Ministers refuse permission for controversial golf course

Conservation groups say rejection of course at Coul Links, Sutherland, is a 'great decision for nature'.

Scottish ministers have refused planning permission for a controversial golf course in Sutherland.

Proposals for the course at Coul Links at Embo near Dornoch were called in by the government in August 2018.

The course was approved by the Highland Council in June 2018 despite concerns about its impact on the local area.

The decision to refuse the scheme has been welcomed by conservation groups, who opposed the development.

Scottish Wildlife Trust tweeted: “A great decision for nature. Coul Links has been saved from damaging development.”

Stuart Brooks, head of conservation & policy National Trust for Scotland, said: “Incredibly welcome news and the right decision to put environmental protection for the long term public good ahead of dubious short term economic gain for the few.”

American businessman Todd Warnock had wanted to develop the golf course on specially-protected sand dunes.

He said the investment would create much-needed local jobs and had the backing of some local residents.

Environmentalists, however, insisted the course if allowed to go ahead would have devastated one of Scotland’s most important protected habitats.

The sand dunes border Loch Fleet, the most northerly inlet on the east coast, and an important habitat for wintering birds and rare plants.

Scottish Greens Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: “I am absolutely delighted that this ill thought out and unsuitable application has been rejected.

“It seems the Scottish Government has learned the lesson from the disastrous decision to grant permission for Trump’s course in Aberdeenshire after all.”

Aedan Smith, head of policy & advocacy at RSPB Scotland, said: “Fantastic news. Well done to Scottish ministers.”

The proposed development included an 18 hole golf course, clubhouse, renovation of existing buildings, pro-shop, caddy hut, workshop, an administration building, an information booth, and a new access road.

A summary of the Scottish government’s decision said that while the proposals would have been beneficial to the economy and tourism they would have impacted adversely on wildlife and habitats.

A written response stated: “Overall the reporters consider that the proposed development is contrary to the development plan, as the likely detriment to natural heritage is not outweighed by the socio-economic benefits of the proposal. Scottish Ministers agree with these findings.”

STV News was told Mr Warnock would not be making any comment.

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