A Loch Lomond charity has urged National Park bosses to reconsider plans to sell off the vacant Luss Visitor Centre and the land next to it.

Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs were responding to the decision by the National Park Authority to dispose of the visitor centre and surrounding land on the open market or to another public body following a board meeting on Monday, September 26.

The property last operated as a café/visitor centre, and has been vacant since 2018. It last functioned as a National Park Authority visitor centre in 2010.

Earlier this summer, the Friends strongly backed an approach by the community of Luss through the Luss and Arden Community Development Trust to secure the use of the visitor centre building under the transfer of community assets arrangements, but this has been held up due to a requirement to amend the Trust’s constitution.

The Friends have reaffirmed their full support for a community asset transfer and urged the Park Authority to hold off going to the open market to allow time for a community asset transfer to progress to the next stage.

And, speaking after the National Park announced its decision, Friends chair James Fraser warned the centre remains a vital part of the local community in helping manage tourism levels.

He said: “The Luss Visitor Centre and extensive area of adjacent land wedged between the busy main Luss car park and beach are far too important public assets not to be put to good use by the community to assist villagers with the considerable visitor management challenges they are currently facing.

‘’In the past businesses have been willing to pay a substantial rental charge for the building and funds from this source could be used to cross-subsidise some urgently needed visitor management measures to ease the plight of villagers.

‘’I am confident that the villagers can step up to the challenge of taking on these assets and using them to good effect as they strive to take more control of over-tourism which is currently eroding the quality of life for residents as well as the overall quality of the visitor experience in this attractive lochside conservation village.’’

According to a report prepared for Monday's board meeting, a marketing process was carried out in 2021, with input from Luss and Arden Community Council, to find a tenant for the property, with the aim of securing a regular rental income along with an improved visitor experience and benefits for the community.

This, the report says, was initially successful, with local land owner Luss Estates being identified as the preferred bidder.

Negotiations took place with the company over the terms of the lease during the following months.

But the report says that in February 2022, Luss Estates withdrew from the process, citing uncertainty over the economic climate.

Stuart Mearns, the park authority's director of place, said: "This building last functioned as a National Park Authority Visitor Centre in 2010 and having considered various options, our board has determined to dispose of the building either by asset transfer to an eligible community organisation, or sale on the open market.

"To be absolutely clear, we are still very much open to the potential for the transfer of this asset to an eligible community organisation if a valid application is forthcoming.

"We are continuing to advise and support the Community Development Trust on how to make a valid community asset transfer request.

"Any community body making an asset transfer request needs to satisfy the various legislative requirements and demonstrate a viable enterprise to bring benefits to their community and visitors.

"Our staff will continue to liaise with the Community Development Trust, to ensure it is clear on the disposal process and timelines, and to continue to signpost them to sources of community empowerment support and advice.

"If we receive a further submission from them in reasonable time, the process to dispose of the property will be put on hold until the asset transfer request has been given due consideration and decided.

"The decision taken by our board simply allows us to explore interest from other public bodies, or proceed onto the open market, if a viable community asset transfer is not forthcoming."