Plans for a golf course to be built at an important nature site in the Highlands of Scotland have moved a step closer after a community group submitted a scoping application to Highland Council.
Communities for Coul (C4C) has submitted the application for the Coul Links golf development which is located on the shores of the Dornoch Firth, in the East Sutherland area.
A key aspect C4C’s proposal is a comprehensive plan to restore and protect the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). As well as protecting the wild coastal environment, C4C is arguing that the development would economically transform the area, creating employment for local people and further enhancing the reputation of the area as a world-class destination for golfers.
The development of the new course has already achieved significant local backing, with the Brora, Golspie and Tain Golf Club all pledging their support to the plans. A ballot held by C4C last June showed a high level of local support for the plan, with almost 70% voting in favour of the course being built. A previous bid to develop the golf course was rejected by the Scottish government in 2020, despite being accepted by the Highland Council by 16 votes to one.
C4C has secured the commitment from course developer Mike Keiser to build the course, with the help of golf design team Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, but both companies will only come on board once planning permission has been given.
The group is raising money through donations to fund submission of a new planning application this year, once a wide range of environmental studies have been completed.
C4C said that the new plan has focused on addressing concerns raised in the former application, including four key environmental aspects:
- Land used as tees, greens, fairways and walkways within the SSSI reduced by more than 40%
- Path altered to avoid the most environmentally valuable areas
- Fairways will be mown, instead of being stripped and replanted. This will preserve the native grasses and lichens
- All fairways broken up into two or more pieces, preventing fragmentation of small colonies of flora and fauna
Gordon Sutherland, of C4C, said: “Following close collaboration with our planning consultants and dialogue with NatureScot, Communities for Coul is pleased to have reached this milestone. Our team has studied golf courses such as Askernish, Machrihanish and Skibo, all of which are located on SSSIs, and we have embraced the methodologies and management adopted by NatureScot at these sites.
“Our aim remains to achieve planning permission for one of the world’s most environmentally sensitive golf courses and use the income it generates to remediate the Coul Links SSSI and then sustain it for future generations.”
He added: “The carefully considered design and sensitive construction of the planned golf course means this is now an environmental project with a golf course at its heart. This incredibly important project will create many jobs, boost the economies of our local communities, encourage our young people to stay and new young families to make their home here, helping to reverse the ageing demographic of our area. It will be good for employment, good for our economy and good for the environment.”