Highland Council's planning committee yesterday approved outline permission for the development of almost 5000 homes, about 120 acres of parks and other open spaces between Inverness and Nairn over the next 40 years.
The community at Tornagrain would also include five schools and other amenities including libraries, churches, healthcare facilities and community halls.
But during an ill-tempered meeting, nine of the 19 councillors on the committee asked for their dissent to be noted. There were claims they were being disenfranchised, as legal advice was that they could only make limited material objections in planning law at this stage.
They were told if they refused permission, the developers would appeal and would be likely to win, with huge costs having to be borne by the authority. This is because a new town is in the council's development plan.
Jim Crawford, Independent councillor for Inverness South, wondered why the committee had bothered having a site visit and a meeting.
Work on the project will be phased, with each new section requiring a new detailed planning application. It is scheduled to last between 30 and 40 years at a total cost of £1.3 billion.
The developers, Moray Estates, appointed American master planner Andres Duany to design the new town.
Mr Duany is a founder of the Congress for New Urbanism movement, which promotes traditional, pedestrian-friendly cities and influenced the building of Poundbury, the Prince of Wales's model village near Dorchester.
The Tornagrain concept is of "compact walkable neighbourhoods with individual character and identity set within a town that would be largely self-sufficient with regard to retail, social and servicing needs", according to the planning papers.
The proposed Inverness Airport Business Park would be just across the A96 and developers argue this would provide employment.
However, five of the six local community councils objected to the plan, and the sixth did not comment.
Local Independent councillor Roddy Balfour said yesterday the plans were attractive, but added: "It is too much in one place. To have five communities of 2000 each would be much more desirable. No local people are in favour.
"To my mind this is an essentially speculative venture. It will inevitably become a satellite of Inverness."
Other councillors were concerned at the loss of prime agricultural land, but officials said the Scottish Government had made provision for that.
There was support for the plan, with another councillor, Labour's John Ford, claiming it was very imaginative.
Andrew Howard, managing director of Moray Estates, said: "We're pleased we have the final go-ahead. This is just one part of the process and we know we have a lot of work to do to create what will be a special place.
"The detailed planning application next year will answer a lot of the questions the councillors have."