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Two-year 'obstacle' to new Coul Links plan in Sutherland

By Caroline McMorran

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A NORTH planning officer has advised the group behind an attempt to resurrect proposals for a championship golf course at Coul Links, Embo, to be cautious about proceeding.

North Highlands principal planner Gillian Pearson revealed it was in the "discretionary powers" of the planning authority to refuse to determine a repeat planning application should it be submitted within two years of a previous one being refused.

Coul Links is again under the spotlight following an attempt by a community group to resurrect a championship golf course plan.
Coul Links is again under the spotlight following an attempt by a community group to resurrect a championship golf course plan.

A planning application for a golf course was initially put forward by American inward investor Todd Warnock and business partners.It found favour with Highland Council but was called in by the Scottish Government and rejected earlier this year on environmental grounds following an inquiry.

However, in a surprise twist, a screening request for a similar development has since been lodged in the name of defunct organisation Embo Junior Football and Athletic Club (EJFAC). It later emerged a group of local people, including East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Jim McGillivray, was involved.

Screening is a procedure used to determine whether a proposed project is likely to have significant effects on the environment.

Cllr McGillivray revealed he had now received a response from Ms Pearson confirming that an environmental impact assessment was required in order to proceed.

In an email Ms Pearson flagged up planning legislation, writing: “Where Scottish Ministers have, within the previous two years, refused permission on a similar application on call-in or appeal and, in the opinion of the planning authority, there has been no significant change in the relevant parts of the development plan or other material considerations since that decision, the planning authority can refuse to deal with the application.”

She continued: “Having discussed the details of the proposal as noted in the screening request with our solicitor, I must advise that the planning authority would be in a position to consider use of such discretionary powers should an application be submitted within two years of the date of the previous application being refused by Scottish Ministers in February 2020.”

Ms Pearson added: “We would therefore advise caution in proceeding with an application on this basis due to the potential for abortive work.”

Cllr McGillivray said: “I have no further comment to make at this point beyond saying that I believe we now live in extraordinary times of social and economic turmoil and disruption and that standard assessments of this nature, whilst only to be expected from professional planning officers, are totally insufficient if delivered by Scottish Ministers during the course of a dangerous world-wide pandemic.”

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