Scotland’s lead heritage body has said it does not object to proposals to build a holiday park within the boundary of Culloden Battlefield.
An application to build 14 holiday chalets and a 100-seat restaurant at the former site of Treetops Stables at Faebuie, Culloden Moor, has been lodged with Highland Council.
The land sits to the eastern edge of the Culloden Battlefield Inventory and within the Culloden Muir Conservation Area, which was drawn up in 2015 to protect the area from inappropriate development.
Campaigners believe the application is a “significant threat” to the preservation of the battlefield, where Jacobite troops were routed by British Government forces on April 16, 1746, in the last pitched battle fought on British soil.
Historic Environment Scotland, in its official response to the proposals, said the battle was one of the most important in the history of the British isles with the battlefield holding a “particular emotional connection for many within Scotland and with Scottish connections.”
However, HES said it won’t be objecting to the holiday park proposals given the site was “not central to the events of the battle itself and primarily forms a backdrop to the battlefield landscape.”
An archaeological survey found only an empty shotgun shell and a belt buckle, both which date to the 20th Century, on the land.
HES added the proposed area is now heavily wooded and separated from the core battlefield by trees.
It said: “The result of the woodland and forestry is that the proposed development area is not widely visible from elsewhere in the battlefield, for example, from the centre of the battlefield and the location of hand-to-hand fighting, the Clan Cemetery, the Field of The English or the National Trust for Scotland visitor centre and car park.
“It remains possible to appreciate the flat topography over which the Government troops may have advanced and which formed the backdrop to the battle.”
In conclusion, HES said: “Our view is that the proposals do not raise historic environment issues of national significance and therefore we do not object. However, our decision not to object should not be taken as our support for the proposals.”
Meanwhile, more than 130 separate letters of objection have been received from individuals over the plans.
Highland Council’s own development team has also supported the plans, given the leisure park fits broadly on land already developed and that its design is in keeping with the Conservation Area requirements.
Critically, the Treetops site does not fall in the highly sensitive “core visual setting” of the Conservation Area, which contributes highly to the understanding of the landscape of the battle and how it informed tactical and strategic decisions, movements and positions.
The application for Treetops Stables comes shortly after a hugely contentious row over 16 new homes to be built on land at Viewhill Farm, which sits in the Culloden conservation area.
There, significant contact is known to have been made in the last throws of the battle, with historians and campaigners deeming the land as a war grave.
Historic Environment Scotland did not object to the Viewhill proposals.
National Trust for Scotland, which owns the core battlefield and visitor centre, has yet to lodge its formal response to the proposed holiday park.
Diarmid Hearns, head of policy at National Trust for Scotland’s, earlier described the Viewhill case as the “wrong decision in the wrong place” and called for greater reforms to the planning system.
Today, the 1745 Association, which works to safeguard Jacobite heritage, expressed its opposition to the latest proposals for Treetops.
Chairman Michael Nevin said: “It is a matter of major concern that this development is being mooted so soon after the approval of the View Hill residential development within the Culloden Battlefield, which we opposed.
“The Treetops proposal represents a significant threat to the integrity of the battlefield site.”
“If Treetops proceeds, it will mark a further step in the progressive destruction of a battlefield of national importance and international resonance.
“Many of our members consider this to be sacred ground, and, lest we forget, it is a war grave.”