Controversial plans to build a Flamingo Land mega-park on the banks of Loch Lomond may already have broken strict environmental planning rules, leaving the development open to potential future legal challenge, according to the Scottish Greens.
Key images that would let people see how the sprawling site would look should have been included in a vital Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) when the application was submitted in May by the Yorkshire-based theme park operator.
But local MSP Ross Greer has learned that the ‘visualisations’ were missing and only uploaded to the National Park’s planning portal on August 3, months later.
Crucially, the late changes were not notified or advertised to the public, so there would be no way for people to know that they formed part of the missing EIA.
The new visualisations show the dramatic scale and impact Flamingo Land’s plans at Balloch would have on the local area, as seen from points such as across the loch and from the other side of the River Leven.
That, says an environmental and planning law expert, renders the application flawed and if it continues now without going back through the necessary steps, would leave it open to future legal challenge.
Planning law specialist Ian Cowan has submitted a detailed objection to officials on behalf of local Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer.
Mr Cowan’s expert opinion states that, as the drawings constituted a change to the EIA, the National Park are legally required to re-advertise the plans for consultation, and failure to do so would leave any final decision subject to judicial review.
In a letter he says: ‘My client therefore urges you to recommend to the Authority’s Planning Committee that the Application be refused, and gives you notice that, should it be approved, my client will consider petitioning the Court of Session for judicial review of that decision.’
Ross Greer, Green MSP for West of Scotland, has led a vigorous community campaign against the plans over the last four years, helping 60,000 people to lodge objections to Flamingo Land’s first application and most recently fundraising thousands of pounds to procure this specialist legal advice. He said:
“Ian’s work has shown that the application is even more flawed than we had realised, with confusion over key aspects such as how much ancient woodland is to be destroyed and how many car parking spaces will be created.
"The revelation of a flawed procedure around the Environmental Impact Assessment and visualisations is particularly important.
“Some of the images show just how much of a scar on the local landscape this development would be, so it's vital that they are advertised clearly and properly."
Mr Greer, who helped campaigners see off a previous application by the same developer, for the site, added:
"I'd like to thank Ian and the hundreds of people whose donations allowed us to procure his services.”
A petition against Flamingo Land has so far attracted close to 33,000 objections.