The Scottish Government has announced that the application to build a golf course on top of a triple-protected site of international importance at Coul Links has been rejected.
The decision shows that Scotland is serious about protecting its natural heritage; that if an area is protected three times over, then this should mean something.
The controversial saga has been over four years in the making, and the decision will come as a relief to the thousands who supported the Scottish Wildlife Trust and our partners in the Save Coul Links Conservation Coalition who, like us, have been dismayed at the progress of a damaging and precedent-setting development.
Jo Pike, CEO of Scottish Wildlife Trust, said:
“Saving Coul Links from development is a strong sign that the Scottish Government is committed to protecting Scotland’s fantastic natural environment, and that it is prepared to make difficult decisions necessary to address the urgent crisis facing nature. In particular, it is a welcome display of international leadership in protecting globally important wetlands.”
In suggesting the application be refused, the Reporters for the Inquiry noted the importance of the habitats and species supported in the area under threat. The comprehensive Report details a complex case, concluding that “the golf course proposal at Coul Links would indeed have significant adverse direct and indirect effects on the [protected areas] SPA, Ramsar site and SSSI. We also conclude that due to its nature and scale the development would have an unacceptable impact on the natural environment.”
We’ve got a long way to go to reverse the decline of nature in Scotland and further afield, and victories like this can feel few and far between. But they are significant. They matter. The support that has flooded in – over 5,000 e-actions in 2020 alone – has signaled how much people care for the environment, and how much they want to see that reflected in policy making. The Reporters concluded that the cultural and natural heritage of this site is of national importance – but it’s the public who have demonstrated this, who have brought dry words to life.
We first expressed our concerns in mid-2016. A series of objections followed the full plans in 2017, from the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. More than 1,000 objections were recorded from the public consultation.
After being ‘called in’ by the Scottish Ministers on grounds of national importance, a Public Inquiry was established to consider the Coul Links case. Scottish Wildlife Trust’s then-CEO Jonny Hughes gave evidence on the importance of the area – one of the most protected sites in the UK, and part of a globally interlinked network of wetlands with specific mentions in the Sustainable Development Goals.
We are delighted that the Scottish Government agree with these conclusions and evidence. The Planning and Appeals Division, in announcing the decision, said that “this decision has been made as the harmful impacts of this development to protected habitats and species would outweigh the potential socio-economic benefits.”
The decision shows that Scotland is serious about protecting its natural heritage; that if an area is protected three times over, then this should mean something. The national conversation this case has produced will have repercussions at a time when action for nature and climate change is more important than ever. We need to think about what the legacy of this case is as we develop the new planning system in a context of climate and nature emergencies.
We once again thank our supporters and partners in this campaign: Coul Links has been saved, and we have all sent a message that will resonate. Let’s keep that momentum.
Scott Leatham, Policy Specialist & Coul Links Campaign Coordinator
Help protect Scotland’s wildlife
Our work to save Scotland’s wildlife is made possible thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters.
Join today from just £3 a month to help protect the species you love.
The Scottish Government has announced that the application to build a golf course on top of a triple-protected site of international importance at Coul Links has been rejected. The decision …