Constituency MSP, Jackie Baillie, has objected to the proposed development by Flamingoland at West Riverside in Balloch. The MSP is lodging a letter of objection to the planning authority, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, outlining her concerns about the proposed development.
While the MSP is not opposed to development of the area, she believes that the development must be appropriate. The outline proposal by Flamingoland gives cause for a number of concerns in relation to the impact on the wider community. The MSPs objection centres on 5 major concerns.
Firstly, the land in question was purchased by Scottish Enterprise for a reported cost of over £2 million, and they are now proposing to sell the land to the developer for around £200,000. Jackie is concerned that the public money spent by Scottish Enterprise is not being recovered and that it is likely that they have already spent a further almost £200,000 in commissioning reports and plans. Additionally, she is concerned that the developer is likely to be given grants or loans by Scottish Enterprise which essentially means that the tax payer is paying for a development they don’t want.
The MSPs second concern is in relation to the area’s infrastructure. One of the major problems is that the main route into and out of Balloch is via the A82. The road already struggles to cope with the volume of traffic, especially on sunny weekends or during holiday periods when Balloch attracts a great number of additional visitors and tourists. The additional traffic on the road as a result of the new development could put the whole area at a stand still – especially on change over days when some visitors are trying to leave while others enter the area.
In addition, Jackie has outlined concerns about the insufficient parking in the area and the inadequate train service to and from Balloch Station.
Jackie has also objected on the grounds that the development could have a potentially adverse impact on businesses already established in the local area. Businesses surrounding the Flamingoland development in England have stated that the development has had a detrimental impact on their trading. The business model used by Flamingoland endeavours to keep visitors on site, spending money within the development so that other local businesses in Balloch do not benefit.
The MSP’s fourth concern is that there is not enough information from the developer about the jobs which will be created. In the first proposal it was estimated that 300 jobs would be created from the development, the revised number is just 200, a cut of one third, with almost half of the jobs now proposed being seasonal – 70 in total. The developer has been unable to confirm how many of these jobs are managerial or supervisory, and how many will be catering and cleaning staff. While they have now ruled out zero hours contracts, they have not committed to ensuring that staff are paid the Real Living Wage – originally confusing this with the renamed National Minimum Wage.
Finally, the MSP is currently working with a number of boat clubs along the River Leven to secure their place on the river in spite of any development of the area. The boat club members are mostly working class men who have worked hard to purchase boats for their leisure – unlike the super yachts found in other parts of the Loch. The Boat clubs are currently in discussion with Scottish Enterprise and Flamingoland about the terms of their new lease and Jackie wants to ensure that they are protected no matter what happens with the development. The boat clubs are hoping to secure a 100 year lease and a clause which protects the boats even if the land is sold on. At one stage, the developer had proposed to replace the boat clubs with house boats on the pontoon.
The MSP hopes that the National Park will reject the planning application, but in any case believes that an application of such significance should be called in for determination by the Scottish Government.
“It is clear that Balloch relies on tourism to support the local economy, but that does not mean that we should accept any type of tourist offer. In my objection to the National Park I have outlined a number of concerns which range from the land value, to transport infrastructure, and from jobs to the position of the River Leven boat clubs. None of my concerns have been answered by either Scottish Enterprise or Flamingoland, despite almost two years of dialogue and correspondence.
“I hope that in future a proposal will come forward for the area which complements the tourist offering already available in Balloch while maintaining access to the area for local people.
“I will continue to work with the River Leven boat clubs to ensure that no matter what is decided, their place on the River Leven is protected. And I hope that the National Park Planning Board will consider the evidence about the proposal and reject the application. Balloch deserves better. ”