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July 3, 2019

People-powered objections

Communities at the south end of Loch Lomond claim they are fighting the most unpopular planning application in Scottish history – and with 56,000 registered objections it seems a reasonable claim to make. And with Scottish Enterprise apparently paving the way for the £30m commercial development by absorbing a significant loss to the public purse on the acquisition costs of the land, the community have good reason to be concerned – even with West Dunbartonshire Council’s recent unanimous rejection of the application.  Local planning democracy being swept aside by commercial expediency? Surely not.

Martin Williams , The Herald

Objectors fighting plans to block a controversial £30m development at Loch Lomond say they will stage a campaign of civil disobedience in a bid to prevent it from going ahead.

The warning comes as The Save Loch Lomond campaign group unveiled moves to begin crowd-funding for a legal challenge in an attempt to block the proposed Flamingo Land holiday resort.

The move was announced by Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer as more 250 people packed Alexandria Parish Church in a two-hour meeting to discuss the project, renamed Lomond Banks which is being considered by the Loch Lomond and the National Park Authority.

The development, a joint venture between Scottish Enterprise and Yorkshire-based Flamingo Land features a water park, 60-bedroom apart-hotel, a craft brewery, boat house, leisure centre and restaurants.

The development came as West Dumbartonshire councillors were today expected to consider what response to make to the project as a consultee.

Officers have suggested a response that says the resort would be “real boost” to the local economy but could exacerbate traffic problems.

The public meeting last night began with a request from the chairman, Rory MacLeod of Save Loch Lomond to remember that they were in a “house of God, so moderate your language”.

He said the national park authority intimated felt it was “inappropriate” to attend the meeting while it was a live planning application.

And he said he was “amazed at the numbers” attending, which he claimed amounted to 267 people.

The potential judicial review was raised after one resident asked if legal action could be taken to prevent the project from happening.

Mr Greer, who launched a protest petition signed by 56,225 people, said he and Labour MSP for Dumbarton Jacquie Baillie wanted the Scottish Government to intervene before the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park make a final decision.

But the West of Scotland MSP said that a judicial review, which he described as a legal challenge to the process costs £100,000 describing the process as “cripplingly expensive.”

After one resident suggested that it be crowdfunded, Mr Greer asked if people would support that.

After a loud shout of “yes”, Mr Greer, who had earlier described the proposed development as the “most unpopular planning application in Scottish history” added: “On behalf of the campaign, I am more than happy to commit.

“Save Loch Lomond will launch a crowd-funder for the next stage if required,” said Mr Greer who said he believed a judicial review was an option. “We will go all the way.”

Earlier there was applause for Jim Bollan, a Community Party councillor on West Dunbartonshire Council who suggested that civil disobedience was also an option if the authorities do not listen to the public

“It will destroy the southernmost tip of Loch Lomond.

“When you live in a so-called democracy and the establishment don’t listen to you, it is a well-known principle that you are allowed to be involved in civil disobedience,” he said

“Not only civil disobedience but you are allowed to get involved in non-violent direct action to state your case.  We need to bear that in mind and hope it doesn’t come to that and we win the argument.

Ms Baillie raised concerns about Scottish Enterprise potentially selling the 20-hectare site at West Riverside, Balloch, for the development for £200,000 when it was previously purchased for £2m.

“It is ridiculous that you the taxpayers are paying for a development that you potentially don’t want,” she said.

“I asked whether the Scottish Government would call it in, because I have more faith in the Scottish Government than to leave it locally because it is such a significant application.”

In answer to a resident who questioned why the land could be sold so cheaply, she said: “Ideally I would have wanted them to stop the sale of that land, particularly at a bargain basement price.”

One resident, Sid Perrie, a 55-year-old musician, got up and faced the crowd and said: “I have been driven to despair. My health has suffered for trying to fight this.

It is a disaster. It is the worst thing to happen to this area.

“We need to take this on Wednesday to the council offices to let them know how we feel.”

Another resident said: “We have to unite as a community to oppose this because what we are doing if we do not is killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

“It is not just precious to us locally, it is precious to the whole of Scotland and this world.

“There are no words can come out to describe the anger I feel and the emotion that other people feel.  This planning application is bonkers and it is driving people like me to despair.”

Maurice Corry, the Conservative MSP for West Scotland, said that it was important to take an alternative plan to the National Park board.

“I am a local lad. I was born and bred in Helensburgh. All my children were born in the Vale of Leven Hospital.  I love Loch Lomond.

“I have run around it and been up Ben Lomond,” he said.

“So, therefore, it means a lot to me and I think it is excellent that we are trying to preserve the goodness and greatness of Loch Lomond.”