The tiny coastal island of Eilean dà Mhèinn sits in peaceful Loch Crinan, just 100 metres of crystal-clear water separating it from the village of Crinan and its bustling harbour of little sailing boats.

Spanning just over seven acres, with a cluster of towering pine trees overlooking its rocky shore, and a single whitewashed house at its heart, it is perfectly positioned in an area designated by planning experts as Very Sensitive Countryside, and within Knapdale National Scenic Area.

Few might blame anyone lucky enough to live in such glorious surroundings from wanting to make the most of this corner of heaven on earth.

But plans by the island’s owner to construct a garden room in its secluded glen, described as a “magical hollow” tucked between two walls of rock that cut through the south of the small island, has brought tensions bubbling to the surface and unleashed a flood of objections seemingly at odds with such a small building.

Next Friday Argyll and Bute Council’s planning committee will gather at the council’s Kilmory headquarters in Lochgilphead to consider a proposal for a garden room at Eilean dà Mhèinn.

Swirling around it are almost 130 comments from objectors and supporters – a significant number for such a small community - almost split straight down the middle between those who support it, and those vehemently opposed.

Unlike most planning rows that tend to prompt so many to put pen to paper, the design of the small garden room itself is not the biggest problem. Intended to reflect its natural surroundings and constructed using locally sourced wood to help it blend in, its woodland cottage style could have fallen straight from the pages of Grimms' Fairy Tales.

Already scaled down following objections, according to the island’s owners – who in 2016 became just the third to own the island in seven decades - it is intended as a quiet retreat to write, create and for visitors to freshen up.

Instead, what has irked objectors is the recommendation from council’s planning officials that it be simply rubber stamped for approval – in direct conflict to the authority’s own planning policies drawn up to protect and control development in some of its most precious landscapes.

That has sparked concerns that casting aside policy intended to protect a delicate area from all but a handful of specific developments will open the floodgates for more and possibly even bigger proposals.

And they argue that, in turn, could lead to a whittling away of the very qualities which makes their wild corner of Scotland so special.

It’s a debate that is occurring elsewhere in Scotland as pressure mounts on rural locations, particularly where there is rising pressure to provide holiday homes for tourists and where existing accommodation has been snapped up by people relocating from elsewhere and keen to create their idea of a west coast idyll but unaware of its impact on fragile communities.

As result, next week’s planning meeting is being seen as a crucial moment for not just the area around the small village of Crinan, but for other small west coast areas trying desperately to cling on to what makes their untamed landscape so special.

“This seems like a small-scale planning gripe, but policies have been specifically designed to protect the quality of the landscape,” argues Alexi Murdoch, who lives in Crinan and is one of more than 60 objectors.

“The west coast is one of few places left where people still live close to such wild and remote landscape.

“We’re famous for it. It’s why people visit here from all over the world. I’d say landscape is perhaps Scotland’s most precious national resource and we should be doing everything we can to protect it.

“The thing is this is something the Scottish Government fully recognises and provides for in its National Policy.

“So when there’s clear Council policy—as there is in this case—that’s been carefully written to protect sensitive areas, not just here, but across the whole of Argyll & Bute, it’s really disappointing to see it being brushed aside by the very Planning officers whose responsibility it is to apply it.

“Especially if you consider the corrosive effect such a precedent would set create the council’s ability to apply it going forward. I just hope councillors will spot the error here, make a course correction, and uphold this key bit of policy.”

At the heart of the row is the island’s location within an area defined by Argyll and Bute Council’s own adopted Local Development Plan as ‘Very Sensitive Countryside’.

That, according to the council’s policy, restricts development to a handful of categories: renewable energy, telecoms, agriculture and nature conservation and small developments related to sport and recreation.

It also sits in one of Scotland’s designated National Scenic Areas, a collection of 40 areas dotted around the country defined as areas “of outstanding scenic value in a national context” for which special protection measures are required.

Amid growing pressure for rural development, however, has sparked rising concern how strict those protections are.

Although on a much grander scale than this, earlier this year Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee approved a controversial application from German energy company WKN GmbH for a nine-turbine wind farm on the Sallachy estate within Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area despite objections that it flew in the face of the special designation.

While in September, the National Trust for Scotland called for the nation’s wild land to be better protected amid fears that a revision of the Scottish Government’s planning policy, the 4th Scottish National Planning Framework, would adversely affect some of Scotland's most beautiful areas.

More recently, outdoor charity, the John Muir Trust, has echoed concerns, highlighting “vague language” in the framework surrounding potential renewable energy developments in wild land areas which it says leaves planning policy dangerously exposed to manipulation.

It added: “The Trust will be seeking to challenge the language in the policy and its implementation to make sure that wild places have a voice at the table and don’t pay the ultimate sacrifice.

“We need to be convinced that any development is absolutely necessary and that there is absolutely no alternative before destroying our finite wild place resources.”

Meanwhile, back in Crinan, the island which for almost 70 years has seen almost no development, is now in the spotlight.

Its owners, Sally and Richard Stein, who have already extended the island's 1940s cottage, are defending their garden room proposals: “We are fortunate to call Eilean dà Mhèinn home, a beautiful location, of importance to the natural environment and the local community,” they say.

“We recognise our responsibility to preserve and enhance the natural environment and will continue to do so working in partnership with the local authority.

“We have been receptive to both positive feedback and some concerns shared by some of our neighbours and have modified our proposal in an effort to address these concerns.

“The planners inform us that our proposal complies with planning policy, and we await the outcome of Friday’s hearing.”

But the nagging fear remains among objectors, however, that the go-ahead could open the doors to a much bigger problem.

“It doesn’t take much to change a place,” says Mr Murdoch.

“In the blink of an eye we look up to find that this wild coastline, with its remote bays and islands, the ancient empty hills we still climb to overlook the same views our ancestors did—all the things that make this place so stunningly special—have become just built up like everywhere else.”