To: Highland Council & Scottish Government
PROTECT COUL LINKS SSSI FOR NATURE - NOT PERMIT DESTRUCTION FOR GOLF
Prevent precious and beautiful wild dune habitats
from being turned into a golf course.
Why is this important?
Plans by Bandon Dunes Golf Resort for constructing a golf course at Coul Links, within Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest, Sutherland would mean bulldozing, digging, turfing and mowing 53 acres of what is presently a variety of internationally important natural dune habitats, with wider substantial collateral damage also threatening many species. The impact would be even worse than that perpetrated by Trump at Foveran Links SSSI, Aberdeenshire (the scientific judgement of leading dune ecologist Dr Tom Dargie).
According to the government’s own conservation agency, SSSIs “are those areas of land and water that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) considers to best represent our natural heritage - its diversity of plants, animals and habitats, rocks and landforms, or a combination of such natural features. They are the essential building blocks of Scotland's protected areas for nature conservation … It is an offence for any person to intentionally or recklessly damage the protected natural features of an SSSI."
In October 2015 announcements in The Northern Times publicised proposals for developing an international 18-hole golf course on the site by the American developers led by entrepreneurs Todd Warnock and Mike Keiser, with designers Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. The article blithely spoke of the perceived advantages to golf and the economy but ignored the wildlife and nature conservation legal designations, other than mention of new nature trails and wildlife ‘information’. Development propaganda is unlikely to inform the public how much wildlife, habitat, landforms and amenity have been destroyed and degraded for golf, if this is approved. Exhibitions likewise paid scant attention to the wildlife. The August 2016 displays relegated a habitat survey to just a tiny map with its key at Scottie dog eye level and no species data. The less people know the less insensitive the plans appear.
Publicised plans propose 'sensitively' to contour, level, turf [introduce grasses and soil], maintain [fertilise, herbicide, irrigate] and mow 53 acres of the SSSI: an unnatural catastrophe.
Size of habitats is ecologically critical, affecting species populations, diversity, interaction and survivability. Construction traffic, borrow pits and sand-moving would disturb and damage the geomorphology, hydrology, low-nutrient profiles and habitat biodiversity over a much wider area. Areas of wetland will require deep infilling with sand to eliminate waterlogging, ensure survival of lawn turf and achieve playability. Fine irregular patterns of topography and vegetation mosaics, like dry calcareous dune hummocks and wet slacks, would be lost over substantial areas. A unique 1-mile long winter loch, which floods at the highest tides, would be split and causewayed to connect the circuit. Areas of nationally scarce dune heath would become lawn fairways. Human disturbance would negatively affect the bird populations in surviving habitats.
Development PR is exaggerating invasive species and 'remediation' to counteract replacing so much natural vegetation with manicured mediocrity. Naturalness is a key criterion in SSSI selection. Bracken, gorse, tall herbs and rank grassland support more wildlife than lawns. The endemic Fonseca fly, thought confined globally to Sutherland dunes, requires 'weeds'.
Plans include greens and fairways constructed on shelves near the crest of the foredunes and a natural burn outlet, eliminating important species and weakening natural sea defences regardless of the increasing risks. This would probably necessitate adding a culvert and artificial sea defences on the seaward edge, like an expanse of boulder rip rap, leading to erosion, beach narrowing (part National Nature Reserve) and coastal erosion at nearby settlements (the scientific judgement of leading coastal geomorphologist Dr Jim Hansom of Glasgow University).
Threatened dunes outside the SSSI are of comparable quality, including the tallest foredune and spring habitats, and support many species, including Fonseca fly (2010), frog orchid, small blue butterfly and unusually large carpets of rock-rose, the food-plant of a dependent priority species, northern brown argus butterfly.
Information about Loch Fleet SSSI wildlife can be found on the SNH website and other appended hyperlinks. Coul Links is vital to the integrity of the Dornoch Firth (European) Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds. It is also recognised as a Ramsar international wetland. Temperate coastal dunes are by their nature narrow and localised. There is a superfluity of coastal golf courses in Scotland, many undersubscribed. The environmentally responsible option is to avoid such development within SSSIs and similar valuable habitats and build golf courses elsewhere if needed.
Most things Coul (science to propaganda): http://www.coullinksgolf.com/
SNH Management Plan summary: http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1622682.pdf
Damaging operations, etc.: http://gateway.snh.gov.uk/sitelink/siteinfo.jsp?pa_code=984#featurePressures
Loch Fleet species (incomplete): https://regions.nbnatlas.org/feature/1099#group=ALL_SPECIES&subgroup=&from=1850&to=2017&tab=speciesTab
Northern brown argus: http://butterfly-conservation.org/1934-850/northern-brown-argus.html
Fritillaries & bracken: https://butterfly-conservation.org/files/habitat-bracken-for-butterflies.pdf
The Perfect Storm, Embo video of aftermath: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEnMV143shU
Mike Keiser donation to Heartland climate change denial group: http://littlesis.org/person/42895/Michael_Keiser/recipients
Golf plethora & decline:
How it will be delivered
Initially email the signatures to Highland Council. If it approves of the development, if there is a Public Local Inquiry, or if the Scottish Parliament called in a planning application for its determination, then this petition would hopefully be delivered by me to Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, or a Green MSP or both with a single member of 38 Degrees staff and representatives of conservation charities.