THE organisation behind plans for a “world class leadership centre” on the shores of Loch Lomond has hit back at concerns over the proposed development’s impact on the bonnie banks.

The Hunter Foundation’s plans for the facility in the grounds of Ross Priory, near Gartocharn, were lodged with the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority in March.

But the plans have sparked concern from some residents, and from local West Dunbartonshire councillor Sally Page, over the design and scale of the proposed new centre and the effect it may have on the environment and nearby wildlife.

Further concerns have been expressed by blogger Nick Kempe on his Parks Watch Scotland blog ahead of the official closing date for public representations on the plans today (Tuesday).

Mr Kempe, a former president of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and a present director of Paths for All and executive committee member of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks, says there are “many reasons why people who care about Loch Lomond should lodge objections” and says that in his view the plans would damage the environment and would not improve the condition of existing listed buildings at the site.

His blog post also points out that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has lodged an objection over proposals for foul drainage from the site.

Responding to the Reporter’s request for comment, a spokesperson from The Hunter Foundation said: “All profits from the Leadership Centre will also be directed to the Ross Priory estate, as an investment in its maintenance and upkeep.

“The proposed buildings will also be gifted to the University of Strathclyde and Ross Priory, allowing Ross Priory to expand as a business.

“Moreover, how can we invest in buildings we don’t own?

“We assessed numerous sites and buildings across Scotland, and this was by far the best site to inspire Scotland’s future leaders.

“Its proximity to Ross Priory will also allow Ross Priory to benefit from the new buildings, both for additional accommodation as well as additional business resulting from the Leadership Centre’s activities.

“The Hunter Foundation takes its responsibility to the environment very seriously indeed, recently investing £1 million in environmental programmes.

“Hence it goes without saying we will undertake all mitigation actions necessary and required by planning to protect the environment there.”

The Hunter Foundation was set up by businessman Sir Tom Hunter in 1998 following the sale of his Sports Division business to JJB Sports for £252 million.

Sir Tom was reported in 2007 to have an estimated wealth of £1.05 billion – making him Scotland’s first self-made billionaire.

A National Park spokesperson said it would not be appropriate for the park authority to comment while the application was still live.

According to the National Park’s website, 22 objections have been lodged by members of the public, along with one expression of support.

Although the official deadline for public comments on the plans is today, Mr Kempe’s blog post on the plans says that the park authority, “to its credit, usually allows objectors to continue to lodge comments after statutory consultation periods are over”.