Why aren’t the SNP listening to the people’s plea to refuse planning permission for Flamingo Land?
An artist’s impression of what Station Square in Balloch would look like if Flamingo Land developers were granted planning permission at Balloch.
By Bill Heaney
A promise from a politician is said by some to be as sincere as a kiss from a lady of the night.
If the SNP politicians at every level – local, national, Westminster and now Brussels – have pledged anything on their way to victory at the polls, it has been that they would be open, transparent and, most important of all, a listening government.
Why then, may we ask, are they trumpeting the fact that they received 10,670 votes in the European election in West Dunbartonshire?
And turning a deaf ear to nearly 54,000 objections to the plans for the £30 million Lomond Banks/Flamingo Land development on the shores of Loch Lomond at Balloch?
Especially when Council leader Jonathan McColl said at the outset that he would oppose Flamingo Land and then promptly did yet another one of his infamous U-turns.
The answer is simply that they are not listening – and have no intention of listening – to the people they are about to inflict what thousands of Scots at home and abroad consider to be the biggest blight ever to be foisted on the world famous Bonnie Banks.
The plans for the desecration of Drumkinnon Bay include a 60-bedroom aparthotel, 32-bedroom budget accommodation, a craft brewery, boat house, leisure centre and restaurants, as well as improvements to public footpaths and green spaces.
Green MSP Ross Greer has visited the Balloch headquarters of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority along with concerned local people to hand over proof that these objections had been lodged on the website at his Holyrood office.
By Monday of this week, more than 54,500 people had lodged their opposition to Flamingo Land.
Mr Greer claims the number sets a record for any Scottish planning application and has called on the planning authority to reject planning permission for joint the Flamingo Land Limited and Scottish Enterprise application.
Mr Greer said: “Flamingo Land Loch Lomond is now the most unpopular planning application in Scottish history and when you look at their proposals, it’s no surprise why.
“Local residents have been joined by people from across Scotland in saying that Loch Lomond’s world famous natural beauty should be protected, not sold off for the profit margins of a private developer.
“Time and time again, it’s only the Greens standing with communities when they fight to protect Scotland’s environment against corporate takeover and destruction.
“Our campaign to save Loch Lomond will continue until the National Park reject these plans and this threat is ended once and for all.”
Lomond Banks director Andy Miller, son of Ian Miller, the retired minister of Bonhill Parish Church, has said the resort, on land currently marked for tourism development in the local plan, will be a “quality destination that respects and compliments the surrounding area”.
He added that they were “committed to seeing Balloch become the true gateway to Loch Lomond”.
Cllr McColl, Flamingo Land, protesters, leisure parks boss Gordon Gibb and maps of the proposed site at Balloch.
Proposals for a major development and the sale of publicly owned land once valued at £2 million, but now going to be sold by Scottish Enterprise for £200,000, which is a pittance given the value of other sites within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, were initially lodged in May 2018.
Following that submission asking for planning permission, which attracted of more than 30,000 objections, the developer, who owns a theme park in Yorkshire and has been involved in some very bitter public clashes with the residents of what was once a sleepy village nearby, delayed its response to the National Park’s request for changes and further details.
Final plans – including further woodland lodge accommodation – were revealed last month to the chagrin of the various protest groups who want the Flamingo Land planning application thrown out.
This is despite the fact that it is estimated the development would create 80 full-time jobs, 50 part-time jobs and 70 seasonal roles in the area.
No details of what is meant by “seasonal roles” have been released or what the pay, terms and conditions of the workforce would be, although there is speculation that – like most of the leisure industry – it would be at the bottom end of the scale.
New artist’s impressions designed to give members of the resident community and business persons have been released in the community.
However, only to some media outlets, leaving out those such as The Democrat who are trying to look at the proposal objectively and reflect public opinion have been left off the distribution list.
We have however managed to secure a copy of one of these which shows how Station Square in Balloch might look if planning permission were granted.
The proposals, which have attracted 53,000 objections via Green MSP Ross Greer, include the conversion and extension of Woodbank House to form 15 residential flats, developing six houses within the grounds and 50 lodges/bothies.
The project, which has an anticipated completion date of 2024, expects to bring as many as 80 full-time jobs, 50 part-time jobs and to 70 seasonal posts to the area.
West Dunbartonshire councillors are due to set out their position on the plans next month.
A spokeswoman told one journalist: “The council’s formal response as a consultee will be considered by councillors in June and will thereafter be submitted to the National Park Authority as the council’s response to the application.”
Meanwhile, in Balloch today business people I spoke with were despondent about the impact work carried out by the Council on the village square at Moss O ‘Balloch was having on their income.
When I suggested that it appeared the work was drawing to a close at last, she said: “They will be here for some time yet. Things are as bad as ever and shops and other traders are haemorrhaging money still here.”
When I was in Balloch on Friday, there was not a parking space to be had in the village although two vast car parks were lying empty – the one at Balloch bus stance with no buses in it and one behind the car park for the National Park headquarters which was also lying empty.g empty.