Coul Links forms the southern half of the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and is also within the Dornoch and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area (or SPA). It is also designated under the Birds Directive as a RAMSAR site.
Coul Links is a beautiful, wild stretch of coastline where large areas of intertidal flats support nationally important numbers of wintering birds. Slightly further inland lies an extensive dune system which transitions from foredune to slacks. Hollows between the dunes create a varied wetland landscape of lochans that provide habitat for many plant and bird species.
Some of the interesting species that have been recorded within the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest include:
Birds – bar-tailed godwit, curlew, dunlin, greylag goose, osprey, oystercatcher, teal, wigeon, ringed plover, grasshopper warbler, oystercatcher, shelduck, eider, Arctic tern, common tern, linnet, little tern, wheatear, sedge warbler, reed bunting,
Plants – coral-root orchid, variegated horsetail, Baltic rush, purple milk-vetch, rue-leaved saxifrage, moonwort, frog orchid, and rock rose. and sea milwort. The site has been assessed of European importance for its assemblage of waxcap fungi, it also hosts a nationally rare lichen species and a nationally rare moss.
Invertebrates – Coul Links represents 30% of the global range of Fonseca’s seed fly – a recently discovered species endemic to Scotland.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust has objected to the planned golf course on several grounds. We believe the proposals will have a significant adverse effect on:
- Dornoch and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area (SPA)
- Dornoch and Loch Fleet Ramsar Site, including on the sand dune features at Coul links which give this site a unique value within the UK’s Ramsar sites.
- The unique sand dune habitats and breeding bird assemblage of Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Our assessment of the significant adverse effects of the development on the SPA, Ramsar site and SSSI is upheld by the inquiry reporter’s conclusions in relation to the Trump International Golf Links application at Menie Links.
- An endemic invertebrate, Fonseca’s fly of international importance
- Waxcap fungi (Hygrocybe spp) of European importance
- The second most important population of juniper on sand dunes in Britain
- A nationally rare bryophyte, a nationally rare lichen, and several nationally rare species of invertebrate
Objections have been submitted from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Both of these agencies are statutory consultees.
Objections have also been submitted by RSPB Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and the International Otter Survival Fund.
It is possible to manage golf courses well and produce benefits for biodiversity. However, in this case altering the nature of the site would erode the features, such as winter lochans, that make this site so valuable for wildlife and for people.
People visit Scotland for a whole host of reasons. While golf is one of those reasons, recreational activities involving wildlife and relaxing in wild places also contribute significantly to our economy. If we cover our entire east coast in golf courses our tourism market would become extremely focused on one sector and lose its resilience and diversity. Scotland would also lose some of the character that makes us so attractive to many of our national and international visitors.