abel Smith.

Mr Smith, said: “I set out to create a hotel which is ‘ambitiously authentic’ to the area. I want the hotel to live and breathe the locality, so I was delighted to be able to commission Embo resident and great architect Iain Levens, to design it. He is an absolute genius and has produced designs for what I think will be one of the most sought-after hotels in the world of links golf. His concept is to create comfortable but unspoilt accommodation for golfers, using the landscape and culture of the area as the main attraction.

“To create as much of a local supply chain as possible, I launched the “Coul Collective”, for businesses in the Highlands to sign up to be preferred suppliers to the hotel. I have been delighted by the response and hope businesses will continue to come forward.”

Iain Levens added: “The hotel management strategy is set out with the aim of creating a sustainable, ecologically sound business."

For investment opportunities or to sign up to the Coul Collective, contact eabelsmith@coulenterprises.com and to find out more visit www.coullinkshotel.org

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