CONTROVERSIAL plans for 16 homes beside Culloden Battlefield will be debated in public after a successful move by councillors.
The original application was previously rejected by councillors but then given the go-ahead on appeal following a ruling by a Scottish Government-appointed reporter in 2014.
A revised application was then submitted this year by a housebuilder who has taken on the project but these detailed proposals for the Viewhill scheme were to be determined under so-called "delegated powers" – in private, by council officers.
Such a move is not unusual and helps to speed up the planning process but, due to a tide of protest over the plans to build on what many regard as sacred ground, local councillors Carolyn Caddick, Ken Gowans and Andrew Jarvie stepped in to challenge it.
As a result the issue will now be decided in an open forum by the south planning committee, possibly as soon as the end of January.
The councillors will also consider a separate planning application for the road layout to the housing site.
The proposal for new homes triggered objections from locals and battlefield campaigners across the world.
There have been public demonstrations at the site and earlier this month, 40 demonstrators – many in period costume – walked half a mile from the battlefield to Viewhill Farm where Aberdeenshire-based Kirkwood Homes, which has bought the site, intends to build the houses.
As of yesterday, almost 35,000 objectors had put their names to an online petition claiming the homes – a quarter of a mile from the Culloden Battlefield Conservation Area – would invade the sanctity of the historic venue.
Government army lines in the 1746 battle, involving forces loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie, are believed to have extended to the farm site.
Mr Gowans, an Inverness South councillor, said: "A majority of the [four] ward councillors felt it was appropriate for these applications to be given a full hearing at the south planning applications committee.
"Given the sensitivity of the application, in terms of its location, we felt it only right that it should be determined by the committee and heard in public rather than behind closed doors."
Councillor Caddick (pictured), who is vice chairwoman of the committee, said: "The majority of the ward councillors felt it was a sensitive topic that deserves to be aired."
Councillor Jarvie said: "I think it’s important that what we’ve managed to bring into the committee is the actual design of the houses.
"Every single little detail needs to be discussed openly in public and the public need to have their views heard on it."
Blood was shed at Culloden Moor over a wider area than what is now in the guardianship of the National Trust for Scotland, which opposed the plans for houses at Viewhill.
Various objectors, including The 1745 Association, have concerns about the loss of the wider battlefield to development.
The initial applicant, Inverness Properties, has spoken of "misunderstandings" about the impact the development would have.
It has previously stated that there are "arguably at least 40 homes closer to Culloden Battlefield which cannot be seen" from the location.
It pointed out that the development would account for only six acres of the farm, where 184 acres would remain farmland.
It also stated that farm buildings which it had previously demolished were "considerably higher than the houses in the proposed development, which will be one-and-a-half storeys high – less than half the height of the farm buildings".
The government reporter had agreed with Historic Scotland that it was unlikely the proposal would have "any impact on the character and ambience of the battlefield".