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Environmentalists welcome Coul Links refusal

By Caroline McMorran

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Environmental groups have been quick to welcome the Scottish Government's decision to turn down planning permission to Coul Links.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust, Ramblers Scotland and RSPB have all issued statements in support of the the refusal.

Scottish Government announced earlier today that it was not prepared to give the go-ahead to the controversial plan to build an 18-hole championship golf course near Embo.

About 32 acres of the planned course was proposed for dunes at Coul Links.

In a refusal letter Scottish Ministers made it clear they agreed with findings over the adverse effects the development would have on the site, which is covered by environmental designations.

However, Ministers were of the opinion the plan would have supported economic growth and rural development.

The letter stated: ""Scottish Ministers accept and agree with all of the reporters’ findings in respect of the impacts of the development upon habitats and vegetation."

Scottish Wildlife Trust chief executive Jo Pike, said: “Saving Coul Links from development is a strong sign that the Scottish Government is committed to protecting Scotland’s fantastic natural environment, and that it is prepared to make difficult decisions necessary to address the urgent crisis facing nature. In particular, it is a welcome display of international leadership in protecting globally important wetlands.

“Ultimately, it remains surprising that plans for development in one of the most protected areas in the country were allowed to go this far. Conservation charities including the Scottish Wildlife Trust were forced to commit a great deal of time, effort and money into standing up for Coul Links, including giving evidence at a month long public inquiry. We hope this decision will act as a clear signal that protected sites should be just that, protected.”

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy said: “We are hugely grateful and relieved that the Scottish Government has listened to the evidence-based concerns of environment, landscape and access experts, and saved Coul Links from this terrible golf plan.

“I’m proud that thousands of people within the Scottish conservation and outdoors communities united against these proposals, which would have restricted access and permanently damaged internationally-protected dunes.

“The decision sends out a clear signal that Scotland’s finest landscapes, habitats and beauty spots aren’t simply up for sale to the highest bidder.”

RSPB Scotland director Anne McCall said: “We are extremely relieved and delighted by this decision which demonstrates the high value that Scottish Ministers place on our fantastic and incredibly diverse wildlife in Scotland. These damaging proposals threatened a site of global importance for nature and should never have made it this far.

“I am incredibly grateful to everyone who stood up against this application over the past few years – it’s been a huge partnership effort and inspiring to see how many people raised their voice in support of this amazing place. This is a landmark decision of international significance and shows that we can no longer put short term profits above nature.

"We are facing a global climate and biodiversity crisis and we very much welcome the leadership role provided by Scottish Ministers at this critical time. We hope that investors and developers alike take heed of this decision and no longer pursue environmentally damaging proposals that put at risk Scotland’s special places for wildlife. There are many more suitable places to build a golf course and we would welcome the opportunity to work with the developers to find a genuinely sustainable alternative.”

The group behind the development have still to make a comment.

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