NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
Fly away Peter, fly away Paul. There is a report somewhere this week that tells us the £1 million goose sculpture by Sandy Stoddart on the A82 at Stoneymollan Roundabout near Balloch is being removed.
Some Philistines, whom one newspaper describes as ‘community leaders’, have deemed that it should be scrapped and replaced with something more fitting at the entrance to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. What do they know?
I don’t remember any public consultation about this, do you? Did you vote for this or fill in a form in response to a letter from West Dunbartonshire Council or the National Park Authority?
No, neither did I or anyone close to me.
I do recall though when this work of art by Sandy Stoddart was being mooted by Dunbartonshire Enterprise to go there that I expressed the opinion in this Notebook that I didn’t think much of it. I believe I left it at that. I am no expert in modern art and Sandy Stoddart is no Damian Hurst.
However, if you make a decision like that and then go ahead with it bringing utter chaos – and three deaths no less to one of the busiest roads in Scotland – then I think you have some kind of duty to stick with it.
After all, Loch Lomond and Trossachs Park Authority, don’t have a scooby about planning matters as we have just found out by them giving permission to Sir Tom Hunter for his big and ugly glass and timber leadership and wedding venue at Ross Priory near Gartocharn.
I wonder did Sir Tom or any of his minted cronies mention something uncomplimentary about the geese and Park boss Gordon Watson overheard them and decided to act by culling the geese and cutting down the railway sleepers at Stoneymollan?
Or was it that blow-in chap from Flamingo Land lobbying for the geese to be replaced by flamingos – “on a cloud, I wanna fly, pretty flamingo”?
Anyway, it’s now going to cost us, the public, another pretty penny to replace these geese, which seemed to be a target for the boy racers who speed up and down the lochside road and crash into the roundabout while they are at it.
The ‘community figures’ are said to have branded Sandy’s work – I wonder if anyone asked him if it was okay to demolish it – an “expensive mistake”.
Un-named residents are said to have complained about this work of art since it was completed 16 years ago, claiming it was an “ugly blemish” on the Bonnie Banks and that it was a dangerous distraction to drivers.
Amey, whose job it is to look after Scotland’s main roads, and who are said to be contemplating selling the fishing rights for the rain-filled potholes they fail to fill in, have confirmed they have removed most of Sandy’s magnum opus which was damaged by a storm and is said not to be coming back.
Gartocharn Tory councillor Sally Page, who is said to have been against the Hunter Foundation’s plan is quoted as saying she was happy to see the Stoddart sculpture go, adding: “I am pleased that this expensive mistake is being removed as it had become damaged, looked unsightly and dangerous.
Perhaps emptying the bins along Loch Lomondside and repairing the potholes should take precedence over a new folly for Stoneymollan Roundabout.
“The National Park should stand out because of the natural beauty, without statues with flying geese.
“An increase in litter collection on the A82 would show we care deeply for our environment, and look after it, in order to enjoy sharing it with those who visit.”
The 15m high goose sculpture, chosen after a design competition, is said to have caused controversy when it was erected in 2005 at the cost of £820,000.
As well as it being slammed as a waste of money, environmentalists also blasted the destruction of hundreds of wild orchids which were dug up to make way for it.
A Facebook campaign group was also set up calling for its removal, with them declaring: “This prominent ugly blemish and offensive carbuncle has to go.”
That quote has echos of our great leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, coming from it, although we don’t hear much from him these days.
Last week, the group welcomed the folly’s removal with a post reading: “Bye Bye, cheerio, you won’t be missed. Just a pity they couldn’t organise a bonfire for it.”
A spokesperson for Amey, the international company responsible for maintaining the South West Trunk Road network, said: “The sculpture was removed as a result of storm damage in August 2020.
“The remaining timber crown is currently being removed and this process is expected to be completed by the end of March.
“There are no plans to reinstate this sculpture. Transport Scotland are in discussion with the National Park to discuss options for this site in the future, and an update will be provided later this year.”
A spokesperson for Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority confirmed to a local journalist that it is considering options for a replacement.
“We are working closely with Amey and Transport Scotland to agree a new design in place of the geese sculpture at Stoneymollan Roundabout and are currently considering a few options that they have presented to us.
“All of the options being considered are lower carbon, nature-based options and we are also discussing with Amey how the materials from the removed sculpture can be recycled.”
Well, aren’t you made up about that?
But do these options look good? Do they have the approval of any experts?
And, possibly, most important of all, can we afford to replace it? There will be far greater priorities for far more deserving (and aesthetically pleasing) projects in post pandemic Scotland.
The A82 and the Stoneymollan Roundabout at Balloch which has caused such a stooshie in Loch Lomond National Park. Picture by Bill Heaney