Conservative councillor Sally Page stepped up to the plate when Council leader Jonathan McColl went into hiding on Monday evening. Picture by Bill Heaney
By Bill Heaney
Controversial SNP leader Jonathan McColl – now widely known as Mr U-turn – failed to turn up at the meeting in Balloch on Monday evening to discuss Flamingo Land’s planning application for a leisure development in Balloch.
This was despite the fact that Balloch – the Lomond Ward – is where he was elected to represent the people of that area.
While Cllr McColl was lying low making excuses, Cllr Sally Page, the Conservative woman, who is his fellow member of the Lomond Ward, was in the White Church making hay before an audience of nearly 300 people.
Cllr McColl left an open goal for Cllr Page to shoot at – and the Gartocharn-based councillor didn’t miss and hit the wall.
She told the audience at the public meeting organised by the Save Loch Lomond campaign group that the Yorkshire leisure group Flamingo Land who had made the application to build on the 56-acre site at Drumkinnon Bay and the Woodbank Hotel was now calling itself Lomond Banks.
And that it was part of a joint development with Scottish Enterprise, a government quango.
Cllr Page said: “Over the past 18 months, I have listened to the people of Balloch voicing an almost unanimous opinion in firm opposition to this proposed development.
“Only two people that I have met have wanted the development to go ahead and that is mainly because they would like to see the Station Square improved and more jobs in the area.”
Flamingo Land boss Gordon Gibb and Station Square, Balloch.
She added: “I agree that Station Square could be much improved from how it is stands now, but it does not need to be changed totally.
“We need to keep those 100 parking spaces as they are filled every day at this time of year and most of those coming [to Balloch] use our cafes and shops.
“Cameron House when it is re-built will be recruiting over 300 staff. This is a sound employer, offering good opportunities of work for local people.”
Cllr Page said the residents of Balloch had for generations enjoyed easy access to the banks of Loch Lomond across the grass and through Drumkinnon Woods.
She said: “This is precious to the people who live here but should this development go ahead Balloch will lose something that that people hold dear.
“Not everyone jumps on a plane to go on holiday.”
Cllr Page said: “Balloch’s charm would be compromised by over development. Residents who enjoy where they live would have something taken away from their lives.
“This is no way for the Scottish government to treat people.”
She added: “I have concerns too about the roads and about the ability of the police to cope with an additional influx of people each weekend.
“I am worried too about the standard of what Lomond Banks proposes to provide.
“A £35 million spend seems a modest amount of money.”
Cllr Page said she was also worried about the inability of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Park Authority’s inability to talk to local residents in an open manner – “we live here and must be listened to.”
She had spoken about this with Scotland’s environment minister Roseanna Cunningham who had passed her on to a civil servant, and she still had heard nothing from him.
An area designated for tourism did not need to be any more than a well-cared for piece of ground with picnic tables and litter bins – “people came to Loch Lomond for its natural beauty.
“Less is more in a National Park. There are no figures either from Visit Scotland or the Moffat Institute to justify statements that we do not have sufficient self-catering accommodation here to cope with the number of visitors.”
Cllr Page said that she and Nick Kempe of Parkswatch Scotland had attended a Park board meeting last week and had left extremely concerned about the way the planners would handle this application.
“They couldn’t even find us a date for a visit to the site,” she added. “Lomond Banks should look for an alternative for their project, but it should not be on this site here.”
They had contacted the Scottish Land Commission’s Andrew Thin at the Land Reform Roadshow and were told that a community land buy out would be unlikely to be supported in order to stop a development such as the one being proposed for Balloch.
- Cllr McColl and his SNP colleagues on the Council and in parliament were still not available for comment today. Flamingo Land and their millionaire boss Gordon Gibb too are playing their cards close to their chest. Scottish Enterprise turned down an invitation to write an article explaining their position in this matter. The Park Authority say that since the planning application is still “live”, they are prevented from making any comment.