IT'S best known for multi-coloured bath bombs, the waft of perfume up the High Street and being the source of last-minute stocking fillers - but now the hip cosmetics company, Lush, has got serious and joined a fierce court battle to protect Scotland's Cairngorms National Park from housing developers.

The £300 million chain, known for its handmade bath and body lotions, has donated £7000 to the legal war being waged against the Cairngorm National Park Authority (CNPA) by a local environmental group.

Lush, which has 830 stores in 51 countries, doesn't use animal fats in its products and also takes a stance against animal testing, performing tests on human volunteers instead.

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The CNPA is backing plans by developers for nearly 2000 new houses within the park. They include a development at An Camas Mor near Aviemore, with up to 1500 houses over the next 20 years, plus 117 homes in Carrbridge, 300 in Kingussie and 40 in Nethy Bridge.

But the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group, backed by two other groups, say the developments will damage ancient pine forests, heathland and wildflower meadows, as well as threaten wildlife such as wildcats, red squirrels and capercaillie. They have been locked in a tense two-year legal struggle with the CNPA, which is now due to be heard in the Supreme Court in London next year.

"Lush was shocked to hear of the large-scale development plans in this iconic, internationally important place," said the company's charitable giving manager, Rebecca Lush Blum, a veteran environmental campaigner who just happens to have the same name as her employers.

"The Cairngorms National Park is nationally loved and treasured, and is one of our last remaining wild spaces in the UK. We agree with the conservation group that this is inappropriate development in a national park." She argued that alternative sites were available for essential housing. "International and national conservation and wildlife laws must be upheld if they are to mean anything," she said. "If the Cairngorms are not safe, nowhere will be."

Lush, which has more than 90 stores across the UK and is run by millionaire Mark Constantine, saw its profits increase by £5m to £26.2m in 2012. It has previously backed a wide range of animal welfare, environmental and human rights campaigns, including the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison and anti-fracking protests.

The Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group said it was very grateful for the money, which would be a "real boost" for its legal campaign. "This is an important case for anyone who cares about the health of the Cairngorms and Scotland's natural world," said the group's convener, Gus Jones.

"When the CNPA welcomes big developers to fragile areas that support wildlife that should be cherished, someone has to stand up and object. We are outraged that the authority acts as the developers' friend and saddened that the battle to make it remember its conservation duties has been left to small local charities like ours."

The group's legal challenge arguing that the CNPA had failed to properly interpret European wildlife law was rejected by the Court of Session in Edinburgh in September 2012, and on appeal in July this year. But the group has now lodged another appeal at the Supreme Court in London.

The CNPA's director of planning, Murray Ferguson, was "extremely disappointed" that the case had again been appealed. "There have already been two court judgments, both of which resulted in the appellants' arguments being rejected," he said.

"Despite a cap on costs, this is proving costly to the taxpayer and in terms of staff time, however we will continue to defend the appeal robustly."