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Coul Links developers claim opposition to golf course plan being whipped up by national organisations as hundreds of objections made to Highland Council

By Caroline McMorran

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The community group behind controversial plans for a championship golf course at Coul Links claims there is an orchestrated campaign against it.

Communities for Coul (C4C) said national organisations opposing the development were urging their supporters to lodge objections to its application for planning consent, submitted to Highland Council in February.

Gordon Sutherland (inset) claims a number of national organisations have been urging their supporters to object to the planned Coul Links development.
Gordon Sutherland (inset) claims a number of national organisations have been urging their supporters to object to the planned Coul Links development.

Some 984 comments from individuals and groups have been registered on the local authority’s e-planning site with 667 of those against the development and 309 in support.

Objections are largely on environmental grounds and the likely impact on wildlife, and there is opposition from a number of influential organisations.

A coalition of seven environmental organisations ranging from RSPB Scotland to the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Marine Conservation Society have voiced concern over the plans.

But C4C director Gordon Sutherland said: “A number of national organisations, with little or no first-hand knowledge of the issues facing our communities or Coul Links, have been urging their supporters around the country to send objections to the council, which largely explains why there are so many letters sent from outside our local area.”

The community group has undertaken a postcode analysis of the representations and said this showed significant local support for the proposed golf course.

It claimed 129 letters submitted by people from Dornoch Firth communities were in favour with 47 against – a ratio of more than 3:1.

And representations made by those living in the Dornoch and Embo postcode - near Coul Links - showed 88 in support and 19 in opposition, a ratio of 4:1 in favour.

“The figures clearly show a genuine enthusiasm locally for our plans and an understanding of the economic and environmental benefits they can bring,” said Mr Sutherland.

C4C group has said its plans were “enabled and guided” by the environmental concerns raised when a previous, entirely separate bid was rejected by Scottish Ministers following a public inquiry in 2020.

It argues its proposals now offer the “best chance” for the wild coastal environment at Coul Links to retain its Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status.

Meanwhile Dornoch Area Community Council is to hold a special "information gathering" meeting tomorrow in connection with Coul Links.

Members will hear presentations from both Communities4Coul and the main opposition group Not Coul.

The community council will decide its stance on the Coul Links application at a future meeting.

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