The project manager behind the proposed golf course at Coul Links has accused the RSPB of ‘spreading misinformation’ about its intentions for wildlife on the site.
The conservation charity has today submitted its objection to the development of an 18-hole championship course on the Embo Estate north of Dornoch, warning that the natural flooded dunes on the site – which provide refuge for wigeon and teal during the winter – will have a 'serious' effect on birdlife in the habitat.
However, project manager Chris Haspell has hit back at the RSPB for completely ignoring Coul Links’ proposals for wildlife – which have been supported in large by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) – and says the two aforementioned species of bird are, at present, legally shot in the area.
“Detailed studies have taken place at Coul Links in relation to the potential impacts of the proposed development,” said Haspell.
“SNH and our team agree on this and these have simply been ignored by the RSPB in their latest inaccurate and inexplicable comments. The development touches on less than 2% of the overall site.
“Far from destroying this important habitat, the Coul Links proposal represents the only funded management plan to prevent the site being lost.
“Ironically, the two species they’ve highlighted - wigeon (below) and teal - are actually directly threatened by the RSPB's plans. At present, these birds are legally shot throughout the winter, but as part of the mitigation outlined by our proposed golf course, this shooting would permanently cease.
“If the RSPB has its way the shooting, and its associated disturbance within the designated site, will continue – the first time we are aware of the RSPB lobbying for the continued shooting of birds within a designated site.
“Their comments are so laced with inaccuracies that we have decided to write to the RSPB Council to register our concern that RSPB Scotland should issue what appears to be deliberate misinformation.”
The £10m course, developed by US duo Mike Keiser – who owns Bandon Dunes – and Todd Warnock, has received the backing of all local golf clubs, as well as Embo Trust, Dornoch Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland.
It is estimated that the course, which is a few miles north of Dornoch and at the Loch Fleet estuary, can transform the area into a major golf destination, with the course expected to boost the local economy by £60m over ten years and bring 250 jobs.
The Highland Council Planning Committee will look at the proposal on January 22 and make decision there and then as to whether the course will get the green light.
Should it get that, construction could begin as early as April/May 2018 and will take 18 months.