21 Jun 2018

After a three year planning battle Coul Links, the proposed Coore and Crenshaw course near Dornoch in Scotland, has been approved by the Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee.

To be developed by American businessmen Todd Warnock and Mike Keiser, the Coul Links project will include some holes within a 1,200 hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The proposal received the overwhelming support of councillors, who voted to overrule their own officials that had earlier recommended planning be refused. The planning committee recognised the significant economic benefits the proposal would bring to the East Sutherland region, and that comprehensive mitigation measures would be put in place to safeguard the environment. Less than 20 hectares of the SSSI are impacted by golf, and the developers will improve the dune habitat of a much larger area as an offset.

Following two courses designed at each of Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley, as well as Cabot Cliffs and Barnbougle Lost Farm, Coul Links will be the seventh course that Bill Coore has built for developer Mike Keiser. Based on photographs and aerial images of the site, this might be the best of the lot. We are excited to follow its progress.

From the Coul Links press release:

COUL LINKS PLANS PASSED BY COUNCILLORS

Plans for a world class golf course which will give a major economic stimulus to the north of Scotland have been given the go-ahead after councillors reiterated their overwhelming support for the project today.

The Coul Links development, proposed for a site near Embo in Sutherland, was passed at a special meeting of Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee.

Plans for a world class golf course which will give a major economic stimulus to the north of Scotland have been given the go-ahead after councillors reiterated their overwhelming support for the project today.

The Coul Links development, proposed for a site near Embo in Sutherland, was passed at a special meeting of Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee. 

At a previous hearing on 5 June councillors spoke in favour of the project but deferred a final decision to allow the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to comment on a last-minute objection.

However, SEPA maintained its previous position not to object to the application. Scottish Natural Heritage had previously indicated it had withdrawn all but one narrow objection to the plan.

In making their decision, the committee recognised the significant economic benefits the course will bring to east Sutherland and that extensive mitigation measures will be put in place to protect the environment.

Links developer Todd Warnock said after today’s meeting: “After more than three years of thorough consideration of the project, we are excited to win such overwhelming support from the committee.

“The development has been comprehensively and fairly assessed by the two statutory bodies as well as the competent planning authority and we now look forward to bringing to Scotland the economic benefits of such a prestigious golf course.

“This major investment in a relatively remote part of the country has the significant support of local people and we thank them again for their help and encouragement.

“I would also encourage opponents of the golf course to now work with us to make the project a huge success. The evidence is compelling that Coul Links will improve the site ecologically, particularly with regard to bird life, and we will continue to strive to ensure the development progresses with environmental integrity at its heart.

“In summary, its seems there are four conclusions that are undeniable. First, a world class links course near Dornoch would prove economically transformational, perhaps creating the Highlands as the third major golf destination in Scotland.

“Second, Coul Links is an extraordinary site ecologically and our plans will improve it. We will disturb 13.4 hectares of dune habitat, but we will improve 20 hectares and provide a site management plan in perpetuity.

“The people in the community of Embo have spoken confidently with their outstanding support. We are humbled and thankful to be their neighbours and partners.

“Third, after three exhaustive years, virtually everyone in the Highlands wants this project completed. Yes, there are objectors with legitimate concerns, and we respect them but make no doubt the voice of the people has been heard.

“Finally, there is a process by which these decisions are made in a democracy. Statutory bodies with unbiased expertise are empowered to protect our collective interest. Other than a single narrow objection from SNH, they are not opposed.

“The elected competent authority, Highland Council’s planning committee, represent the people. We are humbled, thankful and honoured by their thoughtful deliberation and considered approval today.

“It’s now time to build a golf course.”

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Coul Links Site. Photo Ru Macdonald

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