Scotland

Coul Links developers remain positive in face of objections

Coul Links Image copyright RU MACDONALD - SCOTTISH GOLF PODCAST
Image caption The developers say their efforts to protect the environment have been "exhaustive"

The developers of a planned new golf course in Sutherland believe they can overcome concerns about the project's impact on the environment.

Scottish Natural Heritage has objected to the course at Coul Links, near Embo, because part of the site would be on a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The National Trust for Scotland has joined groups, including RSPB Scotland, in opposing the project.

The developers say efforts to minimise any impact has been "exhaustive".

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said it recognised that the building of the 18-hole championship course would bring economic benefits to local communities.

The agency also said the developers, who include US businessmen Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock, had sought to reduce its impact on the environment.

Image copyright Coul Links
Image caption The layout of the course was changed in response to concerns from conservation groups

Nick Halfhide, SNH's director of operations, said: "However, we are not able to fully support the development as proposed due to the loss of more than 16 hectares of nationally important sand dunes, and the impact on the special plants and animals found there."

Mr Warnock said the developers wanted to work with SNH to resolve its issues with the project, and said the agency's views on the proposal were largely positive.

He said: "Our exhaustive efforts in working with SNH to protect and improve the management of this extraordinary site have resulted in a very supportive response.

"Now, with the SNH response and a steadfast local consensus, it is time to come together.

"It is because we appreciate the concerns of some NGOs that we call on them to lessen their rhetoric and engage directly with us.

"Our long standing invitations to these organisations to actually visit the site and engage with us remain fully open."

Among the developers' proposals to protect wildlife is bringing an end to shooting of wintering birds on the area of land involved.

The original layout of the course, which could cost up to £10m to construct, was also revised in response to conversation groups' concerns.

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