Brora Golf Club has pledged its support behind a new community group seeking to revive plans for a new world-class golf course in the northern Highlands.
Communities for Coul (C4C), a group of people from the towns and villages of the Dornoch Firth coast, has launched a website as part of a larger campaign for a ‘world class yet environmentally sensitive’ course at Coul Links. After a drawn-out battle, it was in February 2020 when the Scottish Government refused to back the creation of a new luxury golf course development – led by US businessman Todd Warnock – at Coul Links near Embo.
Highland Council had initially granted consent for the plans, approved by 16 votes to one, claiming it would provide a much-needed economic boost for the area. However, after calling the issue in, the Scottish Government decided against the proposal, which was opposed by several nature groups.
Now C4C aims to put forward a new community-led planning application for a course to be built at Coul Links and create benefits for the local area and beyond. C4C are again highlighting the economic benefits such a development would bring to the northern Highlands – especially given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic – create more job opportunities for young people, boost a declining population and also be environmentally sensitive to the land.
Brora GC, the renowned links in Sutherland which fought its way out of financial troubles last year thanks to global goodwill, are supportive of the new Coul Links plans. They are among a number of clubs who have suffered from a lack of national and international visitors over the last 12 months and believe any new golf course in the area – allied to new infrastructure – would benefit the northern Highlands as a whole.
Brora Club President Andy Stewart said: “The creation of a new world class golf course at Coul Links should be viewed as a catalyst. This proposed project will help Brora Golf Club, but the club will grow with or without it. The reason I am so passionate about this project is the benefits that will be available to Brora and the wider community.
“Rather than having golfers visit Brora to play golf and leave again, if we can get them to play and stay longer, then that is income from accommodation, food and drink, transport, retail and so on. That means more jobs and new businesses for Brora. That is why I want this to happen more than anything.”
C4C’s proposals are separate from the previous plans for a course on the land at Embo near Dornoch. Stewart added: “The local group recognise the environmental importance of the site but believe the best way to protect it is to obtain planning permission to sensitively create a world-class golf course and ensure that the chosen developer implements a viable and fully funded Environmental Management Plan.”
Local Councillor Deirdre Mackay said: “I’m delighted to support this initiative and the benefits to be gained by our golfing communities working together to secure the future. The importance of local action in terms of addressing the short and long-term economic consequences of COVID-19 has never been more vital. We need to take into account the changes wrought by COVID-19 and do all we can to support and develop the vitality of our important golfing sector.”