Bird concerns seemingly resolved, but Coul Links still faces key objections

Bird concerns seemingly resolved, but Coul Links still faces key objections
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

The development of the proposed Coul Links golf course near Embo, Scotland, has moved a step closer after a key objection was reportedly resolved.

The Scotsman is reporting that the Recreation and Access Management Plan the course’s developers created has been revised in order to address concerns raised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the public body responsible for the Scotlands natural heritage.

SNH rejected the initial plans for the course, citing in particular the loss of around 16 acres of natural dunes which acts as a habitat for local wildlife.

Developers have now revised the Recreation and Access Management Plan and submitted it to SNH.

Todd Warnock, a business entrepreneur and one of the men behind the project, told The Scotsman that any ornithological objections with the Recreation and Access Management Plan have now been resolved. He added however that the developers were continuing to discuss the site’s dune habitats with SNH.

Coul Links is the brainchild of golf course developer Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock, who have both worked with land owner Edward Abel Smith and the Embo Trust to develop plans for the course. 

If the potential new course is given the green light, developers believe it could bring in more than £60 million in its first decade of operation, as well as creating 250 new jobs.

However, there are mixed opinions as to whether the development should go ahead. Though the course would likely boost tourism and the economy of the area, conservationists have raised concerns that rare dune habitats and endangered species that could be negatively impacted by any development. The proposed site of the course includes a designated site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

SNH is one of a number of organisations to have voiced concerns, with Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland, National Trust for Scotland and Buglife also all expressing apprehension about the project.

Undoubtedly, the project’s next big hurdle is the dune system at Coul Links, and whether the developers can address the concerns raised regarding this.

A spokesperson for SNH told The Scotsman: “Since providing our advice to the Highland Council late last year we have continued to work closely with the developer and their consultants to develop a Recreation and Access Management Plan to protect wintering and breeding birds on and near the proposed golf course. We hope to soon agree this plan with the developer. Our primary objection – the impacts to SSSI sand dune habitats – remains unresolved.”