A new community group is making moves to revive plans to build a golf course at Coul Links.
Local supporters of the proposed Highlands course have come together to form "Communities for Coul", a not-for-profit organisation designed to breathe life back into the development which was defeated at the planning stage last year.
The original plans for a course at Coul Links were led by American businessman Todd Warnock and secured planning permission from Highland Council, before Scottish ministers called in the planning application for further scrutiny. Following a public inquiry, the government refused permission for the new course in February 2020.
A year on, those plans are back on the table, as Communities for Coul look to gather local support before submitting planning application to the Highland Council in the second half of the year.
“I think we need time to evaluate all of the opportunities and the strength of local support,” Gordon Sutherland, one of Communities for Coul’s directors, told bunkered.co.uk.
“Our aim is quite simple, though. If we feel that enthusiasm is there for this project and we can provide some evidence of that, then we will make a second planning application in the name of Communities for Coul.”
Council policy dictates that, because the original plans were thrown out by government ministers, the council has the right to refuse the resubmission of the application for up to a period of two years.
“If we want to submit our plans before February 2022, our job is to persuade Highland Council that this is a significantly different application, and we believe it is on two counts,” added Sutherland.
“This is a community-led proposal. It’s not wealthy Americans like last time. The socio-economic situation at the minute is also significantly different because of COVID-19. Rural communities, which are dependent on tourism like ours, need all the help they can get at the minute and this plan would do that.”
"Communities for Coul" has also learned that, should the new golf course at Coul Links be approved, there are plans to develop a new eco-lodge hotel at Coul Links farm and several other multi-million pound hotel and accommodation developments in Dornoch - plans which will not see the light of day without the golf course.
“We have identified that the project is expected to generate over £50million in private investment, while creating 180 jobs between the golf course and the new hotel,” explained Sutherland. “That is in Embo and Dornoch alone. The population of our area is about 10,000 people, so to create a project that would create almost 200 jobs is hugely significant.”
The organisation is confident that should it be successful in its planning permission bid, it won’t be short of potential developers who would be tasked with funding the creation of the course.
“Once we are at the stage where we have submitted our application, we are going to speak to potential developers,” said Sutherland. “The idea of building a golf course in such a beautiful part of the world won’t be short of suitors.”