THE group behind proposals to build a golf course on protected sand dunes in the Highlands say their plan would “restore the area’s unique environmental features”.

Initial plans for the Coul Links golf course near the village of Embo in Sutherland were approved by Highland Council in 2018.

However, the Scottish Government stepped in to block the proposal in 2020 after a report found it was likely to have a negative impact on biodiversity.

Now a renewed proposal from community-led group Communities for Coul is being considered by the council – a move which walking charity Ramblers Scotland has described as “appalling”.

Ramblers Scotland has launched a petition calling for the plan to be rejected on grounds that it partially infringes on a Site of Scientific Special Interest (SSI), would damage the natural landscape, and impact access for walkers in the area.

READ MORE: Ramblers Scotland voices opposition to revived Coul Links development

But a spokesperson for Communities for Coul said that the 18-hole golf course would restore habitat in the area.

They said: “Our plans will in no way limit access for ramblers or other visitors who want to enjoy the natural beauty of Coul Links. In fact, they will make the site considerably more accessible for more people to be able to walk there.

“They have also been carefully drawn up with the aim of restoring the area’s unique environmental features, which are rapidly being destroyed by the spread of invasive species, reducing the distinctiveness and biodiversity of the dune system.

The National:

“Throughout the process of developing these completely new plans, we have focused on how best to address the environmental concerns that have been raised previously.

“We would be delighted to meet Ramblers Scotland to ensure they and their members are fully informed about our plans, which offer much-needed economic opportunities for our area.

“A community ballot held by C4C in June 2021 demonstrated a high level of local support for the plan, with a 44.4% turn-out and a 69.2% vote in favour.”

Communities for Coul say the updated plans reduce the amount of land developed within the SSI by around 90% and that the path of the course has been changed from the previous plan to avoid the most environmentally valuable areas of the sand dune.