WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE COUNCIL: TARTAN TORY ALLIANCE BRINGS ABOUT RETHINK ON BALLOCH SQUARE

People found it impossible to negotiate their way into businesses in Balloch.

 By Bill Heaney

West Dunbartonshire Council have abandoned plans to make major changes to Balloch Station Square after residents voiced concern that it would attract large unruly crowds in summertime.

Council SNP administration leader Jonathan McColl is said to have welcomed the move and has been quoted in one local newspaper as stating that “common sense has prevailed”.

That would have to be predicated on the fact that common sense was there already and most people who have seen West Dunbartonshire Council blunder through one “improvement” after another in Balloch are far from convinced of that.

They are fed up to the teeth with disruption caused by roadworks, which have brought traffic chaos in the village, and caused the Lomond Bridge has been shut for more than a year.

Cllr McColl has taken a great deal of flak for what has happened in the past appears to be seeking to put the electorate’s mind at rest before the May election and tried to ensure there will be no more blunders in the offing.

He shares the Lomond seat on the Council with the Conservative councillor Sally Page, who draws most of her support from Gartocharn and the east side of Loch Lomond where she lives.

The millionairess has been busy in recent months lobbying the Park Authority and other organisations of influence against proposals by Sir Tom Hunter for a leadership centre and wedding venue at Ross Priory.

Plans to improve Balloch Station square have been abandoned amid protests.

Flamingo Land, aka Lomond Banks, came up with an artist’s impression of their vision for Balloch Square before their application for a multi-million leisure development  around Drumkinnon Bay foundered on a sea of public disapproval, which included at least two well-attended public meetings in Balloch.

Improvements to the square in that scenario included widening pavements; the installation of new street furniture and street lighting, as well as new traffic calming measures on Balloch Road.

Cllr McColl, is quoted to have said later: “[Council] officers have agreed to shelve plans for disruptive works that would have seen the road and pavements dug up and replaced, causing more mayhem in Balloch.

“Local people and those travelling to and from the area have had enough, and when the Lomond Road bridge reopens towards the end of April/beginning of May, that should bring some welcome relief and
not herald the start of yet more misery.”

Misery was not a word anywhere near Cllr McColl’s lips when the roadworks further up were underway and when residents and business owners complained bitterly about the situation which has meant loss of business and public access to their premises being cut off.

Cllr McColl refuses to answer questions from The Democrat, but he is reported to have told one journalist: “Sally and I have asked officers to instead look to clean up the area and make changes that won’t cost the earth, such as moving bins to better locations, improving the signage and ensuring there are adequate toilet facilities available.

“We rely on tourists and will do so even more as we seek to recover from economic effects of the pandemic, but making the area inviting for tourists needn’t make life difficult for our constituents.”

Tory councillor Sally Page and SNP council leader Jonathan McColl.

Conservative councillor Sally Page now appears to be working hand in glove with the SNP to put matters right in Balloch before the villagers go to the polls to choose between tartan or Tory.

She is reported to have agreed that a tidy up of the area was the best way forward at the moment.

And she is said to have insisted more public facilities are required in the area.

Sally – everyone appears to be on first name terms – said: “This pleases me very much as I had been the one to propose, supported by Jonathan McColl, that we just do a very basic tidy up at low cost as the people for Balloch do not want any further disruption.

“I have stressed to the regeneration team the best thing they could do for Balloch is persuade stakeholders such as Scottish Enterprise, the council and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park that more public facilities are required.

“Local residents should not be faced with human waste when they go out for a walk.  The Slipway Café in Balloch Park must be open this summer and the toilets in Balloch Castle must be fully operational.

“Scottish Enterprise could install public toilet facilities into the red sandstone old station building.

“The national park should open their ground floor toilet facilities to the public, the pressure on Balloch is huge and we must be ahead of the game. We want visitors to enjoy Balloch and locals not to be negatively impacted.

“I have also made a plea that facilities be made available in Balloch for camper vans to discharge their dirty water.”

The councillors project will be reconsidered after next year’s council election.

He is said to have added: “At that time, if I am one of the local members for the ward, whether in administration or opposition, I will be asking officers to run another full consultation on this and I would expect that the wishes of local residents, businesses and other stakeholders are respected.”
A council spokeswoman – they too refuse to speak to The Democrat – said: “Following consultation with the local community, we have taken on board feedback about ongoing disruption due to works in the village and in response have delayed the planned regeneration of Balloch Station Square.  We will take small steps to enhance the area ahead of the summer season, with the wider project being reconsidered
in the future.”

One comment

  1. If Cllr Jonathon McColl, as his statement suggests, thinks he is going to lose his seat, or that his administration is going to be replaced, then he most certainly is sending a message that he, and or his party, are unpopular.

    Not exactly the type of message you would expect in the run up to a Hollyrood Parliament election some 7 weeks away in May. The local SNP candidate Mr Giuliano will not I think be exactly enamoured with quotes like this.

    But Jonathon McColl is possibly right. The missives for the sale of land to Flamingo Land were signed despite a firestorm of local and national opposition to the development proposal.

    Moreover, in recent weeks there is now a suspicion that the removal of the flying geese at Stoneymolan Roundabout is a prelude to trunk road modifications that will allow more traffic to enter Balloch and the Flamingo Land development.

    Indeed the huge reinforcement of new power cable capacity into Balloch a few years ago further supports a similar suspicion that Flamingo Land was a done deal and the cable installations were being done to provide the extra power needed for Flamingo Land.

    But who knows. It is all too often a secret. Just as the price of the sell off of public land to Flamingo Land is a secret. And who will be the party of administration in 2022. Council elections. Well that’s a question, same as to who will be the party of administration in a Hollyrood later this year after May.

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