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Coul Links could be placed into community Stewardship

Communities for Coul are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement with the owner of Coul Farm for Coul Links to be leased to the community on a long term basis for a peppercorn rent should planning permission for a new golf course be granted.

This will mean that the stewardship of the land will sit with a local community group and they will have authority to oversee the management of Coul Links in accordance with the terms of an Environmental Management Plan that would be agreed between the community and the golf course developer, in accordance with guidance from NatureScot.

Edward Abel Smith, the landowner said:

“I have held, and continue to hold, extensive and productive discussions with Scottish Natural Heritage, and now NatureScot, over how best to look after the SSSI that sits on Coul Farm. To do this properly – which means incorporating the protection of rare species, bird habitats, removal of invasive species and regenerating neglected areas to name a few – requires funding, which is a challenge on a generally loss-making farm and meaningful external finance is hard to find in these difficult times.

I have considered various options for the land, but I see the possibility of handing the land to Communities for Coul as the best, as it will mean a fully funded, far reaching protection for Coul Links section of the SSSI will be accompanied by unparalleled economic growth, which local business owners – myself included – will benefit from.”

A spokesperson for Communities for Coul commented:

“In the twelve months since the original planning application was refused by Scottish Ministers none of the non-mandated environmental groups that opposed the development have come forward with any positive initiatives or firm proposals for Coul Links. We are therefore delighted that, if our aim of securing planning permission for a golf course is achieved, the Loch Fleet SSSI that sits on Coul Links would come under the stewardship of the local community, ensuring the site is properly cared for the first time since the SSSI was designated in 1984.

As well as protecting the environment of the Coul Links SSSI, we have identified the need to improve access for walkers and plan to create sensitively positioned and signposted paths which will incorporate information to educate people on the important aspects of the site, including bird, insect and plant life. The aim is to encourage more visitors to experience the site in a sustainable way as less than 5 people a day, on average, have been recorded enjoying this special area in recent years.

These initiatives are aligned with Scottish Government policies for land management and public access.

We considered making arrangements to lease or buy the land to manage purely on an environmental basis but concluded this would only create a few jobs that may have to be filled from outside the local community. We are therefore certain no other course of action will bring more overall benefit to local communities than to sensitively build a world class golf course at Coul Links and use it as the catalyst to create employment for many, many local people.

Communities for Coul’s motto is ‘Creating Prospects. Protecting Places’ and this this is an excellent step in the right direction to achieving both these objectives.”