EXPERTS have warned that a bid to win Unesco World Heritage Status for Culloden might not succeed in protecting the battlefield site from development.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has raised the idea after planning permission was granted last year for 16 homes to be built near the site of the 1746 Jacobite defeat.

However, the Historians’ Council on Culloden has called for a “reality check”, saying that while the status is “desirable” it would not stop development, and the only action Unesco could take “in the face of destructive activity” would be to withdraw the designation.

It also it might be too late for Culloden to gain World Heritage status due to building that has already taken place. A spokesman said: “The Historians’ Council on Culloden has considered all the advantages and limitations which the status, if achieved, would afford the battlefield.

“In brief, though the designation would be desirable, it will not protect the battlefield from development. World Heritage status is a powerful designation and one not easily achieved.

“Once awarded, Unesco keeps a keen surveillance on the sites and makes any violation of its protective status publicly known through warnings of loss of that status.

“However, the only recourse Unesco has in the face of destructive activity is withdrawal of the status. This could happen at Culloden.”

The spokesman added: “WH status can by no means be taken for granted, it is a lengthy process and there is stiff competition for the limited number of slots.

“Recent encroachment on Culloden battlefield with the housing development and a new, bright white, massive agricultural building right at Stable Hollow, where the Jacobite battle lines were formed, may already disqualify the battlefield from achieving this status.”

The Historians’ Council concluded: “The only guarantee of protection from future development of the greater battlefield of Culloden is ownership by a protective organisation which can hold it in trust in perpetuity.”

The group said it is working with the Scottish Battlefields Trust to create such an entity, which would work in co-operation with the National Trust for Scotland.