THE applicants behind the £30million Lomond Banks development in Balloch have today announced that they have withdrawn the controversial plans.

Flamingo Land Ltd and Scottish Enterprise informed the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority that they collectively wish to withdraw the live planning application, which had faced continued opposition from politicians, environmental groups and local residents.

The decision comes after the National Park planning officers recommended the application be rejected in a published report which highlighted new concerns regarding the scale of proposals for the Pierhead and Drumkinnon Woods areas.

A public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, September 24, at which a final decision was due to be made, has now been cancelled.

In a letter to the National Park from the applicants, they said they had hoped for a postponement of the hearing to allow "sufficient time to understand new concerns, provide additional information requested and consider the most appropriate course of action for all parties involved".

However, they have hit out at the National Park Authority for failing to reach a suitable compromise.

The letter adds: "In the event, officers have refused to accept the Applicants' concerns regarding the way in which officers have assessed certain critical sections of their environmental statement, refused to postpone the hearing to allow further time for the alleged deficiencies to be addressed, and refused the Applicants' publication request.

"In the light of those disappointing refusals and having given very careful consideration to their options, the Applicants have reluctantly decided that it is not only in theirs but also in the public interest that the Application is withdrawn, so that any remaining issues that the officers have with certain aspects of the environmental impact assessment can be addressed ahead of the Application being re-submitted."

Andy Miller, director of Lomond Banks, said: “We’ve been working hard with all parties, including the National Park Authority, for more than two years to ensure all information relating to the proposed development was made readily available.

"We know the National Park recognises that the majority of what we propose fits in with the LDP (Local Development Plan).

"It is therefore surprising and disappointing that their recommendation report raises previously unidentified concerns and highlights the need for new additional information.

“Our priority now is to fully understand concerns, gather the necessary information and dispel some of the myths that continue to circulate around our ambitions for the site.

"It is only at this point, we will consider re-submitting our plans to ensure decision makers will be able to take a fully informed decision on this important application.”

West Scotland Green MSP Ross Greer, who campaigned against the proposed development, said: “Flamingo Land’s environmentally destructive proposal was the most unpopular planning application in Scottish history. More than 57,000 people objected including many in the local community who saw through the spin. Now, following our historic campaign and the National Park's own planning officers recommending a rejection, the developers have, for now, withdrawn their ridiculous plans.

"This is likely a transparent attempt to resubmit with a few small changes, cancelling the near sixty thousand objections lodged to the current proposals. If they think such a cynical ploy will stop our community campaign, they have another thing coming. We will not stop until we have saved Loch Lomond from Flamingo Land's greed. The ball is now in Scottish Enterprise's court. They must cancel the exclusivity agreement with Flamingo Land for sale of the land and give the community a chance to present an alternative.

"It is truly bizarre to see a letter from Flamingo Land's lawyers, essentially labelling thousands of members of the public stupid for having quoted the developer's own Environmental Impact Assessment in their objections. If Flamingo Land don't like what's being said, they shouldn't have proposed such environmentally destructive plans for our world famous national park in the first place."

Martin Docherty-Hughes, West Dunbartonshire MP, also welcomed the news.

He said: “It’s welcome but not unexpected news that Flamingo Land has withdrawn its application to build at Loch Lomond. More than 57,000 people signed the petition against these plans, making clear the strength of feeling in West Dunbartonshire and across Scotland.

“As the local MP I share many of the concerns voiced by local residents, and I formally objected to the application when it was brought forward. Whilst I remain open-minded about how the proposed site can be improved, I’m opposed to any development that would adversely impact the natural environment here in Balloch.

“Loch Lomond is an area of outstanding natural beauty and it’s vital that people are able to continue enjoying free and open access to our Bonnie Banks.”

Jackie Baillie, local MSP,  branded the announcement "good news" for locals.

She said: “Flamingoland’s planning application was rejected by thousands of local people who submitted objections and the overwhelming majority of people who approached me were opposed to the development due to the potential impact on the area.

“It was clear that Flamingoland had little interest in ensuring local people’s voices were heard during the process and were dismissive of many of the views which were voiced.

“Tourism related development is welcome in Balloch, as long as it enhances the offering which is already in place in the village. My view is that the area deserves better.

“I hope that this will pave the way for a more sensitive development in the future.”

Allan McQuade, director of Scottish Enterprise, said: “Any proposed plan and investment of this scale must be considered from all angles and subsequent planning and investment decisions based on hard evidence and fact therefore it is only right that the current planning application be withdrawn to allow sufficient time for all parties to consider additional new information.

“As with previous developments at Loch Lomond, we understand people are concerned and our priority is to ensure that any development on the parcel of derelict land in Balloch is delivered in line with planning policy.”