A public inquiry into whether the controversial proposals for a golf course at Coul Links in East Sutherland should go ahead has begun today and is expected to last at least four weeks.
The inquiry will hear evidence from a number of experts including our Chief Executive Jonny Hughes on why the internationally and nationally important wildlife site is completely unsuitable for a golf course and should be saved from such a damaging development. The fate of this site important for wildlife will then lie with Scottish Ministers.
Jonny Hughes said: “As a former warden at Coul Links I have first-hand experience of living and working at Coul Links. It’s a place that has both outstanding ecological value and a special wildness. It would be a national tragedy if it is lost to development.
“Ultimately the power to save Coul Links lies with Scottish Ministers. The international significance of the area makes this a critical test of this government’s resolve to stand by its commitments to protect the natural environment. If they decide not to protect the site, they will be breaking those promises.”
“Coul Links has both outstanding ecological value and a special wildness. It would be a national tragedy if it is lost to development.”
The Trust is part of a coalition conservation charities consisting of the Trust, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Marine Conservation Society, National Trust for Scotland, Plantlife, and RSPB Scotland. The other expert witnesses giving evidence on behalf of the coalition are Craig Macadam, Buglife Scotland’s Conservation Director, Dr Lucy Wright, a Principal Scientist at the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, and Butterfly Conservation’s Dr Mark Young, an Emeritus senior lecturer at Aberdeen University.
Coul Links is one of the most protected nature sites in Scotland and one of the last remaining undisturbed dune systems of its kind in Scotland. It is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area and Ramsar Site. The proposed golf course could have hugely detrimental impacts on its wildlife and habitats.
Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development, RSPB Scotland said: “We welcome the inquiry and the opportunity to submit expert evidence to set out exactly why Coul Links is the wrong place for these damaging proposals. Given the wildlife importance of the site these plans should never have been allowed to progress this far; we urge Scottish Ministers to ensure that this internationally important place for nature is saved from this inappropriate development and remains a special place for wildlife.”
Craig Macadam, Conservation Director at Buglife said: “Buglife Scotland has consistently highlighted concerns over these proposals for Coul Links. We welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to the inquiry to show the importance of Coul Links for invertebrates, and why the wildlife and habitats here should be out of bounds to development proposals.”