Scottish Ministers have “called-in” plans for a golf course at Coul Links near Embo, East Sutherland after deciding that the case is of ‘national importance’.
The controversial plans, which would cause huge damage to internationally important dune habitats, were approved by Highland Councillors in June, despite recommendations for refusal by the Council’s own officials and hundreds of objections from organisations and individuals from across Scotland and beyond.
The call-in decision will give Scottish Ministers a chance to reconsider the case and they could decide to overturn the Council’s decision and refuse consent. The decision by Ministers also comes just weeks after news that the site of Donald Trump’s golf course at Menie, in Aberdeenshire, is likely to be stripped of its conservation status due to the environmental damage inflicted by the golf course, despite reassurances that the environmental approach to be adopted would be ‘first class’.
Conservation organisations have warmly welcomed this move by Scottish Ministers, which means they will make the final decision on whether the plans will go ahead.
Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland said: “Scottish Ministers have acted extremely responsibly in recognising the national significance of this planning decision. Planning decisions should be made at the most appropriate level for the issues raised. That will normally be through consideration by a local planning authority. However, given the damage that would be caused by this proposal, not only to internationally important wildlife and habitats but also to Scotland’s international reputation for environmental stewardship, it is only right that this decision be decided at a national level. There is now a great opportunity for Scottish Ministers to show the world that Scotland has become a much more responsible country in the 10 years since Donald Trump was granted consent for his environment wrecking golf course in Aberdeenshire. Saving Coul Links would show the world that Scotland is open for business but no longer at any cost to our environment.”
Stuart Brooks, Head of Policy and Conservation for the National Trust for Scotland said: “The National Trust for Scotland welcomes the decision by Scottish Government to call in this development proposal. Scotland is home to some of the World’s best loved wild landscapes and wildlife sites and it is right that our government ensure that when these are threatened by development they are subject to the proper level of scrutiny and decisions are made in the national interest.”
Paul Kirkland, Head of Butterfly Conservation Scotland said: “We applaud this decision by the Scottish Government, taken in the face of extreme pressure from the developers and their supporters. Highland Council were wrong to give the application their approval and we believe this will be confirmed by proper scrutiny of this outrageous proposal. We have been heartened by the public support for the campaign to prevent the destruction of this superb wildlife site.”
Jonny Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “This is one of the most important planning decisions to have affected Scotland in recent years so it is only right that it is considered by the Scottish Government.
“Nearly 13,000 members of the public wrote to MSPs asking them to take a closer look at this vitally important case, and we are heartened that these plans will now be given closer scrutiny.
“We urge Scottish Ministers to maintain their commitment to the long-term protection of fragile and internationally rare habitats by ensuring that these wholly inappropriate plans are not allowed to go ahead.”
Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Marine Conservation Society, Plantlife, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust and National Trust for Scotland have all come together to save Coul Links.