MANY species of bird will suffer if proposals to build a golf course at Coul Links go ahead, according to RSPB Scotland.

The conservation charity will today submit its objection to the development which plans to build an 18-hole championship course on the area near Embo at East Sutherland.

The charity is warning that the natural flooded dunes on the site provide refuge during winter months for wigeon and teal, while a wide range of red and amber listed species of conservation concern nest amongst the dunes during spring.

There are worries that birdlife will suffer as a result of important wetland habitat being “effectively drained and replaced by golf greens”.

American multi-millionaires Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock are behind the proposals and believe the gold course will benefit the local economy.

The project manager for the development has defended the proposals, saying that the development will only affect a small part of the overall site and will help to “prevent the site being lost”, and accused the RSPB of spreading misinformation.

Last month RSPB Scotland joined a group of conservation charities – including the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Marine Conservation Society – to submit an objection to the planning application.

Now they are warning that given how rare a habitat Coul Links is for the species of birds, moving or relocating it will not work.

“There’s a reason why Coul Links is so heavily protected through national and European designations – it’s an outstanding place for nature and an incredibly rare habitat,” said Alison Searl, conservation officer at RSPB Scotland.

“It cannot be moved or replicated elsewhere; should these proposals be given the go ahead the amazing place would be lost forever and the impact on the birds currently found here throughout the year would be serious.”

“The number of objections to these plans shows just how widespread concerns about them are not only from conservation organisations, including one from SEPA this week, but also local people who are worried about the impact the golf course would have.”

However, Chris Haspell, project manager for Coul Links development, hit back at the RSPB for their “inaccuracies”. He said their research into the impacts of the golf course ran contrary to the charity’s claims.

“Detailed studies have taken place at Coul Links in relation to the potential impacts of the proposed development,” said Haspell. “Scottish National Heritage and our team agree on this and these have simply been ignored by the RSPB in their latest inaccurate and inexplicable comments.

“The development touches on less than two per cent of the overall site.

“Far from destroying this important habitat, the Coul Links proposal represents the only funded management plan to prevent the site being lost.

He added: “Ironically, the two species they’ve highlighted – wigeon and teal – are actually directly threatened by the RSPB’s plans. At present, these birds are legally shot throughout the winter, but as part of the mitigation outlined by our proposed golf course, this shooting would permanently cease.

“If the RSPB has its way the shooting, and its associated disturbance within the designated site, will continue – the first time we are aware of the RSPB lobbying for the continued shooting of birds within a designated site.

“Their comments are so laced with inaccuracies that we have decided to write to the RSPB Council to register our concern that RSPB Scotland should issue what appears to be deliberate misinformation.”