Campaigners have stepped up efforts to block plans for eight glamping pods overlooking the world-famous Luskentyre beach in Harris.
A petition started on Monday evening by the Save Luskentyre group has already gathered nearly 1,700 signatures.
It calls on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to reject the application when it is considered on September 28, to protect the “rare and fragile environment”.
What are the objections?
Andrew Bartlett wants to install the pods, each able to house four people, at 1 Luskentyre to use six months of the year.
Objectors say the development would cause “irreparable ecological damage” and change Luskentyre forever, but bring little benefit to the community.
Concerns include potential damage to wildlife and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
There are also fears over additional tourist pressure on the village’s single-track road and other infrastructure.
The Western Isles District Salmon Fisheries Board has concerns about the impact on migratory fish.
It is advising caution and is calling for an environmental impact assessment on the proposal.
Rural communities ‘need to be listened to’
Save Luskentyre member and resident Dan Parry said: “The primary attraction of the Highlands and Islands is the pristine natural environments and cultural differences.
“This constant urbanisation of rural communities is not needed or welcome.
“A harmony between tourism and the retention of a rural way of life needs to be maintained.
“These rural communities that are most impacted by high levels of tourism should be listened to.
“Allowing the transformation of every scenic area throughout the Islands into densely-populated holiday villages and caravan parks will only result in diminishing the very attraction of why people come to visit these areas in the first place.”
Local people say the scale of the proposal is irresponsible.
They fear setting a precedent for development in the village – where 57% of houses are already holiday homes or self-catering properties – and other fragile areas.
The property already has three houses and consent for an additional three holiday pods.
Proposal could ‘set a precedent’
Campaigners say, if approved, the new pods would mean 14 buildings on a site which three years ago had just one.
It could also have double the village’s entire population of 30.
Objectors claim the “indifference” of official bodies towards their concerns risks the area’s sustainability.
They say planners could use the Outer Hebrides Local Development Plan to reject the proposal.
Cathra Kelliher, owner of Borve Lodge Estate in Harris, says if the development goes ahead it will destroy the integrity of the local ecosystem and close-knit rural crofting community.
“Further, it will set a precedent for the ruination of ecosystems and communities right across Harris and, indeed, Scotland.
“Luskentyre is already full to bursting in the tourist season and this development will bring the community little or no economic benefit.
“We urge the comhairle to follow its own guidance as laid out in the Outer Hebrides Development Plan and prevent this from going ahead.”
Pods would ‘bring employment and income’ to area
In a letter to the council, the fisheries board highlights serious decline in juvenile salmon numbers in the Lacasdail River which could be affected by increased sewage.
It says several plots have been developed at Luskentyre recently.
“This proposal, including eight camping pods, will significantly add to the cumulative impact on the fragile Luskentyre ecosystem.”
Mr Bartlett argues the pre-fabricated pods will lead to “minimal increase” in traffic and will have “negligible impact” on the surrounding area.
He believes they would generate income and employment for the area.
NatureScot has said if the plan is approved plans are in place to protect wildlife and the machair on the Luskentyre SSSI.