HIGHLAND councillors will today decide the future of Coul Links when the controversial application to build a golf course on the sand dunes near Embo in Sutherland is considered at a committee meeting.

Developers want to build a world-class golf course and facilities on the site but part of the course lies within the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest and it is in the Dornoch and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area which objectors say should mean the course cannot proceed.

Councillors appeared ready to grant planning permission to US developers businessman Todd Warnock and Mike Keiser but deferred a decision until today for further information.

Having received no major changes to earlier reports from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, planning officials are continuing to recommend refusal of the plan which the developers say has the support of local people due to its economic boost for the area.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust made a last minute plea, urging refusal.

Jonny Hughes, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Coul Links is among the most protected places on the planet. It is particularly important for its coastal sand dunes, which represent one of the world’s fastest disappearing habitats.

“This is one of the most important planning decisions taken in Scotland in recent years. Until the decision is made we remain hopeful that councillors will vote in line with the recommendation of their officials to refuse planning permission.

“If plans are approved the Scottish Government must use its powers to swiftly call in and reject the application.

“Consenting these plans against the recommendation of officials will undermine the credibility of the planning process.”