Decision due on fate of protected nature site at Coul Links

Jess Barrett

Thursday 28 November 2019

Northern Brown Argus butterfly resting on a plant

Final report now with Ministers

The fate of Coul Links, the globally important wildlife site on the Sutherland coast under threat from golf course proposals, is now in Ministers’ hands. The coalition of conservation organisations (including Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Marine Conservation Society, Plantlife, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, National Trust for Scotland) campaigning to save the site are issuing a joint appeal with Ramblers Scotland urging people to call on the Scottish Ministers to make the right choice and save this fantastic place for nature.

A month-long inquiry into the highly controversial proposals was held in Dornoch earlier this year. The Scottish Government appointed Reporters have now passed their recommendations to Scottish Ministers who are responsible for the final decision.

The proposals would destroy nationally and internationally protected dune habitats, home to many rare and protected species, and have sparked outcry within Scotland and internationally. Highland Council granted approval despite these impacts and widespread objections from the Government’s own nature conservation advisors, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and numerous conservation and access organisations and local groups. In light of the high level of objections and the rich natural heritage value of the site, this case was considered of ‘national importance’ and the Scottish Government called in the proposals last year and initiated a public inquiry.

The organisations are calling on people to help Coul Links avoid the same fate as the nationally important dune habitats at Trump International in Aberdeenshire which have been damaged irreparably by the golf course. This summer SNH recommended they lose their special conservation status. SNH has warned of significant and irreparable damage to the dune habitats at Coul Links, which are of national but also global importance.

Nature is already under immense pressure due to the climate and biodiversity crises, and protecting it is crucial for the future survival of many species and habitats. Developments that lead to their unnecessary destruction should be refused by planning authorities.

Ministers could announce their decision whether to grant or refuse permission for the Coul Links proposals any day, with no deadline for this.

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland said:

“The damage caused by the Trump golf course to the nationally protected dunes at Foveran Links is a devastating loss to Scotland’s environment. There is now a chance for Scottish Ministers to avoid making the same mistake again by protecting Coul Links from a similar fate. 

“Governments all around the world are waking up to the climate and ecological crises.  If Scotland can’t protect our most treasured wildlife sites, how can we expect other countries to do the same?”

Craig Macadam, Conservation Director of Buglife said:

“Coul Links is an incredibly important site for invertebrates and other wildlife. Yet, despite having three levels of protection this golf course is likely to destroy or damage much of the site. The Scottish Government must take decisive action and kick out these plans or risk losing Coul Links and its special wildlife forever.”

Brendan Paddy, Ramblers Scotland Director said:

“Now the Scottish Government has the inquiry recommendations in its hands, a decision could be made imminently – so the entire outdoors community must urgently speak up for Coul Links’ special landscape, before it’s lost forever.

“Coul Links offers people a rare chance to seek solitude and enjoy the natural environment amongst its protected dunes. These grossly inappropriate proposals for a golf course will restrict public access and permanently limit enjoyment of this wonderful place by local residents and visitors alike.”

Paul Kirkland, Scotland Director for Butterfly Conservation said:

“The Northern Brown Argus butterfly colony at Coul Links is one of the largest in the UK. We know that this northern species is under pressure from climate change, afforestation and changes in farming practice, but we never expected it to be threatened by a golf course on a site that has international protection. We look to the Scottish Government to match the rhetoric, take a lead and show that our rich wildlife heritage is not to be destroyed for short-term profit”.

Dr Kenny Taylor, Vice Chair, Scottish Wildlife Trust said:

“Coul Links is unique in terms of the wildlife and habitats we find here. It’s also an archive of past environments going back thousands and thousands of years. People cherish this wild coast, and we can still make a difference. Make your voice heard and let the Scottish Government know that this site must be protected. Governments everywhere must show they have actions to match their words – Scotland can and must show it is taking action on the nature crisis.”

Act now to help #SaveCoulLinks.  Please add your voice to our e-action here.

Last Updated: Thursday 28 November 2019

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Country: Scotland Topic: Open