AMERICAN developers cannot build a championship golf course on protected Highland land, Scottish ministers have ruled.

Wildlife and conservation charities said the creation of an 18-hole course at Coul Links near Dornoch would devastate the local environment.

The scheme had been compared to Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf course, which was created on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Under blueprints presented by US businessman Todd Warnock and backers, more than 30 acres of the planned development would have covered sensitive dunes.

They said the “world-class” scheme would help protect the sensitive land and councillors approved the plan in 2018, based on the potential for local jobs – which won community support.

However, 18,000 objections were submitted to the council, with a coalition of charities including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust amongst opponents.

READ MORE: Climate crisis: Plan to preserve Scotland's historic sites

The bid was called in by the Scottish Government in summer 2018 over “issues of national importance in relation to heritage issues” and its planning policy.

Yesterday it refused planning permission over “the potential significant adverse effects on protected habitats and species at Coul Links”.

Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said the charity was “extremely relieved and delighted”, stating: “There are many more suitable places to build a golf course and we would welcome the opportunity to work with the developers to find a genuinely sustainable alternative.”

READ MORE: Scottish historic conservation projects to get share of £840k

Scottish Greens Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie commented: “It seems the Scottish Government has learned the lesson from the disastrous decision to grant permission for Trump’s course in Aberdeenshire after all.

“Coul Links is a spectacular site of environmental significance and has several important international designations.

“It’s important that the Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise now look at how they can deliver long term, sustainable and well-paid work for the people of Sutherland, without threatening its precious environment.”