Northern Times, 15 October, 2021
'Cool response to request for Coul Links support letter'
'Secretary Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera said he was concerned about the environmental implications of the development, which will cover one per cent (sic.) of the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest.//Brora Community Council secretary Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera was against writing a letter of support for the planned Coul Links golf course.
He said: “Until the SSSI issues are resolved, it is a no. From my perspective the community council cannot be seen to by supporting something that breaches SSSI regulations even if there might be economic benefit.”'
To: Highland Council & Scottish Government
Save COUL LINKS protected nature from destructive 'Déjà Vu Groundhog Day' golf course
Prevent destruction of beautiful, protected & internationally important dune habitats from golf course development.
Why is this important?
In July 2020, a screening request, as a first hurdle to environmental scoping & a full planning application, was submitted to Highland Council Planning for an 18-hole golf course, largely on Coul Links dunes within Loch Fleet & Dornoch Firth Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) & Ramsar wetland, protected for outstanding wildlife & geomorphological value.
A small 14-hole course is also proposed for adjacent non-SSSI higher land (raised beach) near Embo. That area was extensively burnt back in March 2020, damaging botanically important non-SSSI dune grassland which supports a nationally important colony of northern brown argus butterfly.
The larger golf course plan is the same ‘environmentally friendly’ Bill Coore design of the previous Coul Links Ltd (Mike Keiser & Todd Warnock) planning application that was approved by all but 1.5 councillors on the Highland Council Planning Committee. Following a conservation campaign, the application was called in for determination by The Scottish Government and the decision overturned after a Public Inquiry. The habitat loss & biopoverty, from golf course construction, management & weakening of natural sea defences, is described in the earlier petition, linked at the foot of this page.
The present applicant is a local councillor, acting ostensibly on behalf of a 'dormant' junior football club described as ‘defunct’ in The Northern Times. The application reveals Covid19 & Brexit uncertainties & Highland Clearances (of subsistence farmers for sheep, c.1750 to 1860) being levered for economic opportunism, & states, “Should this application be progressed, it will be submitted by a consortium of community groups local to the East Sutherland region”. Communities for Coul Ltd then registered as a company in January 2021, promoted as @Communities4Co1 on Twitter. It mainly represents golfing hobby & tourism interests between Tain & Brora but not whole populace. Claims about biodiversity gains from control of invasive species being dependent on golf (ignoring uncooperative landowner's neglect) & 1% golf-impact on SSSI, which is predominantly estuary, were refuted at Inquiry but are being repeated.
The fear is that the [smoke]screening request is a Trojan stalking horse for the previous Coul Links Ltd golfing consortium, which included intended shareholder The Embo Trust. At hypocritical odds with golf ambitions were ET’s Article of Association 4.5: "To advance environmental protection or improvement including preservation & conservation of the natural environment, the promotion of sustainable development, the maintenance, improvement or provision of environmental amenities for the community”. The councillor sits on several local committees & was chairman of ET until he left in January 2020. His ‘Armchair Environmentalists’ article in The Crofter, November 2017 criticised 'those of environmental persuasion' & invited comments to Highland Council Planning from those that agreed with him. He expressed ignorance of habitat loss in The Press & Journal as “Cars & cats kill more birds than golfers”; & he edited & circulated others' misleading press letters to the planning committee, after removing a winter duck fecundity gaffe.
The screening request was validated by Highland Council Planning on 4 September 2020. Two days later The Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management received a complaint which criticised Dr Tom Dargie, a leading UK dune ecologist, for his conduct as a major expert witness at the Coul Links Public Inquiry & chairman of the Not Coul opposition group. After scrutiny, the complaint was dismissed by CIEEM & again after the complainant's appeal, completely exonerating Tom in January 2021.
The Scottish Government decision about the previous application followed recommendation to refuse by Highland Council’s Planning Officer; 1864 planning objections, including one from government agency Scottish Natural Heritage (now NatureScot); a protracted campaign (since October 2015) by many leading conservation charities (led by RSPB), Ramblers and Not Coul; an earlier Wembley Stadium capacity 38Degrees petition; & 4 weeks of Public Inquiry, officiated by The Planning & Environmental Appeals Division of The Scottish Government, with production of a detailed DPEA Report recommending refusal.
Scotland’s Planning Minister Kevin Stewart summarised in February 2020:
“Reporters have concluded that the harmful impacts of this development to protected habitats & species would outweigh the potential socio-economic benefits. This proposal does not comply with the relevant provisions of the Highland Wide Local Development Plan & runs contrary to Scottish planning policy’s emphasis on protecting natural heritage sites & world class environmental assets. The Scottish Government has considered the reporter’s findings carefully & agree with the recommendation that planning permission should be refused”.
If you agree with the Planning Minister PLEASE SIGN this UK petition & earlier:
UPDATE Keiser's unsurprising re-emergence in April 2021:
Dornoch Firth & Loch Fleet Ramsar information:
"The sand dune, saltmarsh and estuary habitats are of international importance for their flora and geomorphology."
Planning application: 20/02820/SCRE:
Inquiry webcasts Feb & March 2019, & Decision:
Informative website by golfer:
How it will be delivered
By email to Highland Council Planning as an objection and then, if the planning application gains traction, by email to Scottish Government.