The next hurdle for the creation of the Scotland course backed by a group that includes Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley developer Mike Keiser will come during a hearing scheduled to be held over the next four to six weeks. Proponents cite the job creation and overall economic boost from the project, but environmentalists have expressed concern over the impact on the area’s specially protected sand dunes.
An inquiry into the long-running application to build a golf development on speciallly protected sand dunes in Scotland is set to begin, BBC News reported.
American businessman Todd Warnock, as part of a group that includes Mike Keiser, developer of the successful Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley and Cabot Cliffs golf resorts (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/keiser-group-moves-forward-coul-links-proposal-scotland/ ) wants to construct the controversial course on the Coul Links site near Dornoch, BBC News reported, promoting how it will create much-needed local jobs.
The project has the backing of some local residents, BBC News reported, but environmental groups insist it will devastate one of Scotland’s most important protected habitats.
Permission for the development was granted in June 2018 by Highland councilors, BBC News reported. But the planning application was called in by Scottish ministers following increasing pressure from the environmental community.
The World Commission on Protected Areas wrote to the Scottish government saying the decision was of “significant concern.”
The democratic process had been “comprehensive and fair” and Warnock had urged ministers not to call it in, BBC News reported.
The inquiry, at the Carnegie Hall in Clashmore, is expected to last between four and six weeks.
The sand dunes border Loch Fleet, the most northerly inlet on the east coast, BBC News reported. As a whole, the site provides habitat for wintering birds and rare plants, and holds three protected designations, including that of a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Jonathan Hughes, the chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust who used to work as a warden at the site, described the site as “the most wonderful wild stretch of coastland”.
While wandering through the dunes, Hughes told BBC Scotland: “It’s just about got the highest level of protection you can have for a nature site in the UK.
“We have these wonderful winter loch systems which flood in the winter and are fantastic areas for wintering wild fowl,” Hughes said. “Then in the summer, they dry out and burst into life as these wonderful wet wild flower meadows.
“It’s one of the most important coastal areas that I’ve ever seen in Scotland and it has an amazing diversity of wildlife,” Hughes added. “In terms of the damage that the golf course would cause, we’re talking seriously significant damage. It would never recover.”
One of the major concerns, BBC News reported, is that fertilizers required to build and maintain the golf course would seep into the wetlands. Conservationists believe that would fundamentally change the composition of the land.
But resident Yvonne Ross insists the golf course would bring much-needed land management to the site, BBC News reported.
“It is a beautiful area, but I think a golf course will only serve to enhance that area,” Ross said. “I think the management of it will save it [from] becoming even more barren.
“The development is going to bring some jobs with It, but it’s the knock-on effect that our community has been looking at,” Ross added. “I think the Coul Links effect has already started in Dornoch, with the types of businesses that want to come here.”
Ross said she hoped ministers would approve the planning application at the end of the inquiry and feared for the consequences of it being thrown out, BBC News reported.
“I think [a denial of the application would] have a serious impact on the community and probably on the Highlands as a whole, saying we’re not open to investments and we’re not open to new way of managing our land.” Ross said.
Oystercatchers, red shanks and curlews are regular visitors to the site because of its intertidal sand flats, BBC News reported. Nationally, species of eelgrass provide an important food source for waterfowl and a shelter for juvenile fish.