A CAMPAIGN group has reacted angrily to news that the company behind controversial development plans in Balloch could be granted a 125-year lease on two sites in the area.

The Save Loch Lomond group said the plan to allow Flamingo Land to lease the site until the 2120s amounted to “an attempted grab of public riverside land”.

Scottish Enterprise, which owns the West Riverside and Woodbank House sites at the southern end of Loch Lomond, struck a new deal with Flamingo Land in December, just before an “exclusivity agreement” which would have seen the sites sold to the holiday park company in the event of planning permission being granted, was due to expire.

And while Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens’ lead candidate in the West Scotland region at this week’s Scottish Parliament election, said the news – revealed to him by the Scottish Government – was “a partial victory”, Save Loch Lomond reacted furiously.

Rory Macleod, the group’s chair, said: “Scottish Government ministers have refused to become involved in defending this world famous location from private exploitation.

“Scottish Enterprise is clearly proceeding with no transparency, accountability or regard for the public interest.

“Save Loch Lomond calls on all political parties in Scotland to commit immediately and permanently to saving Loch Lomond for the people, and to bring this shameful exercise between Flamingo Land and Scottish Enterprise to an end.”

Flamingo Land’s initial proposals for the two sites were withdrawn in September 2019 after officials from the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority recommended the company’s planning application be refused.

No revised plans have been submitted for the sites since then.

Mr Greer, a long-standing opponent of Flamingo Land’s plans for the area, said: “One of our many objections to this 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 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.”

A Scottish Enterprise spokesperson said: “There is no change. This is a technicality of the sale process.

“Normal practice is for Scottish Enterprise (SE) to sell land by way of a long term (125 year) ground lease.

"This ensures SE still retains an element of control to ensure development obligations are carried out - i.e. the development is built and the developer doesn’t just ‘land-bank’ and hold the land without investing in it.

“Generally once the development has been completed, the ground lease then transfers to a heritable title (full ownership).

"The sale price is still paid upfront as a premium, so there is no rental due under the ground lease.

“This is standard SE policy for ‘strategic’ sites where we are selling to achieve a specific economic development outcome.

“Elsewhere in Scotland, other commercial landowners with a vested interest in what is developed on a piece of land use the same sale process with the ground lease mechanism.”

The Alba Party, which is also contesting the West Scotland regional list at Thursday’s election, has also pledged to oppose any sale or lease of the two sites to private owners.