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BREAKING NEWS: Communities for Coul reach major milestone with submission of 'scoping application' to Highland Council for championship golf course at Coul Links


By Caroline McMorran

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The community organisation behind a renewed bid for a championship golf course on the shores of the Dornoch Firth, has taken a major step forward.

Communities for Coul (C4C) announced this morning that it had submitted a “scoping application” to Highland Council for the development at Coul Links, near Embo.

C4C spokesman Gordon Sutherland said: “Following close collaboration with our planning consultants and dialogue with NatureScot, Communities for Coul is pleased to have reached this milestone."

Course designer Bill Coore, of Coore & Crenshaw, with a group of visitors at the site of the proposed course.
Course designer Bill Coore, of Coore & Crenshaw, with a group of visitors at the site of the proposed course.

A previous application for a championship golf course at Coul Links was rejected in 2020 on environmental grounds by Scottish Ministers following a planning inquiry.

Part of the land over which the golf course would run is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

C4C said its new plan has focused on addressing concerns raised in the former application, and a key aspect of its proposal was a comprehensive plan to restore and protect the Coul Links SSSI.

The group said it had reduced the amount of land to be used as tees, greens, fairways and walkways within the SSSI by over 40 per cent and it now accounted for less than one per cent of the Loch Fleet SSSI.

In addition the path of the course had been altered in places to avoid the most environmentally valuable areas of dune heath, negating any requirement for heath translocation.

C$C say that instead of the fairways being stripped and replanted with new grass, they would simply be mown, preserving the native grasses and lichens and removing the requirement for the use of any fertilisers or nitrates.

And all fairways would be broken up into two or more pieces, preventing fragmentation of small colonies of flora and fauna, through maintained connectivity.

Mr Sutherland continued: “Our team has studied golf courses such as Askernish, Machrihanish and Skibo, all of which are located on SSSIs, and we have embraced the methodologies and management adopted by NatureScot at these sites.

“Our aim remains to achieve planning permission for one of the world’s most environmentally sensitive golf courses and use the income it generates to remediate the Coul Links SSSI and then sustain it for future generations.”

C4C has secured the commitment from international course developer and environmentalist Mike Keiser to build the golf course, with the help of golf designers Coore & Crenshaw, but they will only come on board after planning permission is received.

The group is raising money through donations to fund submission of a new planning application this year, once a wide range of environmental studies have been completed.

A community ballot held by C4C last June demonstrated a high level of local support for the plan, with a 44.4 per cent turn-out and a 69.2 per cent vote in favour.

Mr Sutherland said: “The carefully considered design and sensitive construction of the planned golf course means this is now an environmental project with a golf course at its heart.

“This incredibly important project will create many jobs, boost the economies of our local communities, encourage our young people to stay and new young families to make their home here, helping to reverse the ageing demographic of our area.

“It will be good for employment, good for our economy and good for the environment.”


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