Coul Links: inquiry into £6m Highland golf course plan to get under way

A public inquiry into proposals to build an 18-hole championship golf course on a protected wildlife site in the Highlands is set to get under way tomorrow.
A public inquiry into proposals to build an 18-hole championship golf course on a protected wildlife site at Coul Links in the Highlands of Scotland is set to get under way. Picture: Craig Allardyce/RSPBA public inquiry into proposals to build an 18-hole championship golf course on a protected wildlife site at Coul Links in the Highlands of Scotland is set to get under way. Picture: Craig Allardyce/RSPB
A public inquiry into proposals to build an 18-hole championship golf course on a protected wildlife site at Coul Links in the Highlands of Scotland is set to get under way. Picture: Craig Allardyce/RSPB

Plans for the development, which has been priced in excess of £6 million, were passed by Highlands councillors despite more than 1,800 objections and a recommendation for rejection from the local authority’s own planners.

The inquiry was triggered after Scottish ministers decided to call in the proposals due to “issues of national importance in relation to natural heritage issues”.

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The planned course will cover 22.7 hectares in total, with 14 hectares on sensitive coastal dune habitat at Coul Links, near Dornoch in Sutherland.

The area is one of the most protected nature sites in Scotland and one of the last remaining undisturbed dune systems of its kind in the country. It is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar wetland site of international importance.

American developers Todd Warnock and golf course mogul Mike Keiser have said the scheme should generate 250 jobs and bring in £60 million for the local economy in its first 10 years of operation.

There is widespread support for the plans among local businesses but environmentalists say the potential risks to rare and unique species and habitats are too great and the protected site should not be built on.

Organisations including RSPB Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and Scottish Wildlife Trust are among those opposed to the plans.