**Consultation deadline extended to 22 December 2017**

To the south of Loch Fleet, near Dornoch on Scotland’s north east coast, sits Coul Links. It’s a mosaic of interlinked different dune habitats, transitioning from mobile sand dunes right by the beach, through wild flower rich stabilised dunes and seasonally flooded “dune slacks”, to heathery heath covering ancient dunes on the inland side.

Each habitat is individually important and all of them are increasing rare.

Three of Coul Links' dune habitats. From right to left, small dunes near the sea, established dunes covered in yellow and purple wildflowers and established dunes with water-filled 'slacks'

Many of the animals, birds and insects living across the Coul Links depend upon free movement between the different dune habitats.

Coul Links, as well as Loch Fleet to the north and the Moray Firth to the east, is protected for wildlife. In fact, the whole area is so important that it’s not just a national nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest, but protected at European and global-level too. That’s three levels of protection for a place that’s special because of its undisturbed, connected habitats.

 

Golf course threat

Coul Links is one of the last areas of undeveloped species-rich dune habitat in Scotland – there are few other places like it in the world.

But in spite of its special value for nature, Coul Links is now being considered for a new, multi-million pound golf course spearhead by a billionaire American investor, Mike Keiser. On Friday 29 September the developers submitted a planning application to create a course across the dunes.

The construction of a network of tees, fairways, manicured greens and footpaths weaving through Coul Links would destroy the unique collection of dune habitats. Wildlife would no longer be able to move freely between the remaining fragmented pockets of natural vegetation. Many of the birds and other animals that currently use the site would be scared off by increased and regular human presence and be unlikely to return.

Almost a decade ago approval was given to the environmentally damaging Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire. It’s unthinkable that lessons have not been learnt from this and now another rare duneland is in danger of being lost in the same way.

One of Scotland’s last wildlife sites of its kind would become a ‘paper park’ – protected in writing but with no wildlife left. A biological desert painted green with perfect grass.

 

Send your objection

You can speak out against this atrocity – the application is now open for comment until Friday 22 December.

Please email the Highland Council at eplanning@highland.gov.uk with the application reference 17/04601/FUL in the subject line, or follow the instructions on Council’s website to submit a comment objecting to the development via its e-planning portal*.

Here are some of the key points you might want to include in your message:

  • Coul Links is the last complete dune system that has not been dissected by human development in Scotland. We have already lost the similar dune complexes that existed elsewhere in eastern Scotland.
  • It is supposed to be protected from development by its designations as
    • a UK Site of Special Scientific Interest
    • a Special Protected Area within Europe and
    • a Ramsar site – an internationally important wetland.
  • The proposed golf course would make a mockery of this protection by destroying the linked collections of different habitats across the dunes. The wildlife living there would stranded in fragments of habitat or scared off by increased and regular human presence. The development should not be allowed to go ahead.

If you live in the Highlands, please also send a copy of your objection to your local Councillors – find your Councillors’ contact details here.

You can help us track the impact of the campaign – please let us know at campaigns@rspb.org.uk if you've sent an objection, and any replies you receive.

We’re working with the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Buglife, Plantlife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland and the Marine Conservation Society to defend Coul Links from this development. You can find out more on our Coul Links casework page.

 

*Your comments will be public - the Council will publish all the comments they receive, along with your name, alongside the planning application on their website. They will black out signatures and other personal information.