The potential impact of Flamingo Land’s proposals on the National Park

Aerial view of the proposed development area included in he scoping report from Peter Brett Associates

At the beginning of April, Flamingo Land (see here for most recent post and links) asked the Loch Lomond and National Park Authority whether an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) would be needed for its proposed development at Balloch  (see here)   The response of the LLTNPA on 13th April (see here) was that a full EIA will be required:

 

The development is permanent and will have an impact on a large area (33.5ha) and will have an impact on both visitors to the National Park, residents and businesses.  The proposal is complex and large scale.  The construction period is likely to be long and any impacts during construction will be prolonged in terms of construction traffic, noise and pollution.  The operation of the development also gives rise to potential significant environmental impact in terms of landscape impact, traffic increase and noise nuisance

 

The response was rapid I believe because the LLTNPA could hardly have said anything else.    So, what can the concerned public learn from the 125 pages of report submitted with the request for a screening opinion?

The most striking thing about this proposed development in our National Park is its size, 33.5 hectares, almost twice the size of the West Riverside Site marketed by Scottish Enterprise (map above).  What the top photo illustrates graphically is how Flamingo Land, through its purchase of Woodbank House, has in effect gained control of all the undeveloped land on the north west side of Balloch and its proposed development will effectively surround Loch Lomond shores.   Its power will increase further if Scottish Enterprise, as its proposing, eventually sells it the West Riverside Site. Land.   In effect the southern gateway to the National Park is being handed over to a private business.   There are legitimate questions about whether this is in the public interest and whether, whatever developments might eventually go be agreed by the LLTNPA,  the ownership of the West Riverside site should remain in public ownership or, alternatively, be transferred to the local community.

The EIA Report makes a reference to the site as being vacant and derelict – a myth that supporters of the development are using to justify the development – and states that there is a desire across  Glasgow Region to treat such land as an investment opportunity.   The trouble is the portrayal of the West Riverside site as derelict is  not true as the photo above shows.  Yes, there are pockets of dereliction and Woodbank House is in a sad state of disrepair.  While the West Riverside site may  not be the best green space in the world there is far more green than dereliction and, contrary again to claims in the Balloch Charrette, its well used by people.  Indeed much of the  greenspace is the  product of earlier restoration of what was formerly the line of the railway.

There are even pockets of wild along the shores of the River Leven.    If this is developed into a constructed river walkway, as the LLTNPA and Scottish Enterprise appears to wish, how will visitors to Balloch be able to access nature?   That is after all what the National Park is meant to be about?

 

The developers will argue that  people will still be able to access Balloch Country Park on the other side of the River Leven but this is inaccessible.   The EIA makes no mention of the long-wished for pedestrian bridge across  the head of the River Leven  which would enable people visiting Lomond Shores to access the Country Park.  That might offset to some extent the development of this site but the omission of the bridge from the EIA scoping requests indicates Flamingo Land has no intention of paying for this.

 

The EIA scoping Report is very vague about Flamingo Land’s plans which are listed as follows:

 

  However, other parts of the report give an indication of what this includes.

As if the existing Drumkinnon Tower at Loch Lomond shores was not enough, the report includes an outline visual impact assessment of a 100m high viewing tower.  Its appears that to compensate for the removal of greenspace  at Balloch, the idea is visitors should be able to view nature from afar.

 

 

 

You don’t need a viewing tower to see Ben Lomond from Balloch but  any viewing tower will have a signficant impact on the views south from the Loch Lomond National Scenic Area, including from the summit of Ben Lomond.   The EIA, though, apparently believes a solution could be found: “consideration should be given as to how to mitigate expansive southerly views from this popular hillwalking viewpoint”.    A friend suggested it could be very slim and reflect the shape of a Flamingo’s neck.

There is another apparent give away in the scoping of the Zones of Theoretical Visability (ZTVs).   On the maps that depict what can be seen from where there are three references to a “chute” which occurs nowhere else in the document.   Is this why the proposed Leisure Development feature is 50m high?    Is this an enormous water slide?   It appears the Sunday Herald was fully justified in referring to the proposal as the blingy bling banks of Loch Lomond (see here).    Such evidence as can be gleaned from the EIA documents provides no re-assurance about what Flamingo Land is going to propose but what it is it appears to be an intensive tourist development.

 

Such development is, I believe,  not appropriate for a National Park.   National Planning Guidance re-inforces this:

A good reason, one might have thought, for the LLTNPA to reject the proposal but the EIA provides an indication of why this might not happen:

This reads as though the application has already been agreed, its only the fine detail that needs to be sorted out and all can be mitigated.   It makes one wonder if the 100m viewing tower and leisure development are being proposed to divert people’s attention from other aspects of the plan, which are fundamentally about development on greenspace at one of the main entry points into the National Park?   The scenario is that following the inevitable public stushi on the viewing tower, the LLTNPA rejects that aspect of the proposal and tries to market the “compromise” which follows to the public as somehow meeting the statutory objectives of our National Parks.

 

The EIA contains a number of proposals for consultation, mainly with statutory bodies – potential for lots of wheeling and dealing behind closed doors – but nothing I could see about engaging with people who care about National Parks in Scotland, including the people who signed the petition against Flamingo Land.  So, how about Flamingo Land starting their consultation by asking the public about the viewing tower and leisure chute?

 

 

9 Comments on “The potential impact of Flamingo Land’s proposals on the National Park

  1. Balloch and lomond Shores in our National Park are very popular. My worry is the losing of the Natural Beauty. If they have their way we are going to see walks disappearing and we shall lose access to the Loch Itself in places. Overdevelopment could be a disaster! The traffic jams on the (By Pass) are already frustrating for visitors especially every weekend. What we have is amazing! Please do not let them ruin it!

  2. Don’t worry folks – nothing will happen. We’ve been waiting 30 years for some decent development here and all we have to show is a shopping centre paid for by public funds!

  3. It’s an “economic development.” There is no “plan.” It could bust the whole banking system, crash the economy and start WW3….and it would still get the thumbs up. “Economic development” is the Planning God and all planners bow before The Almighty. However, because these sorts of developments arise on a fragmented case by case basis, and no account is made of the impact it will have on other business, it will be interesting to see who goes bust because of the competition. Dumbarton and The Vale have already felt the impacts of the displacement effect when cash flows were drawn to Lomond Shores.

  4. I wonder what not so well off families living south along the train line to Balloch feel about this proposed development? An interesting place to take the kids on a day out a short train ride away or a desecration of the natural environment?

  5. I took a walk up to view the loch the other day, and I could have cried. The whole of the west side is scarred, Balloch (or rather developments around Balloch) stick out like sores. add this proposal and we are looking at the the destruction and potential for even more once this precedent is set. The very thing that draws people to this area will be lost amid increased traffic, noise, pollution and yes, as with every expansion, more deprivation as it impacts existing business and brings in more people to displace those not particularly wanted by modern corporations and their ideas of shiny and bright. We must learn that growth is not always a good thing, in fact in a place like this it is killing to goose that lays the golden eggs. Over the past half century this area has been destroyed by developments and increased road traffic, eventually no-one will want to come and stay in what in effect is an urban sprawl.

  6. We have a page friends of Drumkinnon woods and in our minds Thier is no need to change or spoil this area in any way, it’s for locals and described on Lomond Shores website as a place to go where you feel a million miles away from everything! And that’s what it is, a haven for bluebells , plants trees etc, Thiers even been talk of a badgers set! I’m appalled this is even under consideration from any development we must have green spaces left for locals to enjoy, I’m ashamed at the agencies involved because all they are doing in lining Thier pockets whilst trying to destroy Balloch completely! Read an article in local paper today stating 2 local businesses in Balloch support it, IV spoken to plenty who don’t! Queen of the Loch is already destroying local bed and breakfasts! We don’t have the infustrutue for all this excess traffic the A82 is struggling as it is. The community could have taken ownership of some of this land and the money would have came back into our community! This will not happen with flamingo land , The director and the company are big Tories Somers , The money they will send down to Westminster could be staying here! And I don’t believe in will have a trickle down effect at all. I believe it will be temporary work for the construction side and minimum wages , seasonal work for the locals ,over 30,000 people have signed a petition against this proposal and it’s falling on deaf ears

  7. Another meaningless mail drop to local residents, or mushrooms as we are better known. Note we are at end of July no website as yet (letter drop 25th July) and also note comment on Woodbank House ownership – not shown in initial development, outlined area.
    12th July 20 1 7
    Dear Resident
    West Riverside and Woodbank Hotel
    I just thought I would update you with regard the above development since our last communication.

    Over the last 6 months our teams have been collecting as much detailed information as possible with regard
    to the site and the potential constraints.
    We submitted our EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) scoping report to the LLTNP (Loch Lomond
    and The Trossachs National Park) planning department. LLTNP submitted their response to the scoping
    document on Friday, 1 9Ih of May. In this document it outlines the areas that they would like more detailed
    information on. Our team are currently working on these reports to make sure we cover these areas
    thoroughly and get the best understanding of what can and cannot be accommodated.
    The next stage of the process will be where we submit a PAN (Planning Application Notice). When
    this has been submitted we will enter into a 12 week process and within this process we will be holding
    public consultations. This will allow everyone in the local area to come and speak with our team to discuss
    and have input into the project which will help shape the final proposals
    After this 12 week period is over, we will take all the comments made during consultation and look to
    incorporate some of these suggestions into a proposal that we can submit to the Planning Department to get
    Planning Permission in Principle.
    Ordinarily the PAN process would not include as much detail as its very early on in the process, however
    given the size of the project we are keen to get as much detailed info as possible to take to public
    consultation. We hope this will give everyone the best opportunity to envisage what could be done on the
    site.
    We are in the process of building a website http://www.iconicleisuredevelopments.co.uk which we will update as
    and when we have more information that would be of interest to everyone involved, so it will be worth you
    keeping an eye on the website. We hope to have this live by the middle of July
    Again, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
    All the best for the coming summer.
    Regards
    Andy
    Andy Miller

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