THE owners of Culloden Battlefield are confident in halting a controversial a housing scheme near the historic site by purchasing the land from the proposed developer.
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has told the Scotsman it was negotiating with the landowner, Inverness businessman David Sutherland, to purchase the plot of land in question.
A worldwide row erupted when the 16-home development just 400 metres from the battlefield won approval.
Highland Council had rejected the proposal from Mr Sutherland’s Inverness Properties firm, despite a recommendation for approval by planning officials.
It was ultimately overturned on appeal by a Scottish Government Reporter.
But a spokesman for the NTS, the body which owns the site and operates a popular £10million visitor centre there, said: “The negotiations between the Trust and Mr Sutherland continue and have thus far been positive and constructive.
“In any negotiation different options may be raised and considered, however it remains our hope that we can acquire the land in question for the Trust in order to safeguard the battlefield.”
It will be greeted by campaigners fighting the controversial housing plans who yesterday admitted defeat and scrapped a legal challenge.
Protesters have dropped plans to take their fight to the Court of Session in Edinburgh after being told it could cost £50,000 – and they would likely lose.
George Kempik (corr), founder of the campaign, said they would continue to put pressure on landowner David Sutherland.
He said: “We’ve been given legal advice that we will no longer be pursuing a case in the Court of Session. We would not be asking the group to contribute to a legal fund.
“The only influence we can have is to put some more pressure on Mr Sutherland.
“We would try and persuade him from the point of view of protectors of Culloden Battlefield. It would seem that protection legally isn’t there at the moment.”
Mr Kempik added that the group accepted that the hands of Scottish government ministers “were tied” on granting permission to the development at the nearby Viewhill farm.
He said: “Part of that understanding includes an acknowledgement from us that the ministers’ - including Mr Salmond’s - hands were tied due to the position taken by Highland Council’s planning officer and Historic Scotland.
“For the last four months we have been wrongly appealing to Scottish government ministers. It’s now clear that their hands are tied.”
However, local councillor Jim Crawford said the Scottish government had “messed up” by not asking for the planning reporter’s findings to be referred to ministers for a final decision.
He added: “Alex Salmond would never have allowed the reporter to have the final say on this if it had been a windfarm.
“I think they underestimated the mood of the country and the people when it came to Culloden.
“They’ve now got egg on their face and they will be looking for some way to keep the people happy now they have made a mess of it.”