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'Deeply concerning': Green MSP Ariane Burgess speaks out against renewed Coul Links plan

By Caroline McMorran

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Highlands and Islands Green MSP Ariane Burgess has spoken out against plans by Communities for Coul (C4C) for a championship golf course at Coul Links.

Ariane Burgess.
Ariane Burgess.

Ms Burgess said she was supporting a newly launched campaign against the 18-hole course, earmarked to go on land near Embo - part of the proposed course lies within the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Ramblers Scotland yesterday revealed it had launched a petition against the controversial bid and called on the outdoors community to unite in a bid to block the planned development.

An original application by private individuals for a golf course at Coul Links was rejected by Scottish Ministers in February 2020 following a public inquiry. There was considerable opposition to the proposal from environmental groups.

Not-for-profit community group C4C resurrected the plan, but said that the findings of the public inquiry had “enabled and guided” development of a fresh proposal. Changes included a 90 per cent reduction in the area of the Loch Fleet SSSI that would be developed.

A planning application was lodged last month.

Ms Burgess said the Scottish Greens had supported the original successful campaign against Coul Links.

She said: “Thousands of people joined the campaign to save Coul Links last time around and sadly we must once again ask them for their support to protect this stunning, publicly accessible site from being exploited for private gain.”

“Coul links is a spectacular site of environmental significance and has several important international designations.

“It’s deeply concerning to see, just three years later, these plans return. Indeed, some of the documents submitted on the planning application are the same as those submitted previously.”

“It’s vital that Scotland maintains high environmental standards and the Greens will continue to keep local authorities and the Scottish Government’s decision making under scrutiny.

“While I understand the local desire for new job opportunities, as we saw from the Trump development in Aberdeenshire, these opportunities often prove to be far smaller than those originally claimed and undermine the possibility of more sustainable, nature-based and climate-friendly opportunities in land management.

“I continue to work with Highland Council, Highland and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and Social Enterprise Scotland to look at ways to deliver long-term, sustainable and well-paid work for the people of Sutherland without threatening its precious environment.”

However, C4C have said not enough is currently being done to protect the unique environmental features at Coul Links, which it claims are rapidly being destroyed by the spread of invasive species, reducing the distinctiveness and biodiversity of the dune system.

The group added that fresh plans amounted to a “major dune system restoration project, funded by a low-impact, world class golf course".

C4C spokesman Gordon Sutherland has previously said: "Throughout the process we have focused on how best to address the environmental concerns that have been raised previously.

"With the help of our expert consultants, I believe we have met the challenge of creating a great golf course within the constraints imposed by the public inquiry’s findings.

“We firmly believe our application will restore and sustainably protect the site, while also creating lasting economic benefits and new opportunities for our area."

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