The Scottish Greens' Ross Greer has uncovered Scottish Government plans to offer Flamingo Land a 125 year lease on the West Riverside site at Balloch, should their controversial 'resort' proposals receive planning permission.
Greer has hailed this news as a partial victory for the Save Loch Lomond campaign and their efforts to keep the land in public hands. However, he has also warned that it is likely part of a plan from the developers and government to undermine the arguments used against their unsuccessful first attempt to build a 'luxury resort' on the site.
The change in ownership plans came to light following a Freedom of Information request made by Greer's parliamentary office. Despite heavy redactions, the documents reveal that the latest agreement between Flamingo Land and government agency Scottish Enterprise makes provision for a 125-year lease. Previous agreements between the government and developer proposed selling the site to Flamingo Land.
A previous "exclusivity agreement" covering sale of the site came to an end in December 2020. It was replaced with this new agreement despite over 10,000 people signing a petition from the Scottish Greens calling on the Scottish Government to end the arrangement. The party's manifesto for Thursday's election commits to supporting a community buyout of the site 'as a matter of urgency'.
Greer, who led the successful campaign against Flamingo Land's first proposal and is currently running for re-election as the area's Green MSP commented:
“One of our many objections to this Flamingo Land/Scottish Government project was the propose sell-off of public land at the gateway to our National Park. The news that a sale is no longer on the cards is a welcome partial victory for our community campaign. But there's no sign that they're listening to any of the sixty thousand objections lodged against Flamingo Land. These documents still talk about "four-star" woodland lodges, a hotel and waterpark, which suggests that we'll be seeing more of the same destructive plans when they lodge their second application.
"There are many questions for the Scottish Government to answer now. Why the change to a lease? Why have they been keeping this so quiet? Why did SNP Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop talk about "sale" of the land in her letter to me on 10th February this year, 6 weeks after the lease agreement was reached? Why did the First Minister talk about sale of the land when I asked her about this last December. Ministers are expected to correct the record if they have made an error in Parliament or in writing to a fellow MSP, but I have received no such corrections."
"Flamingo Land's plans have been consistently shown to risk damaging the local economy and environment, scar a world-famous natural landscape and restrict access to Loch Lomond at its most accessible point, especially for local residents. The Scottish Greens and I will continue to work with the community against these plans and have included specific proposals for a community buyout in our manifesto. A vote for the Scottish Greens is a vote to save Loch Lomond from Flamingo Land. The profit margins of a theme park operator should not be put ahead of the interests of the people of Balloch."