Loch Lomond resort bid back on the table after Scottish Enterprise agreement
Plans for a tourist resort on the banks of Loch Lomond have been resurrected after an agreement was reached between Scottish Enterprise and Flamingo Land.
The economic development agency has been in talks with Flamingo Land subsidiary Lomond Banks since the withdrawal of a previous planning application for the redevelopment of the brownfield site adjoining the River Leven at Balloch.
Refreshed plans for the riverside destination will now be drawn up. Scottish Enterprise said the development could bring up to 200 tourism and hospitality jobs once the site is complete, as well as significant numbers in the construction phase.
The intention is to have visitor accommodation and walkways sympathetic to the local environment, with public access maintained throughout the site. The development will also provide learning and training opportunities for staff and will create links to local schools and colleges.
Scottish Enterprise hit out at “completely unfounded and untrue” suggestions that rollercoasters or flamingos were ever part of a plan for Lomond Banks.
Director of business infrastructure Allan McQuade said: “The plans for Lomond Banks present a really timely positive news story for the local economy but also for tourism in Scotland, both of which have suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic.
“This development will bring much needed employment and investment to the area, while maintaining the integrity of the local environment.”
He added: “There were never any intentions to create a theme park at Lomond Banks and rumours to that effect were not based in fact, and the developers will continue to ensure that there is full consultation with the local community.
“Scottish Enterprise has a responsibility to bring quality jobs and economic opportunity, but also to sustainability, the fight against climate change and building places for communities.
“These factors are central to everything we do, and we look forward to seeing them play a huge part in the future development of Lomond Banks.”
The arrangement follows on from the expiry of the previous Exclusivity Agreement between the two parties, which allowed the developer time to carry out necessary site investigations without Scottish Enterprise entering into negotiations with other parties.
This was signed in 2016 after a two-year campaign by Scottish Enterprise to secure a developer who would fulfil the joint ambitions of Scottish Enterprise and the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Parks Authority for a tourist attraction on the site.
The new agreement – a conditional missive – will, when finalised, oblige Scottish Enterprise to selling the land to the company upon the successful completion of the planning process.
CEO Gordon Gibb said: “Lomond Banks recognises there were misunderstandings around the previous plans and are keen that we take this opportunity to engage and work with the community to deliver a world class tourist attraction which is extremely sensitive to the surrounding area.
“We wish to reassure the community that there has never been a proposal to develop a theme park or indeed a roller coaster.”
The news comes as the local tourism sector attempts to recover from the impact of restrictions and closures as a result of the Covid pandemic.
VisitScotland’s regional leadership director (West), Jim Clarkson, said: “Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park is a huge draw for visitors to the west of Scotland, so we welcome news of significant jobs and investment planned for the area, after such a challenging year. The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism industry and has changed the lives of people right across the country.
“Our priority is to use this opportunity to reset tourism in a responsible way. We want to work with communities to ensure that visitors and locals can both have a fantastic experience when tourism starts to rebuild itself.
“Any development in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park would need to take into account the sensitive nature of the outstanding natural environment of the area, as well as any concerns raised by the local community.
“Tourism is a force for good and has a part to play in not just providing jobs and economic benefits to every corner of Scotland but also bringing benefits to wellbeing and society, both vitally important following the impact of the pandemic.”
However, MSP Ross Greer MSP who led a campaign against the plans which saw a record number of objections for a Scottish planning application, is again opposing the plans.
Earlier this month, the West of Scotland Green Party representative presented a petition signed by 13,000 people asking that it not be renewed.
He stated: “Flamingo Land’s destructive plans were the most unpopular planning application in Scottish history, with overwhelming local and national opposition.
“The developer has consistently acted in bad faith and clearly has no interest in what the local community actually wants or needs. Scottish Enterprise owns this land and as a public body they are directly accountable to the Scottish Government through the Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop.
“She must step in immediately to prevent this exclusive agreement from being renewed.
“The community are exhausted by this saga, but if forced to, they will continue to defend Loch Lomond’s world-famous natural environment from those only interested in exploiting it for profit.”