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Press Release – 19 January 2021

Communities for Coul (C4C) is a group of people who reside in the towns and villages of the Dornoch Firth seaboard, united in the belief that their area was dealt a grave disservice when the Scottish Government refused the planning application for a world-class golf course at Coul Links in February 2020, after it had been approved 16:1 by the Highland Council.

Some of the group have lived locally all their lives and some have chosen to make the area their home. All are deeply attached to the special place in which they live and are concerned for the future of its oft-neglected people.

With the support of local residents, C4C hopes to put forward a new community-led planning application for a great, environmentally sensitive golf course to be built at Coul Links.

This week will see the launch of the Communities for Coul website, as well as associated social media.

The creation of a new world class golf course at Coul Links should be viewed as the catalyst for:

1. creating many, much needed, local jobs and building the economic prosperity of the towns and villages of the Dornoch Firth seaboard, some of which have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and

2. providing the funds to protect almost all of the important environment at Coul Links which, currently, is being progressively lost.

Without the new golf course, none of the benefits outlined below will transpire and both the depopulation and the ageing demographic of our area will continue.

Fundamentally, our cause is to support our communities through the creation of a great golf course.

Why are we doing it?

  • We believe a solid majority of local people support the development of a world class golf course at Coul Links (of the 90,000 or so who signed the online petition against the development, less than 0.15% live within the IV25 postcode)
  • The original Coul Links planning application was emphatically supported by Highland Council, being passed with a 16-1 majority
  • None of the individuals or non-governmental organisations that previously opposed the development, including the RSPB with its 1.15 million members, £147 million annual income and £48 million cash in the bank, have done anything to protect the site before or since the decision to refuse
  • We recognise the environmental importance of Coul Links but believe the best way to protect the site is to obtain planning permission to sensitively create a world class golf course (using just over 1% of the Loch Fleet SSSI) and ensure that the developers implement a viable and fully funded Environmental Management Plan as well as climate change mitigation schemes.

What will the benefits be to our local area?

  • £ multi-million in private investment
  • Many new jobs with preference being given to local people
  • Good career prospects for our young people
  • The majority of new jobs classed as green jobs
  • More affordable housing
  • Increased prosperity to our local economies
  • Helping to reverse the ongoing depopulation
  • Helping to reverse an ageing demographic

 

Statements from Communities for Coul Members

I am in full support of a second planning application for a golf course at Coul Links and I am encouraged to see an ambitious community-led approach unfold with wider communities and local golf clubs working together to make a significant impact for the East Sutherland and Ross-shire area.

‘A world class golf course and so much more’. Having another world class golf course would be very exciting however it’s the so much more part that really grips my interest. The social and economic benefits that the successful implementation of this project would have are needed now more than ever as our communities face a depopulation crisis and the Covid 19 pandemic. As a mother of two young boys and someone who works within training and education, I am particularly concerned for the ‘Covid Generation’, our young people, who face the toughest times ahead. We will see exponential levels of youth unemployment and a successful application for a golf course at Coul links and all the investment and job opportunities that will follow as a result, will provide our young people, businesses and wider communities with much needed hope of a brighter future for all.

Sarah MacKenzie, Tain

 

My reasons for supporting the proposed development at Coul Links is that I believe this is so important to a beautiful but financially delicate area. Now, more than ever post COVID-19 and post Brexit, East Sutherland needs a sustainable source of income. For many years the area has not provided the opportunities young people need to stay, which has necessitated their emigration – often never to return.

In 2016, Visit Scotland reported that golf tourism was worth over £23M to the Highland economy and there were over 600 jobs linked to this. That shows the importance of golf tourism to the Highlands, but it also shows the potential for East Sutherland. That said, golf tourism is competitive, even within Scotland. East Sutherland has competition from St Andrews, Ayrshire, East Lothian and Aberdeenshire, amongst others, and the area needs a world class golf course at Coul Links to enhance the great courses that we have already and to create an attractive destination for tourists.

With this development, revenue throughout East Sutherland can be maximised. As it stands, many golfers visit East Sutherland but do not stay overnight. Visit Scotland reported that while visitors will spend around £60 on average per round of golf, they will spend 4 times that on food and accommodation if they stay.

This development will allow for the organic growth in infrastructure needed to ensure the social and economic wellbeing of East Sutherland and must be welcomed by everyone who has the welfare of our community at heart.

Andy Stewart, President, Brora Golf Club

 

As an Embo resident who works with local young people from primary age to upper teens I know how vital it is for them to see possibilities of employment, and a future, in their own locale. More than ever with the economic effects of Covid on our small community, hope and a future is essential for the next generation.

I work in the outdoors with young people and am passionate about the outdoors, nature and the environment. If I felt this proposal was detrimental to our local environment I certainly would not support it. However having reviewed the plans and the environmental protections put forward I fully endorse this campaign as positive for our community and our next generation and wholeheartedly support and welcome this community approach to get our golf course underway.

Irene Bews, Embo

 

Since moving to Dornoch in 2014, I have become aware of how much our area seems to be ‘at the end of the line’ for public investment. Although many local community groups do their best to improve the lot of local residents, there appears to be a distinct lack of funding from regional and national government. This problem is clearly longstanding as the historic depopulation of our area shows. Unfortunately, this depopulation is forecast to continue and in conjunction with an ageing demographic implies a slow, but seemingly inexorable, decline.

I wholeheartedly support a development that would bring around £50 million of private investment and an estimate 175 local jobs, many of which will offer possibilities for outstanding careers to our young people.

Without these jobs the area will continue to lose its youth and a community without youth is a community that is dying. A new world class golf course at Coul Links, together with the other developments that will come as a result, gives our area the hope of a brighter future.

Gordon Sutherland, Dornoch

 

The creation of Coul Links would be a life line for the future of our area. This is a rare, if not unique, chance. A chance to encourage positive recognition worldwide of our home for successive generations. It is the duty of our group, Communities for Coul, to support the potential creators of Coul Links to work hand in hand with nature, local businesses and residents for the benefit of all our communities.

I support the Coul Links initiative whole-heartedly.

James Yuill, Golspie