by Roz Paterson • The bonny banks of Loch Lomond may very well be a haven of beauty and tranquillity, available to all, for free…but that doesn’t mean it can’t all be turned over to developers and turned into a theme park, y’know.
This is the era of advanced capitalism after all, and nothing is sacred.
A 20 hectare parcel of land, called the Riverside site, near Balloch has been identified as simply begging for some entrepreneurial intervention, with Flamingo Land Ltd, which runs ‘attractions’ in North Yorkshire, as the preferred bidder.
Preferred by whom? Well, certainly not those concerned that a commercial development running to lodges, restaurants, glamping pods and a boutique hotel may be at odds with protecting this area of outstanding natural beauty, nor provide a fabulous employment opportunity to its residents, nor even make it more readily accessible to the public.
Indeed, it may see a big chunk of the national park disappear into private hands, forever.
Nick Kempe, former President of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, and long-term campaigner for access and conservation legislation, believes the Community Empowerment Act offers a means of challenging the juggernaut of development. First off, by preventing the land in question being sold.
Writing in parkwatchscotland.co.uk, he comments: “One way for the local community to prevent Flamingo Land from acquiring too much power would be to request the Riverside site from Scottish Enterprise as an asset transfer.
“This would not be with a view to stopping all development from going ahead but rather to ensure the community is able to influence the development, retain control in the long-term and ensure some community development.”
If this land was publicly-owned, the local community “could refuse development in certain places, such as Drumkinnon Wood, prevent inappropriate applications being made in future and ensure community benefit through rent payments.”
Kempe is concerned that creating a theme-park at Loch Lomond runs counter to its status as a National Park.
What, after all, does a combo tower vertical drop-ride have to do with bringing people closer to the natural beauty of the Trossachs? That’s right—nothing.
The proposals are not about ensuring you and your family have a great day out, or bolstering up the fortunes of the National Park.
It’s about sucking money into the coffers of a private company, thanks to an excellent location, and low-wage workers.
On that latter point, Flamingo Land Ltd, while not notorious, is a minimum wage/seasonal contract kind of employer.
Fantastic if you’d practically pay to work in the vicinity of flamingoes, but not so fantastic if you’d like to make a living and perhaps even some plans for the future.
Flamingo Land’s chief executive, Gordon Gibb, insists his company’s ambitions will fit in with the aims of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Interesting, Mr Gibb, but hardly informative.
In fact, information is one of the key sticking points for members of the public, in that we aren’t being given a whole lot it.
You can look up Flamingo Land on the internet and try to imagine what all those fun rides will look like plopped down next to the Loch, but that is about as far as you’ll get.
Flamingo Land Ltd have provided three, tiny opportunities for the public to see their plans and respond to them.
Don’t expect a light show with accompanying 45-page booklet and power-point presentation by an accredited environmentalist.
If it’s anything like the piss-poor public consultation that preceeded the green-lighting of the M74 extension, it will be a solitary man in an empty room with some black and white charts.
Nonetheless, be sure to catch this extravaganza at Unit 7, Loch Lomond Shores, Ben Lomond Way, Balloch G83 8QL, on 4th December, the last date after we go to press, at 1.30pm and 7.30pm.
• Sign the petition here