LOCALS have hit out after £1.1m worth of public funding was used to make the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Headquarters more climate-friendly.

The office, based at Carrochan Road, was closed in October last year to allow for “significant upgrades” to the energy and heating systems to be carried out which included the installation of solar panels, a solar carport, an e-bike station and air source heat pumps to save an estimated 21tCO2e (carbon tonnes) per year – the equivalent of 90,000 miles in a petrol car. 

A total of £1,012,726 was spent on the upgrade with figures from a FOI revealing that the new air source heat pump cost £584,314 alone.

The National Park Authority, which is committed to becoming a Net Zero organisation by 2030, received a grant of £1,129,200 from the Scottish Government’s Public Sector Heat Decarbonisation Fund to support the investment.

But Alan Crawford, who lives just outside Balloch and helps run the village hall, said there was a feeling among residents that this was a waste of taxpayers' money and the former heating system was not damaging to the environment.

He said: “There is precious little clear-eyed scrutiny of the costs to the citizenry of ‘net Zero’.

“It may be a worthy objective … but it is surely legitimate to ask what the costs, financial and practical, are likely to be. It can’t be right that there would appear to be a bottomless pit of taxpayer’s cash which is being spent on seeking this Holy Grail.

“The situation at Loch Lomond National Park is a case in point. The 20-year-old Headquarters of the Park Authority, in Balloch, is having a new heating system installed. 
“The cost of this new system is £580,000. Together with solar panels and an e-bike station the total project cost is over £1 million. 

“The prospect of repeating this exercise across the UK public sector; national and local government premises, health, education, prisons, fire and rescue, quangos, etc. will add up to an enormous bill for UK taxpayers.

“The issue of whether or not we collectively believe it to be money well spent is less important than the fact that we are being kept in the dark about the scale of the enterprise. 

“Some objective scrutiny would be welcome.” The National Park Headquarters in Balloch is where the majority of National Park Authority staff are based.

Although it is not a visitor centre, staff will assist any visitors who arrive looking for information. 

The office is open 7.30am until 5.30pm from Monday-Thursday and 7.30am until 5pm on a Friday.  

The office has since been reopened to staff following the renovations.
Gordon Watson, chief executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority said: “Communities across Scotland are experiencing the negative impacts of climate change and we all have a role to play in reducing emissions and tackling this crisis. 

“We are fully committed as an organisation to reducing our own environmental impact and the addition of air source heat pumps and solar panels to our buildings will further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

“External grants are helping fund this work, which will take us a step closer to becoming a Net Zero organisation by 2030 and help deliver Scotland’s ambition to become a Net Zero Nation by 2045.”