PLANS to put a tourism and leisure complex on the southern banks of Loch Lomond have won the support of a key local heritage and conservative charity.

Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, an independent charity set up in 1978 to oppose the construction of an energy plant near Ben Lomond, has given its backing to the controversial Lomond Banks development.

The charity’s chair, James Fraser, said that the idea the £40 million building work would be on a “virgin area of Loch Lomond” was untrue, and told The National the finished development could see significant benefits for the Balloch area.

However, the support of the 500-member charity comes with caveats. In a submission to the National Park Authority, the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs say the project should be green-lit subject to stringent planning conditions, including a guarantee of community use of the recreation facilities and the adoption of a transport action plan.

READ MORE: Revised plans for massive Loch Lomond resort 'hugely worrying'

The original proposals, which were withdrawn in September 2019, were redesigned and resubmitted in early 2022. The fresh application for the Lomond Banks site includes hotels, lodges, restaurants, cafes, shops, a craft brewery, a water park and “external activity areas” such as children’s play zones and a monorail.

The plans have faced strong opposition, not least from the Scottish Greens. The party set up a campaign urging people to lodge their objections to the plans in late July. It received more than 20,000 sign ups over the first weekend.

West of Scotland MSP Ross Greer (below) said that more than 32,000 objections have now been lodged, adding it was "absolutely clear where local people stand".

The National: OPINION Ross Greer MSP

He went on: "Flamingo Land was forced to withdraw its application following the overwhelming opposition of the local community and Loch Lomond's supporters across the country. It was the most unpopular planning proposal in the history of Scotland and this second attempt is no different.

"Local residents have repeatedly proposed a range of potential alternative uses for the site which could boost the social and economic wellbeing of the area, maintain easy public access and protect the world-famous natural landscape, but site owner Scottish Enterprise has so far been unwilling to deal with anyone other than the Yorkshire-based theme park operator whose only interest is turning a profit."

Charity chair Fraser said: “We have carefully considered the latest outline planning application for this strategically important site which, in our view, is the optimum, and possibly last location, on Loch Lomondside for major tourist and recreation development as it has the benefit of being right next to a public transport hub with easily accessible rail, bus, and waterbus services.

“It has also been zoned for tourist and leisure development in Local Development Plans and various policy documents for a considerable period and was bought back in the 1990s by Scottish Enterprise for this purpose after decades of being blighted industrial derelict land.

“We welcome the plans coming forward for Balloch at the present time as the village is facing an uncertain and challenging future as a thriving tourist destination. Despite the village being one of the main gateways to the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, it is not realising its full tourism potential as a green and sustainable ‘must-visit’ tourist destination.”

The charity further said that examples such as Center Parcs and Lake Garda in Italy showed how developments could move away from cars to more sustainable travel.

The intervention comes as the prospective Lomond Banks developers hailed further community support for the plan, including from the chair of the Maid of the Loch charity, Iain Robertson.

The Maid of the Loch charity is involved in renovating the paddle steamer, which operated on Lomond’s waters for 29 years.

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Robertson (above) said: “The board of trustees have met, and we believe that this new application answers many of the questions that were raised the last time this project looked to get off the ground. As a board we have considered it carefully and believe that the Lomond Banks concept fits both with the local area and what the Maid of the Loch is trying to achieve.

“In an area that has lost so many jobs over the years, it is important that local people benefit from a successful development that complements the wider area and we believe that the proposed Lomond Banks plans will do just that. We hope that if successful, the developers will work with both us and other local businesses in making Balloch a place that people want to visit, stay and spend money in.”

Jim Paterson, the development director for the project, said it would “create a world class, eco-tourism destination."

He went on: “It will bring jobs to the area, boost the local economy and provide a strong and sustainable development that will help both regenerate and support West Dunbartonshire in the future.

“Having facilitated extensive public consultations prior to submission, we have listened carefully to a range of opinions, including local people, businesses and other stakeholders, and have reflected these in our submission.

“Throughout the process we have reiterated our commitment to working closely with businesses to ensure that the local area will benefit from the development throughout and we believe that Lomond Banks will create something that is fitting for the area and is sympathetic to its important location at the gateway of Loch Lomond.”