A CONTROVERSIAL housing development next to the historic Culloden battlefield has been given the go-ahead, prompting fury from campaigners fearing the effect on the site.
The 16-home scheme, within 400 metres of the historic location, was rejected by Highland Council last year.
But a Scottish Government reporter has upheld an appeal by the developers, Inverness Properties.
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), which manages the battlefield and runs the visitor centre which attracts thousands of tourists from around the globe each year, fears the development will impact on the site, claiming it will damage the setting on Drumossie Moor and set back archaeological research.
Culloden battlefield was the location of the last pitched battle fought on British soil, where Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, and his Jacobite Army were defeated by government forces on 16 April 1746, ending his claim to the British throne – and claiming more than 2,000 lives.
Alexander Bennett, group manager north for the NTS, said: “This is an internationally important site which is, most importantly, a war grave. We would hate to see that diminished by inappropriate developments.
“We want to see it protected for future generations, but this could pave the way for other developments. We would hate to see housing surrounding the battlefield.
“We could end up with a Central Park scenario in New York where you have an important area untouched, but with developments all round it.”
He added that objectors such as NTS and Highland Council feared the 16 new houses would ultimately damage the setting of the site on Drumossie Moor and set back future archaeological research.
He said the charity had been working to restore the battlefield to the way it was on 16 April 1746, adding: “We are concerned that encroaching development on Culloden battlefield, a site of outstanding heritage significance, could further erode its unique sense of place.”
However, those concerns were not shared by the Scottish Government’s heritage adviser Historic Scotland, which did not object.
The Scottish Government reporter who upheld the appeal by Inverness Properties said the homes at Viewhill, near Balloch, would be scarcely, if at all, visible from the heart of the battlefield and the visitor centre.
Redundant agricultural buildings would be demolished to make way for the new homes, to be built around a central courtyard.
Inverness Central councillor Donnie Kerr, who voted against the development last year, believes the local authority was right.
He said: “This is the site of the last pitched battle on British soil and means so much to the Highlands. We do not want development right around the battlefield.”
The Scottish Government-appointed reporter decided that planning permission could be granted subject to an agreement on a financial contribution from the developer towards affordable housing and footpaths.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Once this agreement has been reached, the reporter will issue his final decision. The reporter has agreed with Historic Scotland that it is unlikely the proposal would have any impact on the ambience of the battlefield.”
Other campaigners fear that Culloden Moor will be swamped by “urban sprawl”.
Councillor Jim Crawford called for ministers to step in and overrule their planning officials to protect the battlefield.
He said: “This is the most important landscape left in Scotland.”