Welcome to this page

It features the Coul Web of Life

This is Coul Biodiversity, a host of species, increasing in number supported by fine sand dune habitats.

Organised as highly seasonal ecosystems – winter wet and summer dry.

Functioning here for millennia, changing tide-to-tide, century-to-century, naturally. Representing world-class environmental assets, perhaps the best and most mature intact dune system in Scotland.

This Not Coul page is not just about fine Nature here

  • We cover the great potential harm that two proposed golf courses and a hotel will do
  • We show that the law and the planning system in Scotland allow that harm
  • We expose the developer hoodwink, about Coul Nature, to try to get planning permission
  • We show that great danger lies behind the hoodwink, potentially devastating to Coul wildlife 
  • We consider that development at Coul will be worse than Trump at Menie

It really is that bad.

Coul Art & Nature Too!

Ben Averis and Audrey Verma (digital Anthropocene environmentalist) produced this wonderful product from work at Coul in 2021.

Ben is a fine landscape artist, author and musician. He also happens to be an outstanding expert on
mosses and liverworts, plus a top-notch habitat surveyor.

So much Coul Links biodiversity packed into a small space.

How developers are exploiting planning weakness in Scotland.

The Coul Nature In Decline Hoodwink

The mayhem for Coul Nature and protection if golf is allowed

Hotspot 1425

So much Coul Links biodiversity packed into a small space.

Fonseca’s Seed-Fly Botanophila fonsecai

Only found WORLDWIDE on dunes between Dornoch and Coul.

‘A locally endemic dune habitat species’: the misleading description in Developers’ 2022 Scoping Request

‘Globally endemic species. It is one of the few cases of Scottish endemism’: NatureScot, in Scoping correction

IUCN Red List Endangered, in decline, now potentially Critically Endangered: Not Coul

HOTSPOT 1425

Coul Links, the dunes north of Embo, is home to more than 1400 known species.  At its simplest, biodiversity is the length of a list of species. Experts visiting Coul in recent decades made the lists for plants (flora), animals (fauna) and fungi.

So far, adding everything up, Not Coul has a total of 1425. It includes one very special fly, a global endemic only known between Dornoch and Coul Links.

Click to zoom

Large species numbers are possible because they function as diverse and truly outstanding habitats.

Dune heath in the north has all UK types and is one of the finest examples in Britain.

Coul lichens in dune heath allow Loch Fleet SSSI to be rated the best UK dune lichen assemblage.  

Dune grasslands range from young and calcareous to rare mature neutral and mature acidic forms.

Dune wetlands cover 30% of the SSSI and range between winter wet and summer dryIn winter they are an important refuge from disturbance for birds at high tide and in storms. In summer the wetlands provide most of the pollen and nectar sources for Coul invertebrates.

Coul Links is a really important and distinct part of the Dornoch Firth & Loch Fleet Ramsar Site. In fact, the real species total for Coul is perhaps >2000Some invertebrate orders at Coul are poorly searched, waiting for the experts to do that work.

The soil habitat is hardly known, with likely large soil flora, fauna, fungal and bacterial lists.

Professional experts know that Coul is biodiverse. They are not concerned about diversity decline at Coul. That is not happening, their concern is the set of numbers quoted in developer information. In key places these numbers are markedly lower than expert totals. The developers are understating Coul biodiversity. This is just one example of developer misinformation, but an important one.

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Invertebrates make up almost half of the Coul biodiversity list:

  • There are 246 Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) plus 410 non-Lepidoptera.
  • This is outstanding for a small dune system this far north in the world.
  • The numbers for other large groups are Higher Plants (254), Birds (130), 
  • Lichens (130), Fungi (119) and Bryophytes (112 mosses and liverworts). 
  • Herptiles (5 amphibians and reptiles) and Mammals (18) are limited – this is a small place.

 

In 2017 and at 2019 PLI the golf developers’ experts gave the number as only 1141. So far, we know of 284 species missed from the developer list.

25% missed! How did the developers get that wrong? Why did they underestimate by 25%? Does it pay to mislead the public on Coul biodiversity importance? What will their 2022 number be? Any bets on 1141, used at the 2019 Inquiry?

Have a look at Coul Links Species

Click on the images to zoom in

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All Protection Inadequate

Coul Links is surrounded by a sea of nature protection. The maps here show that.

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Can protection at Coul prevent a proposed golf course on land designated for Nature?

The answer apparently is NO.

This golf development at Coul is a second attempt to wreck Nature protection in Scotland. The first was thrown out, after a four-year fight. Not Coul was a big part of that 2020 victory.

This time round, golf developers like Trump are masquerading as “the community” to demand their golf course. They are clever, they have money, enough to exploit weak bits of the planning system in Scotland. 

For a second time, in 2022, they are going to The Highland Council.

For a second time they are asking the council to ignore the law and national planning policy, as set out in the Local Development Plan. 

They got Council approval in 2018. It took the 2019 PLI to reveal the damage golf would have done.

Outside ‘protected’ ground they are proposing a second golf course and a luxury hotel, all part of one big development vision but not one application, several. Easier to get all that way.

The second course will affect good biodiversity, the hotel might affect SSSI water quality. It is all being rushed through, before better laws and policies are brought in, probably in 2023.

To win their golf courses, the developers employ a collective of lies – ‘C4C will sustain Coul Links’. To the local people and their elected Councillors they say ‘hundreds of jobs’. Another lie.

It is as easy as that, to bypass protection written into the Local Development Plan.

Click to zoom

This is a repeat of the 2016 – 2020 fight. Can it be stopped?

Yes, in two ways.

1. First, fight as before by :

Revealing the Communities for Coul hoodwink, how it has fooled local people into support

Unpicking the Communities for Coul case via Not Coul evidence to Highland Council

Asking local people to object using a pamphletting campaign

Encouraging the general public in Scotland to object via this website and social media

Encouraging objection via a UK-wide petition campaign. We had >90,000 signatures at the time of the 2019 Inquiry

Working closely with others in a national campaign of objection, equivalent to the impressive Save Coul Links Coalition which functioned between 2017 and 2020.

This is achievable. The misinformation in the 2022 C4C core case is readily exposed. As in 2017 to 2019. 

The C4C “Smoke and Mirrors” approach is a huge weakness. It should destroy their credibility.

Good evidence is still needed and has to be updated. That applies to the Coul environment.

That will be done by Not Coul, unpaid.

We urgently need new paid-for independent studies on:

  • the much-trumpeted C4C Habitat Management Plan (HMP)
  • community issues
  • youth employment opportunities and Highland emigration
  • updated golf economics
  • the C4C 2022 golf course – is it ‘Championship quality’, let alone ‘world-class’

These studies are key to swinging local opinion, even Highland Councillors, in favour of opposition.

All except the HMP need to be commissioned soon.

All except the HMP must be ready immediately the C4C planning application is submitted. 

The Coul Habitat Management Plan will likely only be available when the application is made.

An early international campaign by Not Coul

Letter to the Ramsar Secretariat, September 2017

The Secretariat opened a file on the matter

The file was closed in 2020

2. Second, Not Coul campaigning nationally and internationally on the following:

Request a larger SSSI at Coul to protect more key Nature

Request Special Area of Conservation (SAC) status for the enlarged SSSI

Request all Ramsar sites in Scotland are given proper international level protection

If we achieve either the SAC or the Ramsar goal, that alone will stop this golf development in its tracks.

Please support the Not Coul campaign with a donation now because:

  • The threat to Coul Links from golf is more serious than 2017 to 2020
  • There is more work to be done than in the last winning campaign. 
  • We need donations now to fund expert studies. Most studies have to be commissioned immediately. We must raise £20K to cover the fees and expenses of independent experts.
  • We will achieve better protection for key wildlife sites in Scotland, not just Coul Links.

See the Not Coul Factsheet Inadequate Protection for more detail on legal and planning weaknesses affecting all the wildlife and their habitats at Coul Links, Loch Fleet SSSI and a third of all Ramsar sites in Scotland.

Just sign up to receive news of this campaign

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

Support The Campaign

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

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Danger

The Coul Nature In Decline Hoodwink

C4C Facebook 29th March 2022:

“If planning permission is granted, one of the first steps will be removal of many of the invasive species”

Common names added by Not Coul

C4C Facebook 1 April 2022: 

“Coul Links may look beautiful from afar, but from an environmental perspective, it is currently in a very poor state ..”

C4C proposed golf fairway for mowing

C4C: Coul dune heath is turning into nondescript scrub

Nonsense

Part of the best UK dune lichen heath, Loch Fleet SSSI.

Rare, threatened lichens form a crust on bare sand.

Rare, threatened lichens develop in partial heather shade.

Mowing this is Madness.

Dominant under yellow Common Rockrose.

Condemned as an invasive species by C4C.

Threatened by removal as soon as C4C golf gets planning permission.

Madness

Burnet Rose provides support at Coul, landscape scale, for Common Rockrose.

Burnet Rose is the larval food plant for a Red Data Book leaf-mining moth.

Common Rockrose is larval food plant of threatened Northern Brown Argus butterfly.

Two double whammies: two key plants and two threatened insect populations quickly lost.

Condemned as an invasive species by C4C.

Threatened by removal as soon as C4C golf gets planning permission.

Madness

It extends almost a mile to the north in the Coul Winter Loch.

A landscape-scale supplier of pollen and nectar for Coul Invertebrates.

When flooded in winter, important feeding for protected wintering birds.

The essential keystone habitat for Coul insects could go if Meadowsweet is removed.

Understand the hoodwink

1

A major part of Communities for Coul (C4C) propaganda is a simple hoodwink. C4C information about Coul Links is carefully selected and misrepresented to fool its supporters.

2

Later, that fooling will generate letters of support. 

The letters will influence the Highland councillors for golf support, who might be hoodwinked too.

3

The deception is aimed only at those with little knowledge about Coul Nature, who are unlikely to examine or understand technical documents.

4

The C4C hoodwink information has been in play for a year and was used to get the C4C rigged vote mandate in 2021.

1

A major part of Communities for Coul (C4C) propaganda is a simple hoodwink. C4C information about Coul Links is carefully selected and misrepresented to fool its supporters.

2

Later, that fooling will generate letters of support.  The letters will influence the Highland councillors for golf support, who might be hoodwinked too.

3

The deception is aimed only at those with little knowledge about Coul Nature, who are unlikely to examine or understand technical documents.

4

The C4C hoodwink information has been in play for a year and was used to get the C4C rigged vote mandate in 2021.

The hoodwink uses a four-card trick:

Heavily promote a blatant lie about invasive species, stating they are “choking Coul Links to death”;

Arguing then, from the mortal threat of invasive species, that Coul Nature is in decline, in bad condition, that something must be done, then, C4C-Will-Fix-It;

Assuring their support that taking a tiny sliver of protected land for golf, “less than 1%”, would do no serious harm and would allow golf to deal with those nasty invasives;

Using the line that revenue from golf would enable the C4C vision and pay for management. That way Coul Nature would be restored and made “sustainable forever”. Amen.

Communities for Coul Facebook 29th March 2022

Do you see this quote below as dangerous for Coul Nature? Read this Facebook post carefully.

Our expert environmentalists say: “Coul Links is on the frontline of global environmental change. A changing climate and increasing nitrogen deposition have promoted the spread of invasive species and other changes which reduce the diversity and distinctiveness of the Links. The vegetation of the dune slacks is now mostly indistinct from roadside ditches and the dune heath is turning into nondescript scrub. Soon there will be nothing much left worth preserving.”

If planning permission for the new golf course is granted, one of the first steps will be removal of many of the invasive species currently running riot and choking the links, including gorse, bracken, birch, rosebay willowherb, burnet rose and meadowsweet. And in this way, Coul Links’ restoration as an environmental treasure will begin.

Most of that post is nonsense. 

Indeed, for experts familiar with Coul insects, it will be dangerous nonsense.

We hope it is not deliberately designed to collapse key biodiversity at Coul, by deceipt.

See the Not Coul Factsheet  Coul Hoodwinks Exposed for more detail.

  • The C4C restoration story is based on layers of lies.
  • To start with, the SSSI at Coul has no serious invasive species problem, they are not “choking Coul Links to death”. The first lie. 
  • In the SSSI at Coul only gorse and birch need local control, within dune heath
  • Otherwise the dune heath is in excellent condition, the best dune lichen heath in the UK
  • The importance of that dune lichen heath was only discovered in 2018.
  • How can such important habitat be described now as nondescript scrub. Nondescript is a lie.
  • Rosebay willowherb is rare within the SSSI at Coul, it is not a problem. Another lie.
  • Burnet Rose is a key structural part of mature Coul ‘grey dunes’, an EU Priority Habitat
  • Removal of just that species, by means unspecified, could literally tear apart a key habitat 
  • Burnet Rose is the larval food supply of Stigmella spinosissimae, a leaf-mining Red Data Book moth. The Coul population is nationally important. C4C could eradicate it.
  • Burnet Rose holds up, literally, Common Rockrose which scrambles over the rose stems
  • Common Rockrose is the larval food supply of the nationally-threatened Northern Brown Argus butterfly. It has an important strong population at Coul. C4C could eradicate it.
  • Burnet Rose is not an invasive species. It is a lie to describe it as invasive. Instead, it is a rather important species, maybe a keystone.
  • Meadowsweet is by far the commonest wetland species in southern Coul
  • Meadowsweet is not an invasive species. It is a lie to describe it as invasive.
  • It occupies only the highest parts of EU ‘humid dune slacks’ at Coul. 
  • The UK has a special responsibility for humid dune slack habitat, since it has a significiant proportion of the EU resource.
  • Meadowsweet slacks at Coul are the most extensive of its type in the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Ramsar site.
  • Meadowsweet is the larval foodplant of the moth Celphya rivulana.
  • Meadowsweet is the key pollen and nectar provisioning species at Coul, supporting many species in the long Coul Links invertebrate list.  It is the Coul Food Bank for Nature.
  • Meadowsweet is thus  a keystone species. Removing it on the fake premise of being invasive will collapse and grossly change food webs, threatening severe ecosystem damage.
  • Overall, it is hard to imagine a more damaging proposal, yet it is masquerading in public on C4C social media as restoration of an “ecological treasure”.

This dreadful proposal must be stopped.

Not Coul needs YOUR HELP NOW to do this.

First

Do not wait for a planning application.

Join the campaign now, to build the momentum to kick this dangerous proposal into touch before it gets set in planning stone.

Remember that supporters of Communities for Coul are ignorant of this potential horror show. They have been hoodwincked.

Acting now gives time to ask them to reconsider.

Second

Share and expose the true nature of this scheme on social media, in the press and other mainstream media.

Third

As individuals and collectively confront Communities for Coul. Demand that they explain themselves for using the lies on invasive species and for advocating changes which could devastate wildlife at Coul.

This will be a particular Not Coul endeavour. Our aim is to try and sway local opinion, to expose the hoodwink and explain the deception. You must be part of national exposure.

Not Coul is willing to put forward people to explain the hoodwink, at local and national level.

If you want to be part of this campaign, at the front, please contact Not Coul.

Have a look at Coul Links Habitats

Click on the images to zoom in

Just sign up to receive news of this campaign

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

Support The Campaign

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

No payment method connected. Contact seller.

Worse than Trump

The mayhem for Coul Nature and protection if golf is allowed

Donald Trump wanted and took a dune site in Scotland for golf.

He announced in 2005 he would build a course at Menie Links.

A modest proportion of his course was in Foveran Links SSSI.

A controversial PLI was held in 2008.

Planning permission was then quickly granted by the Scottish Government.

The course opened in 2012.

95 hectares of superb wild dune were badly affected by golf.

Due to loss of bio- and geodiversity interest, the SSSI was denotified in 2020.

Foveran Links SSSI no longer exists, its remaining bit is now in another SSSI.

Is this the fate for Loch Fleet SSSI if golf is allowed at Coul?

This is reality, if the 2022 proposed golf course planning application is approved.

Why? The history of the Trump International scheme shows what could happen:

  • Stringent planning conditions would be set, essential to get approval
  • Stringent planning conditions would then prove impossible to apply
  • There will be widespread destruction and damage to Coul biodiversity
  • Protected natural features at Coul would be considered lost after a few years
  • The Coul sector of the SSSI/SPA/Ramsar site would be denotified
  • The golf developers could then do as they wish thereafter.
Click to zoom

Championship golf courses and protection compared.

Trump International Golf Limited (Scotland) at Foveran Links SSSI.

Coul Links Ltd within Loch Fleet SSSI.

  • Denotified land at Coul is 50% larger than land lost to golf at Menie Links.

  • Denotiification would involve THREE protections.

  • There are SSSI, SPA and Ramsar sites at Coul, not just one SSSI like Foveran Links.

Yes, golf at Coul would be much worse than Trump International at Menie.

To avoid all this happening, please support Not Coul NOW.