What is Not Coul?

A campaign group opposing proposed golf development within protected land at Coul Links in SE Sutherland.

Not Coul also has aspirations for creating multiple, well-paid, all-year sustainable environmental jobs in the local area, making SE Sutherland more resilient to the climate and biodiversity crises. For example, that could happen at Coul Farm, in collaboration with the landowner at Coul, once a golf proposal upon protected land is finally abandoned.

Not Coul is not incorporated (i.e. it is not a company). It is open to anybody willing to oppose golf development on land which is important for nature and much of which is already triple-protected. Coul Links lies in a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a Ramsar Site (Wetland of International Importance).

Not Coul was founded in 2016 when plans were first announced for golf development. It grew over three years from a local group with in-house expertise to a national campaign supported by over 92,000 petitioners.

Not Coul worked alongside the Save Coul Links Conservation Coalition during the previous golf course application, 2017-2020, as independent groups with some shared aims.

Not Coul continues to work independently but will co-operate with all NGO and academic societies opposing this second proposal for golf at Coul Links.

Our partners in fighting for nature at Coul

Not Coul works in close collaboration with other key opponents, including RSPB, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Plantlife, BuglIfe and Butterfly Conservation. It receives support and advice from world experts at the Botanical Society for Scotland and the British Lichen Society.

Winning at PLI

That first proposed golf development was strongly opposed and went to Public Local Inquiry in 2019. Not Coul was strongly represented. It was the only PLI participant to challenge the golf proposal on environmental and economic grounds. Planning permission was refused by Scottish Ministers in February 2020.

Coul Golf 2: Communities 4 Coul Ltd

The golf developers have refused to accept the decision of Scottish Ministers and the damning evidence from the PLI. They have regrouped. A company called C4C was formed in 2021. It submitted a second planning application in February 2023, this time for two golf courses. The opposition campaign is underway now to get this application refused.

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New Not Coul campaign

Not Coul has regrouped too. It has carefully studied all C4C proposals to date and considers 2023 proposals will cause serious environmental damage (as accepted at the 2019 PLI). The main golf course is poorly-sited and will fail to achieve world-class status. We see a high risk of local economic failure due to major changes in circumstances since 2019. We are opposing the 2023 C4C planning application on those three fronts.

Coul Future Ltd

Three members of Not Coul set this company up in 2021. It aims to enable projects which will secure environmental protection at Coul Links, improve parts of the site which require urgent attention and pave the way for creating more environmental jobs in SE Sutherland and beyond.

An application was made in 2021 to restore a brash-strewn felled forestry plantation ignored in other management negotiations. That had to be withdrawn when landowner permission for the work was refused. That offer as a project remains. We offered the project again early in 2023 to the landowner. There was an amendment: keep and expand a scrub barrier on the inner edge, to reduce disturbance to protected birds using close-by winter-flooded ponds (mostly Teal and Wigeon). There has been no reply to our offer. Maybe that was because the scrub barrier lies on ground proposed as the first fairway for 2023 Hole 11? Golf will mean more disturbance for SPA and Ramsar protected birds. The Not Coul objection is on to this.  

Other long-term opportunities have been identified for bespoke land-use carbon emissions reduction and biodiversity enhancement at Coul and in SE Sutherland. This anticipates major support for such initiatives at national level and that is already happening.

The new Not Coul campaign will be funded via Coul Future using donations.

Independent paid experts are NOW being used for the three campaign fronts, their inputs are part of opposing Not Coul documents for submission to The Highland Council. They have to be paid by Coul Future Ltd for their crucial inputs. Just that first step will cost around £15K. This website will be funded until the idea of golf on protected land is no more. Paid media advertisements of our views might be needed.

All time by Not Coul members and all directors of Coul Future is pro bonounpaid. Coul Future Ltd accounts will be available to the public via Companies House. Any funds donated and unused when the campaign is over will in turn be donated to one or more environmental campaigns in Scotland.



The Not Coul campaign is being led by Tom Dargie, a PhD professional environmental consultant, scientist and campaigner for over 50 years. He is a specialist in coastal habitats, environmental change and wetlands, working mainly in the UK, Spain and Brazil. He has lived near Coul Links for more than 30 years.

Tom joined Not Coul in 2016 and was Chair from October 2017 until after the first golf application was refused planning permission. On this six-year journey his campaigning work and use of science have become highly regarded, attracting awards and distinctions:

  • 2018 Nature of Scotland Awards: Political Advocate of the Year Award
  • 2020 Honorary Fellowship, Botanical Society of Scotland
  • 2021 Honorary Fellowship, Royal Scottish Geographical Society

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If you wish to become more actively involved in our campaign as a volunteer, please contact us.