EXCLUSIVE Highlands project is set to create 250 jobs and boost the local economy by £60m over ten years
THERE is a growing sense of optimism that Coul Links, Scotland's latest multi-million pound golf course project, will get the go-ahead when it goes before the Highland Council Planning Committee later this year, writes Martin Inglis.
The proposed 18-hole championship course, which will be located a few miles north of Dornoch and at the Loch Fleet estuary, is supported by the majority of local people and businesses but has faced a number of objections from conservation groups. This is largely down to its partial routing through a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the possibility that it will disrupt nesting birds and the dunes ecosystem.
But the Coul Links team have diligently worked through concerns raised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and are hopeful that, when the time comes, the course will get the green light.
"Our team of professionals have made great strides and things are going in the right direction," Chris Haspell, Project Manager at Coul Links, told UK Club Golfer. "The objections SEPA and SNH raised should be 99% resolved before the Planning Committee meeting, then it's a question for the council as to whether disturbing less than 2% of 800 hectares in the short-term is worth stopping a £10m investment."
It has been anticipated that Coul Links will boost the local economy by £60m over ten years with the creation of 250 jobs, including 25 full-time employees on-site.
The project is already gaining notoriety, too, due to its co-developers Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock and design duo Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Keiser was the supremo behind the likes of Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links and Sand Valley.
"I've travelled to America and a couple of other places in recent months and the anticipation and excitement for the project is huge," added Haspell. "People already come to Castle Stuart and Dornoch and with the 'Keiser Effect', I'm sure it'll make people stay here longer and make the Highlands a true golfing destination.
"The communities of Keiser's other projects are very similar to Dornoch and Embo â€“ rural and quite remote â€“ and Sand Valley is now the second biggest employer in its county.
"So it would be a huge blow to the local economy if this doesn't happen. With RBS and different banks closing, there's a real feeling that the area is being abandoned. If these jobs were created, it would be hugely positive for the area at a time when it needs the boost."