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Communities for Coul invite Coul Links opponent Green MSP Ariane Burgess to visit site

By Caroline McMorran

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The MSP campaigning for the Coul Links golf course application to be called in by the Scottish Government, has been invited to visit the site of the proposed development.

Communities for Coul (C4C), who want to build the golf course on land near Embo, have publicly asked Green MSP Ariana Burgess to visit Coul Links and view the site.

Ariane Burgess MSP.
Ariane Burgess MSP.

Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee voted 8:6 in favour of a golf course at Coul Links at its meeting on December 6.

However the application has to be referred to the Scottish Government because NatureScot, a statutory consultee, objected.

Ms Burgess said she was shocked by Highland councillors’ decision to grant planning permission as Coul Links was a “spectacular site of environmental significance with several important international environmental designations”.

She raised the decision at First Minister’s Questions on December 7 and asked Humza Yousaf to confirm that the application would be referred to Ministers for consideration.

Ms Burgess has also launched a campaign calling on Scottish Ministers to call the application. The campaign is supported by more than 1000 people.

In an public statement issued this week, C4C director Gordon Sutherland said: “It may be that Ms Burgess’s opposition to the planning application is due to her never having visited Coul Links and, as a consequence, having to rely on guidance from members of the Conservation Coalition (environmental bodies who have grouped together to oppose the golf course).

C4C director Gordon Sutherland.
C4C director Gordon Sutherland.

“To help Ms Burgess reach a fully informed and balanced opinion, and to understand why this proposed development will be of great benefit to our area, both socio-economically and environmentally, I extend an open invitation on behalf of C4C for her to visit Coul Links accompanied by C4Cs botanist and economist.”

Mr Sutherland writes that Ms Burgess’ statement that “local residents value and cherish this special and unique landscape”, was no doubt true but did not mean that local residents were opposed to the development.

He added that local people were overwhelmingly in favour of Coul Links Golf Course, as shown by a ballot conducted in June 2021.

“The indisputable evidence is that people resident in the communities of East Sutherland overwhelmingly support the type of golf course C4C hope to create at Coul Links," he stated.

“Why? Because they are well informed on the subject and, as a result understand that the development will bring up to 400 well paid, year-round, sustainable jobs – attracting young families to the area and helping to alleviate ongoing depopulation and an ageing demographic.

It will also provide the money, manpower and machinery needed to fully restore and sustainably protect the entire area within the application boundary, which includes 180 hectares of SSSI.

“As is well known, the golf course itself will require the removal of existing vegetation from only 0.12 per cent of the total area of the Loch Fleet SSSI.

"The truth is the application will facilitate a major environmental restoration project - all funded by a golf course."

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