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Scottish Government sets dates for hearings into controversial Coul Links golf course application

By Caroline McMorran

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The Scottish Government has set a date for hearings into the controversial plan to build a championship golf course at Coul Links, near Embo.

The Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) will gather evidence for and against the proposed course at hearings in the week beginning Monday, November 11.

Coul links is a protected site because of its unique variety of habitats, its winter wetlands and the birdlife. Picture: Not Coul
Coul links is a protected site because of its unique variety of habitats, its winter wetlands and the birdlife. Picture: Not Coul

Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee granted developers Communities for Coul (C4C) planning permission for the course in December last year.

However, the application was subsequently referred for a review due to environmental concerns- Coul Links is a protected site for its unique variety of habitats, its winter wetlands and birdlife.

A number of influential environmental organisations are opposed to the plan.

Government reporters have been “processing all the documentation” relating to the Coul Links application and a “pre-examination meeting” was held on May 13 to set the shape of the inquiry.

The pre-examination meeting was attended by representatives of interested parties including C4C, NatureScot, Highland Council, the Conservation Coalition and opposition group Not Coul.

The Conservation Coalition is made up of RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Buglife Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and the Marine Conservation Society.

At the end of the pre-examination meeting it was agreed that hearings, which are expected to last around a week. would be held close to the site with November 11 as the provisional start date. The venue has yet to be finalised but it could be in Embo, if technology allows.

There will be three days of hearings on the ecological impacts. This may include coastal erosion, which opponents claim is already affecting the golf course plan, although C4C say that as Coul Links is an area of sand deposition, the erosion seen is a natural process which will reverse

There will be one day of hearings on the socio-economic arguments, half a day on the planning policy context and a half-day on draft conditions, whether the plan goes ahead or not.

There will also be a community evening session of around two to three hours which will take place onThursday, November 14. Depending on how many people register to take part, the reporters may split the session into two, one for supporters and one for objectors.

The Not Coul team said it was preparing to contest the ecological and socio-economic arguments, set out by the developers.

The date set for the hearings means that the final Coul Links decision is not likely to be made until 2025.

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