Helensburgh Advertiser:

Artist’s impression of the proposed leadership centre at Ross Priory, Loch Lomond, and above the stunning natural beauty of of Loch Lomond itself.

By Bill Heaney

Serious concerns from local people about the environmental impact of a large development at Ross Priory on Loch Lomondside have been set aside by the Loch Lomond Park Authority to accommodate the wishes of millionaire philanthropist Tom Hunter, pictured right.

Bob Darracott, Chair of the Planning and Access Committee for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “This application has been approved unanimously by the Committee, subject to conditions and a legal agreement with the applicant, following careful consideration of the planning assessment and detailed discussion. The process included hearing from speakers both in support and in objection to the proposal.

“When considering any new development in the National Park, there is always the need to strike a balance between ensuring this sensitive area is looked after while also supporting the social and economic well-being of the area.  All of the responses and advice provided by statutory bodies, community members and our own internal advisers have been carefully weighed up in the process of this decision being made.

“The application was for a unique facility of the highest architectural quality that will help secure the future of Ross Priory and its estate in the longer term, but broadening its use providing huge benefits for both the National Park and for Scotland.”

The decision was made by the authority’s planning committee on Monday, November 23, after reading a report in which planning officials recommended that the application be approved.

Conservative councillor for Gartocharn Sally Page came out against the Hunter plan.

Concern had been raised by lochside residents at the proposal for a site in the grounds of Ross Priory in Gartocharn, while the local community council and West Dunbartonshire ward councillor Sally Page lodged objections.

Objectors’ concerns related mostly to the potential impact the new buildings will have on the surrounding environment in a sensitive area of the Bonnie Banks and nearby wildlife.  When the plans were first lodged, fears were also raised around the potential for sewage discharge into the loch, though it is now understood that a compromise has been reached, with effluent set to be rerouted to the sewage works in Gartocharn.

Councillor Page said she was concerned at the number of projected major developments around Loch Lomond – including the Flamingo Land plans for the West Riverside/Woodbank House site in Balloch, which were withdrawn last year, and outline proposals for a tourism-led scheme in Tarbet, led by Optical Express founder David Moulsdale.

She said: “I’m worried about the environment – I feel it is quite ironic that we are hosting the COP 26 in Glasgow next year, and yet we’ve got these proposals for major developments all around Loch Lomond.

“West Dunbartonshire Council oversees responsibility for the Balloch and Ardlui outdoor sports centres – both of which are currently vacant and would make wonderful leadership centres. There are other options.”

West Dunbartonshire Council, according to Alexandria councillor Jim Bollan, is still forking out £65,000 a year in interest payments on the outdoor centre building despite the fact that is has been closed for some time.

Helensburgh Advertiser:

 Foundation defended its leadership centre plans for site on the shores of Loch Lomond.

Meanwhile Gavin McLellan, in a letter to local government and SNP planning minister Kevin Stewart, pictured below right, on behalf of Kilmaronock Community Council, said: “Ross Priory, a category A listed building, is located on a prominent site on the banks of Loch Lomond and lies within a designated garden and designed landscape.

“It is surprising that an application for this sensitive site on the shores of Loch Lomond has not been the subject of an Environmental Impact Assessment before the consultation process.

“The planning authority has allowed the applicant to progress with the application even though it goes against the prime principle of the National Park, to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage.”

However, the community council’s objections have been dismissed in favour of Sir Tom’s plans which, i n their submission to the authority, the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs – formerly led by the late Hannah Stirling – said they had originally had concerns about sewage discharge, but these had been dispelled by a pledge from the developer to “invest an additional £700,000 in connecting the development to the main sewage system”.

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