In June of this year Highland Council, going against the recommendations of its own officials, granted the go ahead for the development of a golf course on the Coul Links.
The Orkney News has covered the issue of this development on the Coul Links and its impact on the environment in several articles – Coul Links: Ramsar status; the UK government has failed in it’s obligations.
The Scottish Government has now decided to call in the application after considering it for a further 28 days.
Kevin Stewart, Planning Minister in the Scottish Government said:
“As planning minister, I have called in the application as the proposal raises issues of national importance in relation to natural heritage issues and its compliance with Scottish Planning Policy and requires further scrutiny. It is right that the decision is taken at the national level.
“As this is a live application, ministers cannot comment on the specific merits of the proposal. An independent reporter will now consider all the evidence relating to this case and provide a recommendation to Ministers who will make the final decision.”
Local MSP John Finnie, Scottish Greens said:
“I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has taken the decision to call in the Coul Links application. There are serious concerns that this proposed development could irreparably damage the magnificent natural dune environment at Coul Links and I am pleased the Minister has recognised the need for further scrutiny.
“I have been making the case that the significant protections afforded to this site must actually mean something, as have conservation charities, and even the Scottish Government’s own natural heritage agency objected.
“Now that this application rests with the Scottish Ministers I know the many Highlanders that have been in touch with me in recent months will be expecting them to thoroughly scrutinise the environmental evidence – something the Highland Council failed to do – and in the face of that overwhelming evidence, reject the application.”
The proposal to develop a golf course and other facilities on the Coul Links, an area of outstanding international importance, became a bitter issue both locally and further afield which the Orkney News was caught up in after we reported on it. Both our reporter, Alex Tiffin and the Editor received unsavoury emails and messages from those wishing the development to go ahead. This is a development which is strongly objected to by numerous environmental groups including Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB, the National Trust of Scotland and a petition of 1500 members of the public.