Global Edition

Planning consent given for Coul Links hotel

11.09am 24th February 2023 - Course Development

The Highland Council in Scotland has granted permission for the construction of a multi-million-pound eco-hotel on the site of planned championship golf course, Coul Links.

The decision gives the green light for the development of four, four-bedroom ‘croft-inspired’ lodge’s, along with a reception and breakfast building at Coul Farm on the Easter Ross coastline.

However, Edward Abel Smith, who owns the site and heads Coul Enterprises, the company behind the hotel initiative, said the hotel project is entirely reliant on planning permission being granted for the golf course, which is still being considered. Proposed future phases of the privately funded venture would see the number of lodge buildings increase to 20.

Local campaign group Communities for Coul (C4C) said the proposed Coul Links Hotel project would create significant opportunities for local residents and businesses and shared its own aim of restoring and protecting unique environmental features in the area.

Earlier this month, C4C submitted a revised planning application for the Coul Links golf course development to The Highland Council, after the first one was rejected by the Scottish government after a public enquiry in 2020, despite being overwhelmingly approved by the local council. The new application addresses the concerns raised at the enquiry, which, according to C4C, have been central in drawing up the plans.

An artist’s impression of hotel buildings that will form part of the hospitality offering at Coul Links should the golf course ever get planning permission

C4C director Gordon Sutherland, said: “We were very pleased to hear that plans for the first phase of the Coul Links Hotel have been approved. Like our own proposals, they can create real, new sustainable opportunities for people in an area where the long-term decrease in working-age population is a rapidly growing problem. 

“They also share our central aim of putting the environment first and restoring and protecting the unique environmental features of Coul Links. We hope that we achieve planning permission for an environmentally sensitive world-class golf course at Coul Links to enable this exciting development to go ahead.”

C4C says its revised plans for Coul Links were ‘enabled and guided’ by the environmental concerns raised at the enquiry and they differ from the unsuccessful bid in a number of key aspects – including a 90% reduction in the area of the Loch Fleet Site SSSI that would be developed. Down from 14.7 hectares to 1.5 hectares, it involves just 0.1% of the designated site. This is primarily because it is now intended that the fairways will be created by simply mowing the vegetation already there, with only the areas for the tees and greens being disturbed.

The site of the proposed new Coul Links golf course

Other marked differences between the former plan and the new one include an 85% reduction of the use of fertiliser, which will now be limited to the tees and greens only, and the use of 80% less irrigation.

Sutherland added: “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. We look forward to hearing from the Highland Council in due course.”

C4C has secured the commitment from course developer Mike Keiser to build the course, with the help of design firm Coore & Crenshaw, but they will only come on board if and when planning permission is received.

Michael Keiser and Bill Coore pictured on a visit to the proposed site for Coul Links
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