Flamingo Land plans "a choice between investment and decline" says council leader

The leader of West Dunbartonshire Council says plans for a £40million holiday park in Balloch represent “a choice between supporting significant investment in tourism or accepting continued decline”.

Labour’s Martin Rooney, who is a member for the village, was speaking as Alexandria Community Council gave Flamingo Land’s proposals for Lomond Banks their backing.

The veteran Lomond ward member said the project would have a huge economic benefit for the area and increase links between the village and Loch Lomond Shores.

But he admits campaigners opposing the plans have “legitimate concerns”.

Last month West Dunbartonshire Council voted to remain neutral on the project, which will be decided by Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority later this year.

Yorkshire-based Flamingo Land is seeking permission for a resort on land at West Riverside, that would see hotels, a monorail, a water park, swimming pool, restaurants, two car parks and more than 100 forest lodges built.

Artists' impression of Lomond Banks development at Balloch, proposed by Flamingo Land.
Artists' impression of Lomond Banks development at Balloch, proposed by Flamingo Land. -Credit:Lomond Banks

Opponents have long claimed the development would “wreck” the beauty spot and have more than 80,000 objections. But developers claim it would provide a much-needed boost to the local economy.

However Councillor Rooney told the Lennox that he believes that the plans would be beneficial for the area.

He said: “It has taken around 30 years to find a developer willing to invest in Balloch and there doesn’t seem to be any others on the horizon, so the (National Park) board will have their work cut out as they assess the merits of the proposed investment against the legitimate concerns from those who have raised objections.

“Improving links between Lomond Shores and Balloch Village via the West Riverside area, was a key part of the original plans for the village.

“The sizable investment in the proposal’s accommodation-led tourist attraction would have a huge economic impact for our area, especially in terms of local jobs and partnership working with businesses.

“It’s always worthwhile to hear the other side of the story.

West Dunbartonshire Council leader Martin Rooney.
West Dunbartonshire Council leader Martin Rooney. -Credit:Lennox Herald

“In the end the decision on the planning approval for the Lomond Banks development in Balloch remains with the members of the National Park Board as they are the planning authority.

“Ultimately though it is a choice between supporting significant investment in tourism or accepting continued decline.”

Councillor Rooney spoke out after Alexandria Community Council released a statement saying: “We have decided, on balance, to approve the application in principle but reserve the right to continue to scrutinise the final plans and any changes that might be made.”

They stressed however that they did not speak for the whole community.

Balloch and Haldane Community Council publicly came out against the plans earlier this year; however members of neighbouring Alexandria CC have now backed the proposed development.

In a statement they say: “The consistent issues which have been raised with us are roads and pavements, the Main Street, a lack of variety of shops, the money spent on the fountain, charges for the brown bins, parking, Lidl, Mitchell Way and the Christie Park toilets.

“Throw in the cost of living, difficulty in getting GP appointments or an NHS dentist. We can say in all conscience that Lomond Banks seldom if ever features in the concerns raised by residents living in the wards we represent.

“We have, however, been encouraged to consider the development and we have done so on the basis of how we think it would affect Alexandria.

“We make no claim that we speak for the entire community. We are simply a cross section of local people; with a long and consistent record of community involvement whose only desire is to continue to serve that community where we live and which we love and champion its best interests.

“After a stringent examination of the pros and cons of this development. We have decided on balance to approve the application in principle but reserve the right to continue to scrutinise the final plans and any changes that might be made. We would cooperate with West Dunbartonshire Council and other bodies to ensure that the promises that are made are kept.

“We also welcome their commitment to tackle parking and traffic issues with the local council and the National Park.”

An artists' impression of Lomond Banks.
An artists' impression of Lomond Banks. -Credit:Copyright Unknown

Welcoming the news, a spokeswoman for Lomond Banks said that developers were determined to work with community groups to make the plans work.

She continued: “The letter from Alexandria CC emphasised the importance of jobs, inward investment, and our commitment to partner with local businesses and we are absolutely committed to achieving these things.

“Thanks to the location of our planned development and its proximity to the public transport hub of Balloch we are encouraged to think creatively about our support for Loch Lomond becoming a destination which people won’t automatically access and explore by car.

“We are delighted to consider all the options to meet the long-held aspirations of the local community and improve connectivity in and around this area of the loch.”

Rev Ian Miller September 2012
Alexandria local Rev. Ian Miller has said he firmly backs the plans. -Credit:Daily Record

Whilst local resident Rev. Ian Miller, speaking in a personal capacity and not as a member of the CC, has also spoken in favour of the development.

In a letter backing the plans, he said: “As chaplain to the Vale of Leven Academy I watch the children leaving at the end of a school day and wonder what the future holds for them. Where will they find work?

“Lomond Banks will create hundreds of jobs, they have agreed to pay the National Living Wage and have committed to employ locally, which many who live in this community would certainly welcome.

“I have spent 49 years here. I love the place, I love the people – they have been incredibly good to me and mine. I have laughed with them at weddings and christenings, I have wept with them when they have lost a loved one.

“I can assure you I would support nothing that I believed might be to the detriment of this place.”

The deadline for objections to be submitted to the plans is this Thursday (May 30), and these can be submitted via the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park website.