Lease agreement reached over Coul Links
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The community group behind a renewed bid for a golf course at Coul Links has announced it has reached a lease agreement with the landowner.
Communities for Coul (C4C) revealed it has come to an arrangement with Edward Abel Smith of Coul Farm.
Mr Abel Smith has agreed to lease the land needed for a golf course to the community on a long-term basis for a peppercorn rent – should planning consent for the new development be granted.
The original golf course plan, turned down by Scottish Ministers in June 2019, identified around 32 acres of dune land for a championship golf course. But there were concerns over the impact it would have on the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest.
C4C says that under the new agreement, it would have authority to oversee the management of Coul Links and would do so in accordance with the terms of an environmental management plan and with guidance from NatureScot.
A C4C spokesman said: “The Loch Fleet SSSI that sits on Coul Links would come under the stewardship of the local community, ensuring the site is properly cared for the first time since the SSSI was designated in 1984.
C4C, whose motto is Creating Prospects. Protecting Places’ has identified the need to improve access for walkers and plans to create sensitively positioned and signposted paths which will incorporate information to educate people on the important aspects of the site, including bird, insect and plant life.
“The aim is to encourage more visitors to experience the site in a sustainable way as less than five people a day, on average, have been recorded enjoying this special area in recent years,” said the spokesman.
Mr Abel Smith, whose plan for eco-lodges in connection with the golf course was previously reported in the Northern Times, said: “I continue to hold extensive and productive discussions with Scottish Natural Heritage, and now NatureScot, over how best to look after the SSSI that sits on Coul Farm.
“To do this properly – which means incorporating the protection of rare species, bird habitats, removal of invasive species and regenerating neglected areas to name a few - requires funding, which is a challenge on a generally loss-making farm and meaningful external finance is hard to find in these difficult times.
“I have considered various options. but I see the possibility of handing the land to C4C as the best, as it will mean a fully funded, far reaching protection for the Coul Links section of the SSSI will be accompanied by unparalleled economic growth, which local business owners – myself included – will benefit from.”