Green MSP Challenges Developer Over ‘Flamingo Land’ Concerns
Green MSP Ross Greer has asked to meet developers to discuss a series of concerns over the proposed ‘Flamingo Land’ resort development in Balloch.
Iconic Leisure Developments, acting on behalf of Flamingo Land, have been consulting on their outline plans for a tourism and leisure led mixed use development on the West Riverside, Drumkinnon Woods and around Woodbank House including woodland holiday lodges, a viewing platform and a high-level monorail. Since the plans were made public, a number of people have expressed concerns, particularly around the damage to the natural environment.
Greer’s concerns are around impact on the ancient woodlands at Drumkinnon Woods, the need for involvement of local businesses, transport and parking, wages and working conditions for staff, flood risk on the site, affordable housing and the need to retain the right to public access and use of land.
Ross Greer, Green MSP for the West of Scotland, commented:
“This is a huge development so if mistakes are made and the space is over-developed or inappropriately developed, an area world famous for its beauty could be spoiled forever and the community would suffer for it. There’s a lot at stake and it’s vital concerns are voiced and carefully considered. That’s why I’m keen to raise my concerns in person with developers.
“The plans for Drumkinnon Woods are a major issue. The woods are currently a really valuable piece of wilderness and it’s impossible to install and service woodland lodges without causing great damage. I’m also aware that there’s a lot of local concern about traffic and parking. Flamingo Land need to work with the council, Scotrail and others to ensure that the development comes hand in hand with an improvement in public transport and that parking provision meets the need.
A full list of the points raised by Ross Greer is as follows:
- Severe concerns over the loss of the wilderness and natural environment in the ancient Drumkinnon woods, not only from the lodges and other development, but also from construction work and the installation of electricity, water, sewerage and other lines of supply. The oldest part of the woods in particular are of very high natural value and the sense of wilderness needs to be kept as much as possible. This is not possible with the construction of lodges.
- Needs for involvement of local small businesses, and support for them to come together. This will require active engagement and work to identify possible local partners, and to overcome potential difficulties. In locations such as Lomond Shores and the Old Torpedo factory, outlets have proved too expensive for small businesses to make any profit. There are some welcome signs in this respect, such as the inclusion of Loch Lomond Brewery in Station Square, but ample possibility for more support for local businesses, particularly as Flamingo Land are new to the area and will need to build relationships with suppliers and partners.
- Public transport and active travel need to be more central. Engagement with Sustrans so far is welcome, and their advice needs to be taken in the design of the development. The case needs to be made to Scotrail that development must be accompanied with more 6-carriage trains and increased capacity of the line to Balloch to enable more trains at busy times. Also welcome is the thought that has been given to travel between Balloch station and the Loch. For accessibility reasons, the monorail “station” could be closer to Balloch Central, to minimise walking distance. There needs to be consideration of whether a road train or miniature railway link would be more sympathetic to the woodland surroundings than a high-level monorail system.
- Parking provision needs to be reconsidered in order to encourage other methods of transport and to prevent Balloch town being “bypassed”. If most visitors are coming in via the A82 bypass to the main car park, as for Lomond Shores now, there will be minimal benefit to Balloch. If access is mainly car-based, congestion of parking areas and the surrounding road network is likely to be a problem, as only a small net gain in parking space is planned and roads are already very busy at peak times during the summer.
- Parking near Balloch station is a problem that needs to be resolved. Many people use Balloch trains to connect to Glasgow and beyond, but there are only a small number of on street spaces and the unofficial car park by the Tourist Information shop, which looks like it will be used for other purposes.
- The developer must commit to offering a real living wage to all employees and contractors and rule out the use of zero-hour contracts. The development needs to be designed around minimising the number of summer-only jobs and there needs to be a commitment to training and routes to senior roles for West Dunbartonshire residents, particularly those from our less affluent communities. This will require work with West Dunbartonshire Council and other agencies such as Skills Development Scotland.
- Impact on scenic viewpoints. There are concerns that the viewing tower and other structures will be seen, and draw attention, from other local viewpoints, like Balloch country park, Woodland Trust woodland walk at Whinney Hill, and the John Muir Way heading east from Helensburgh, as well as from some of the Loch, and the top of Conic Hill and Ben Lomond. While it is clear that the visual impact of the tower has been modelled for a 20km radius, it has to be remembered that a viewing tower that can’t be seen from local landmarks is one that doesn’t have a view of those landmarks. The onus is on the developers to show that they can design a tower that isn’t intrusive but also provides a view of landmarks. There is an additional concern over light pollution. How can the development avoid lightening up the night sky?
- I am aware that flooding on a once-in-500 year scale is being considered by planners. I would urge this to be taken seriously in the final design, particularly given the impact of climate change. Recent Scottish Natural Heritage reports on the flooding risk across the West of Scotland and Clyde Valley show how seriously we must take this issue.
- Where residential development is planned around Woodbank House, I would urge that this is geared around local need, particularly including as much genuinely affordable housing as possible. I would also request that thought is given to removing the likelihood that this housing could be let or sublet as holiday accommodation.
- Public access: While I note the developers’ confirmation that “Flamingo Land’s proposal is to provide freedom of access round the whole site and the Loch. Public access to the woodland areas along the Riverside and Drumkinnon Wood will continue to be unrestricted” it is still the case that there will be a significant loss of freedom and de-facto privatisation of land. This is most clearly demonstrated by Drumkinnon Woods. The woodland is currently free for anybody to access for any legal leisure purpose, and this right to roam is an important principle. The introduction of lodges in the woods unavoidably negates this principle. Furthermore, there are real concerns over the loss of space for community use. If, for example, a local organisation wishes to organise an outdoor event or gathering, it inevitably would pose more difficulties. I ask for the developers to answer these concerns in full.