FLAMINGO LAND: NEW PLAN FOR BALLOCH DRAWN UP BY LOMOND BANKS

Millionaire Flamingo Land boss Gordon Gibb – new plan has been  drawn up for Lomond Banks.

By Bill Heaney

Theme park operator Flamingo Land has returned to its proposed development at the southern end of Loch Lomond with a pledge to dramatically alter its previous plans, which were withdrawn in September 2019 amid a recommendation to reject the proposals and a record number of objections by 60,000 campaigners.

The team behind the proposed new Lomond Banks tourist development in Balloch has posted on its website today that it is planning to host a series of online consultation events over the coming months to share its vision and gather feedback on its latest proposals for the area.

In the first of two extended consultation periods, the consultation portal, due to open on September 28, will provide stakeholders, members of the local community and other interested parties the opportunity to engage and share their feedback on the proposals – with all opinions and thoughts welcomed by the Lomond Banks team to help shape their plans ahead of submission, with initial feedback reviewed on October 15.

On September 29, a business stakeholder event, facilitated by Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce, and led by the Lomond Banks community lead, Fiona Robertson, pictured top of page, will also take place – providing a forum for local businesses and relevant industry representatives to put forward their thoughts on the proposed Lomond Banks development.

Further to the online portal which will allow visitors to view the current plans, a planned live online session will be held from 7pm – 8pm on October 7, where the team will be talking through the plans and answering questions from the public.

Throughout the extended consultation process, the Lomond Banks team hope to convey its overall vision for the £40 million development, highlight its commitment to the community, local businesses and employability – 200 local jobs are said to be involved – whilst providing a platform for engagement and feedback from all. In addition, the team hopes to introduce its ambitions to become a green net-zero tourist destination, making it a strong and sustainable development fit for the future.

Jim Paterson, development director for the Lomond Banks project, said: “Our vision is to create a sustainable world-class visitor experience here at Lomond Banks, one in which the local community and businesses of Balloch can be proud of.

“Central to this vision is our commitment to working alongside everyone within the area, to help shape our plans and ensure that Lomond Banks benefits both the local economy and residents, as well as being respectful and in keeping with the environment around us. Our commitment to the local area goes far beyond the planning stages as we consider partnerships with local organisations, local training and employment opportunities and local businesses being key to our long-term supply chain.

“With hundreds of jobs and an investment of £40m, the economic benefits of Lomond Banks are compelling, providing a real opportunity to give Balloch and the wider Loch Lomond area a much-needed boost. We are therefore providing an extended period of time, across both consultation periods, to welcome all feedback throughout the process and are encouraging the local community, through our public consultation events, to get involved and help shape Lomond Banks, here at Balloch.”

The virtual consultation events have been designed to be as interactive as a face-to-face event would be, allowing for presentation of key project information and plans, as well as providing the opportunity for feedback and providing the local community a voice in shaping Lomond Banks further.

Access to the consultation events will be located on the Lomond Banks website, including the business event, via www.lomondbanks.com and can be accessed from September 28. Sign up to the live online event on October 7 will also be available from the Lomond Banks website.

A more informed and detailed second consultation event is also due to take place in November, to show how community feedback has shaped the development proposals ahead of the plans being submitted to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority.

Theme park operator Flamingo Land returned to its proposed development at the southern end of Loch Lomond with a pledge to dramatically alter its previous plans, which were withdrawn in September 2019 amid a recommendation to reject the proposals and a record number of objections by campaigners.

In June this year, there were plans for a display of the controversial proposals in Alexandria community centre. Then these plans were scrutinised in light of commitments West Dunbartonshire Council had made in regard to climate change.

Lomond councillor Sally Page, pictured left,  received backing for a full assessment on the plans, once lodged, is provided against the council’s climate change aspirations.

The Conservative member said: “In 2018, the council objected to the development proposals put forward by Flamingo Land.

“We set out as council our new climate change strategy in November 2020 to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2045.

“A major development such as this needs to be assessed for its sustainability.”

Flamingo Land then withdrew the application for the West Riverside site in September 2019 after planning chiefs at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park recommend it should be refused.

And also after the Green MSP Ross Greer had launched one of the most successful campaigns in history against it.

The developer’s own Environmental Impact Assessments states that there will be damage to ancient woodland, pollution of standing and running water, red squirrel and otter fatalities and more, all for for the construction of woodland lodges, treetop walkways, a hotel, restaurant, brewery, a monorail and much more, all to be built on what is currently public land but which will be sold off to the developer.

“This is about protecting our world-famous environment but it’s also about the fundamental question of who owns Scotland and who our beautiful country is for.

Mr Greer, who party are currently in a power sharing agreement with the SNP at the Scottish Parliament, added: “A large chunk of Loch Lomond is to be handed over to a private owner for the sake of a high-end tourist resort. The damage this will do far outweighs any positives.

National Park regulations need ‘overriding public interest’ to allow for damage to ancient woodland or to red squirrel and otter habitats – both of which the proposals admit will happen. Loch Lomond is a stunning environment – without the ancient woodland, the wildlife and the unspoilt views, that would no longer be the case.”

In February 2018, Mr Greer, pictured right,  met with Flamingo Land to discuss how their proposals might meet a series of tests, such as how local businesses would be supported, how the environment would be protected and how they plan to deal with traffic congestion.

He says thought had been given to addressing some concerns, for example they committed to seeking living wage accreditation and had some ideas for involvement of local businesses, and the vision was of something different to Flamingo Land’s Yorkshire theme park.

But ultimately, the proposal was still to sell off public land for profit and at the expense of ancient woodland, local wildlife and those who currently enjoy our National Park.

On access, Flamingo Land say that the woodland would be accessible for people to walk and relax as it currently is.

He added: “This may be technically true, but how much less welcoming will it be for local people to walk past the doors of holiday lodges, past corporate signage and beneath treetop walkways? Flamingo Land would unavoidably privatise public space at one of our nation’s greatest landmarks.

“Most of this land is under the stewardship of Scottish Enterprise, a government agency. It could belong to the community and there’s a lot of local interest in taking the site into community ownership.

“There are a range of visions for Balloch and these voices need to be heard. The fact that Scottish Enterprise are choosing to sell it off for a quick buck is something we must stand against.”

Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council, who was in a “maybes aye, maybes naw” situation with this issue at a community council meeting at the outset,  as he is on so many otherissues,  has refused to comment to The Democrat

Flamingo Land protest meeting in Balloch with (left to right) Jim Bollan, Community Party; Jackie Baillie, Labour MSP;  Nick Kempe Parkswatch; ,Rory MacLeod, Save Loch Lomond; Ross Greer, Green Party MSP and Maurice Corry, Conservative. Picture by Bill Heaney

 

 

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