MORE than 1000 people have written to the Scottish Government urging them to “call in” and reject a controversially approved plan to build a golf course on a protected nature reserve.

The Scottish Greens have been urging people to write to Planning Minister Joe FitzPatrick to lodge their concerns after Highland Council approved the plans for Coul Links, near Dornoch in the Highlands.

The Coul Links dune system forms part of the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area (SPA). It is also protected as a “Ramsar site” under the international Convention on Wetlands, which was signed in 1971.

In December, Highland Council approved plans to build on the dune system.

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While the decision was welcomed by developers Communities for Coul Limited (C4C), environmental charities urged ministers to step in to block its progression – as they previously did for a similar application on the same site in 2020.

It is understood that NatureScot have opposed the plans. As a statutory consultee, the agency's objection means ministers will have to be notified of the application. This is set to happen in the new year.

From there, the Government will decide whether to approve the plans, or call them in for an inquiry.

The Scottish Greens have set up a petition which sees people write to FitzPatrick (below) calling for the plans to be rejected. At the time of writing, 1182 people have raised an objection.

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The party wrote: “Coul Links is one of the last areas of undeveloped, species-rich dune habitat in Scotland. It's a spectacular site of environmental and scientific significance, holding several important international environmental designations.

“Three years ago American billionaires Todd Warnock and Mike Keiser tried to build a golf course on top of it. Thousands of you from across the country joined our campaign to defeat that scheme, protecting this rare ecosystem and the wide variety of plant and animal life that calls it home.

“The campaign was successful and planning permission was refused in 2020. But now this stunning, publicly accessible site is once again at risk of being exploited for private gain.

“A new application for an 18-hole golf course, practice area and car park has been submitted. Swayed by flimsy promises of jobs – regardless of the cost to an irreplaceable wild landscape and the nature and tourism that it supports – Highland Council have narrowly voted to approve the application. They do so in the face of objections from their own planning officers, NatureScot, the RSPB, Ramblers Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

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“Support the fight to protect the links and the rare species that live there by writing to the minister in charge to ask him to once again call in the planning application and reverse this destructive decision.”

The party has also drafted a letter for people to send to FitzPatrick on the issue.

Developers C4C claim the course will create up to 400 new jobs and generate more than £11m annually for the local economy.

Director Gordon Sutherland said: “Our plans, which have had the backing of local people from the outset, offer a genuine chance to create much-needed new employment opportunities in an area where the working age population is falling, threatening the future viability of fragile communities.

"They also provide a guaranteed future for the wonderful wild coastal environment of Coul Links, which is currently sadly neglected and at risk."