Why was Park Authority land included in the Flamingo Land application?
Investigation by Nick Kempe, of PARKSWATCH SCOTLAND
A month after the Flamingo Land Planning Application was withdrawn on 17th September (see here), I submitted an information request to clarify further the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority Board’s involvement in the whole process. EIR 2019-022 Response arrived a couple of weeks ago. It provides several insights into the Flamingo Land Planning debacle, the most important of which is about the land owned by the National Park which was included in the Planning Application.
Board and staff responsibility for the Flamingo Land Planning Application
I had wondered whether Board Members might have been briefed at various times about the Flamingo Land Planning Application. The Information Response and emails provided as an Appendix (see here) show they weren’t – at least not formally and not in writing.
While I am still generally sceptical about what the LLTNPA Board does because of its terrible record of taking decisions in secret (13 meetings about the camping byelaws before they were approved) these emails do appear to reflect levels of Board involvement. I have heard elsewhere a Board Member say they were NOT allowed to say anything about the Flamingo Land Planning Application in case this prejudiced the decision. Effectively staff have told them to be silent – the emails which tell Board Members to refer any enquiries about the Application to staff re-inforce this. This perhaps explain why Board Members never raised any of the obvious public interest questions about the inclusion of the Park’s own land in the Planning Application.
What all this tells you I believe is that the entire responsibility for addressing issues with Scottish Enterprise and Flamingo Land, including their plans for the land owned and leased by the LLTNPA, lay with senior staff.
Aftermath of the application being withdrawn
The emails reveal that Flamingo Land and Scottish Enterprise didn’t even bother to let LLTNPA staff know they were withdrawing the application before putting out a news release. After all LLTNPA staff had done to smooth the way application, Stuart Mearns’ frustration is palpable. Its not nice to be treated like a second class citizen of no importance. Perhaps this will encourage LLTNPA staff to be less accommodating to Scottish Enterprise and Flamingo Land next time?
What needs to happen?
The LLTNPA Board must sort out how its going to decide in future about whether or how its land might be included in private sector developments. While anyone can submit a private application, the need for the LLTNPA Board to take a stance on this should be obvious: what will happen if a group of people decide to submit an alternative application? Or is it just first served? Any decision making process on such land, whether at Tarbet or Balloch, must be based on public consultation and engagement about how the wider public would like to see the LLTNPA use the land it owns. The wider issue, however, is about how the Scottish Government is still allowing public land to be disposed of by the back door, with no real public consultation and without local communities being given any proper chance to take them over. That’s a Scotland wide issue. There area also specific questions about why the Scottish Government is allowing nationally owned land to be sold off in National Parks (see here for Ewich Forest at Crianlarich). It’s time to raise questions about public ownership of land: does the Scottish Government believe that flogging off public assets or allowing them to be used by commercial concerns without any consideration of the public interest is really what Scotland should be all about?