COUNCIL chiefs are taking legal advice over plans for a housing development near the Culloden battlefield – as global outrage mounts over the decision.
Highland Council may go to court to try to overturn the decision of Scottish Government planning reporter Richard Hickman to approve the scheme for 16 homes half a mile from the historic site.
An online petition was launched on Thursday and has already attracted more than 2,000 signatures from as far a field as North America and Australia.
Expats and those with Scottish links are accusing the Scottish Government of betraying the memory of soldiers who died during the battle and say the work must not go ahead.
The proposal, by developer Inverness Properties, will see the houses built within view of the site of the 1746 clash, which crushed the Jacobite rebellion and left around 2000 dead.
The government claims the proposal is unlikely to affect the “character and ambience of the battlefield area”.
Council lawyers are now considering the feasibility of challenging the decision to allow the plans through on the grounds of an appeal.
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “Our initial view is there are no immediately obvious grounds for a challenge but we are going to take time to review this.”
The spokeswoman said Inverness South Councillor Ken Gowans had “asked our legal team to consider if there is a basis for a challenge”.
Mr Gowans said: “The next stage is that we would take it to the Court of Session. I’ve asked the council’s legal team to investigate the feasibility of us being successful in appealing the decision.”
Mr Gowans criticised quango Historic Scotland for not objecting.
He said: “It doesn’t seem to fit well with the aims and objectives of Historic Scotland when it does not seem to think it’s necessary to object a planning application of this sort, which clearly impinges on one of the most historic battlefields anywhere in Europe, not just Scotland.”
An online petition on Change. org, set up by David Tolmie from Edinburgh, has already received more than 2,000 signatures so far.
Robert Small from Darwin, Australia said: “ Living in Australia I have seen how the indigenous people fight to preserve sacred sights. Sites like Culloden.
“This is your heritage Scotland if you can save nothing else save your heritage. Lang may yer Lum Reek.”
Amy Walts from Rochester, New York, wrote: “Culloden is sacred ground where countless people lost their lives. It is still thick with emotion and historical significance, and a place of pilgrimage for many.
“Any development of that land is shameful and reprehensible. The International community sees this proposal and strongly disapproves.”
And Kathleen Findlay, from Canada, said that “if we stop honouring the dead” then “we betray them”.
Now the 48-year-old is organising a mass protest outside Holyrood, with the preliminary date set for January 25.
A Historic Scotland spokeswoman said they had thoroughly assessed any impact the plans would have on the site in keeping with their planning process.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The reporter has agreed with Historic Scotland that it is unlikely that the proposal would have any impact on the character and ambience of the battlefield area”