20,000 people say Drumkinnon Woods should not be sold off to developers
Crowds gather at Drumkinnon Woods in Balloch to discuss the Flaming Land plans.
BY BILL HEANEY
The leader of the campaign to stop Drumkinnon Woods at Balloch on the shores of Loch Lomond being sold off to theme park company Flamingo Land announced tonight (Wednesday) that he was stepping back from the role. Bruce Biddulph, pictured left, who has been the driving force behind public demonstrations and a social media campaign which has attracted almost 20,000 signatures and counting, says he is “burnt out”.
The passionate Scot, who works as a night porter in a Loch Lomondside hotel, added: “I will no longer be answering questions or debating. I am a private citizen like everyone else. I can do no more, except continue by expressing my own opinions in the press and where appropriate. I did not want to end up being someone who led campaigns. I only ever wanted to raise the questions no-one was asking and highlight the abominable situation this has become.
“The rest, is up to the people of this valley [Vale of Leven] and the people of Scotland.”
Members of the Balloch community council will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, June 19, at 6.45pm in Alexandria Parish Church.
The Loch Lomond National Park Authority headquarters at Carrochan Roundabout was to have been the venue but it does not have the seating capacity to accommodate the large numbers expected.
It was anticipated that the meeting would provide a platform for the public to express their views on the proposed project before an application for planning consent in principle goes before West Dunbartonshire Council at a public meeting at the new council offices in Church Street, Dumbarton, pictured below, at 6pm on Thursday, June 28, at 6pm.
Local residents have been told that if they wish to speak at that meeting, they must submit the narrative of what they propose to say 11 days in advance of that meeting.
However, on Wednesday, Cllr Ian Dickson said discussion of the Flamingo Land project was being delayed until August – “The main reason for the delay in coming to Council is because WDC planners will need to assess the application against our own local plans etc.
“There is a breadth of views from councillors I’ve discussed it with, and many are still conflicted about it. Lots of people are contacting me about it and putting forward their arguments both For and Against it.”
Bruce Biddulph complained that he had been told nothing of this – “Are we to be expected to carry this can [for] another month, with the possibility that yet again council will not be raising this [then].
“I am burnt out with this and council have far more resources than us. We’ve done our bit. It’s the council should be pulling out the stops to do theirs. August is a tad late in the day is it not?”
Confusingly, Cllr Dickson then said: “Oh, the council will certainly be discussing it. The agenda for the June council meeting is due to be published any day now.”
Bruce Biddulph replied: “Hold on, this is confusing. Will council debate this, discuss this? Are the public to be informed and included in any way at this June meeting?
“What may seem obvious to the councillors is not obvious to us? What is happening in this month’s meeting and will the public get clarity?
Drumkinnon Bay, where trees to the left of the picture were insensitively felled without permission.
“Forgive my naiveté, but I was of the notion [that] this month would see council discuss, debate, decide and at the very least, open this up so the public have at least the idea they can express to council and have their councillors express their views and if possible act as enablers to enable public discussion and process involvement? Because without council publicising anything other than wait and see, the public need someone else to lead and inform debate and process, and frankly, I’m burnt out.”
Representatives from Flamingo Land, National Parks, and Scottish Enterprise have been invited to attend the community council meeting where the jointly submitted application, which seeks to create a park with a hotel, houses, holiday lodges, a brewery and a monorail will be discussed.
Demonstrators at a public meeting on the loch shore on Tuesday night made it clear that Flamingland were not welcome in Balloch.
The issue was linked to the austerity cuts and redundancies announced by WDC.
One trade unionist said: “What is currently a glorious piece of land that is free for all [to use] will soon become private property that our local weans won’t be able to afford to access.
“Foodbanks to feed them in the summer holidays, zero hours contracts awaiting them when they leave school [are planned for them].
“If this goes ahead they will have nowhere to play, paddle and have picnics all year round. I think we can do better for the future generations in West Dunbartonshire.”
Bruce Biddulph said: “A large group of people, of all backgrounds, came down to the now ruined Drumkinnon Bay (it has recently been all but destroyed) to gather together to link hands round the bay and to exchange views. I was honoured to speak to people who feel passionately about their area and Loch Lomond.
The Bonnie Banks looking north from Drumkinnon Bay.
“I took away one very real perception. And that is that the National Park, our elected reps, all those with real authority and power in our area have let the people down.
“Some who came knew nothing about the processes of planning; some had no idea that the land was even being sold in the first place.
“This is a disgraceful indictment of the way we are governed by the interests of remote quangos that unfortunately are not so remote in the effects of their decision making and behind the scenes moves.”
He added: “Let there be no doubt here. This sale is as we always said it was, a done deal. This sale is underhand, and the reason it is underhand is not about corruption but silence.
“Silence permits evil. And it is evil to sell off riverbanks, loch shores and bays and ancient woods. It is evil to say to people, this is no longer yours, but have a job as a cleaner instead and expect the public to not only accept this but embrace it.”
He said it was not evil in itself to promote development – “It is however evil to be fully aware of processes, implications and outcomes yet deem it right not to share that with the public before expecting them to agree to the decisions of officers of state (for that is what they are) when those decisions are based on selling off public assets and disfiguring the very nature and heritage of a place as important as Balloch, as nationally important as Loch Lomond and as dear to people’s hearts the world over as any monument or well-loved public figure.
“The people have NOT been informed properly. What we have seen is box ticking compliance with rules that in no way whatsoever are concomitant with the enormity of this land sale.”
He added: “This is no mere planning decision. This is a National Park, this the people’s land and their heritage and memories. [It has been deliberately] skewed and harmed in the press by association with former railways and a factory long gone. The image of this area was deliberately incited by Scottish Enterprise to suit their objective, to sell of land they call brownfield. It is by no stretch of any imagination brownfield, only in the warped imagination of those that are hungry to buy it and those that are charged to sell it.
“The reality on the ground (see picture left) is trees, woods, shores, beaches, picnic areas, woodland paths and walks and access that has been freely enjoyed and, if not officially adopted, adopted by the people and their regular use and enjoyment.
“A quango has disfigured this reality to a false perception, aided and abetted by the proposed purchasers who have poisoned the waters with visions of a post-industrial wasteland. How dare they? But they dared and it suits Scottish Enterprise.”
Bruce Biddulph said: “It seemingly suits our local politicians and those that have the tools and information to inform the public. Why? What is it that drives them to sell this off and enable its sale? What have they got to hide that they are not calling major meetings with the public and PROPER full consultation.
“The charettes [public consultations] did not answer to this, and the PAN consultation is a sham. The whole process to date has been a sham and the people know it. They know that much. For the promises made to us, the people of Balloch, the visions we were led to believe in have all gone, swept to the side, eradicated in favour of a land grab, a sell off, a profiteering venture. The transfer of public good and assets to private hands. Forget what is to be put on the ground, forget it entirely for the real issue here is the sale.
“The sale is immoral, it is an unconscionable disgrace. It is an evil.
“I challenge and charge the elected representatives, at all levels, of all colours, and the paid salaried officials of the two quangos, Scottish Enterprise and the National Park, to do their duty to the public. The public pay your wages. The public must not be fed and reared in the dark like mushrooms.
“Do your civic duty and properly inform, set up real and purposeful public meetings, explain all of this honestly and in terms that are not couched in corporate speak and the language of the civil servant bewitching the ignorant.
“If there is one citizen out there who is not informed, yet supports this, you have failed and are fraudulent in your role.
“Answer this challenge, or be shamed and damned as the facilitators of private profiteering over the commonweal.
“We thought in this nation of Scotland we did things differently, that we respected the commonweal, that we believed in community empowerment and the ability of the public to decide when fully informed and participating.
“Your silence tells us you, the officers, the reps, the people in the know that so far have done NOTHING to engage PROPERLY and inform and then speak, do not believe in that. Your complicit silence. Will you do good, or will you permit evil?”
Despite the fact that this development was first mooted more than two years ago, the council planners are seeking additional information from the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park regarding the application submitted to them.
Who are the people who have supported the petition because it has been suggested that large numbers have no connection with Balloch or indeed West Dunbartonshire?
Bruce Biddulph said: “I’ve had a quick rundown of the numbers who have signed the petition objecting to the sale: Around 960 identified as living in West Dunbartonshire, 2,500 in Glasgow. The rest are made up of addresses in Scotland, England and the rest of the world, the majority in Scotland.
“These are significant figures for an online petition that is specifically worded to object to the sale itself. Substantial numbers also come from around the rest of the Clydeside area. Some of the towns may not be identified so I’ve only included in the above identified towns for West Dunbartonshire.
“In total there are just short of 20,000 signatures. I have therefore decided that the time is right to deliver this petition and I shall be notifying Paul Wheelhouse [The Minister] and our own government and delivering this to them via email.
“Once this has been accepted, I will announce this too. Thereafter I will contact the press and make a statement regarding the delivery of the petition.
I will then step back. I have too much to do in my own life. The awareness raising of course I will do in letters to the press, but this is a subject everyone has to take part in for the democratic will of the people to count.
“I urge everyone to go to the planning page, look at the plans and make their own decision on how to respond, bearing in mind that this is a planning in principle application and that the issue here is not only what is being built on the ground (which is some way off if it ever happens) but the issue of selling our land in the first place, a profoundly important area of this village and region on Loch Lomondside to a company.”
The links are https://eplanning.lochlomond-trossachs.org/…/application
Valid objections can be made on the following grounds:parking or access; scale, massing, design siting (location within the site) and materials; use of the land/buildings; residential amenity (noise, overshadowing); public amenity and landscape plus environmental impact.
If you want to sign the petition, it will remain open for some time, I may leave it open for the entire duration of this saga: https://www.change.org/p/scottish-government-to-the-scottis…