The long-running saga over the development of a new world-class championship golf course in the Highands of Scotland has taken another significant twist.
The Scottish Government has called in proposals for Coul Links, a proposed golf development near Dornoch. This is despite councillors voting to give the project the go-ahead in June.
Conservation groups have been staunchly opposed to the plans and, today, the Scottish Planning Minister Kevin Stewart announced his intention to call in the application.
“The proposal raises issues of national importance in relation to natural heritage issues and its compliance with Scottish planning policy and requires further scrutiny,” explained Stewart.
Ministerial intervention in the planning process is extremely rare and only happens “where issues of genuine national importance arise”.
Stewart added: "It is right that the decision is taken at the national level.”
An independent reporter will now consider all the evidence relating to the case and will provide a recommendation to ministers who will make the final decision.
It is thought that the decision to call in the project could delay it by up to 18 months.
Responding to the news, Coul Links developer Todd Warnock said: “Whilst this decision delays bringing significant economic and environmental benefits to the area, we welcome the opportunity to set out again the compelling case to create a world class golf course in east Sutherland.
“Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee, as the competent planning authority, took an emphatic decision in June and, apart from a single narrow objection from Scottish Natural Heritage, the statutory bodies involved are not opposed to the plans after a comprehensive assessment.
“The project also has overwhelming support from local people. We thank them again for their help and encouragement and are sorry for them that there is a further delay in a process that has already taken more than three years.
“We have made our case consistently to anyone prepared to listen objectively and we look forward to doing so again with the independent Reporter."