THE Helensburgh architect who has drawn up controversial proposals to build new homes in a lochside beauty spot near Garelochhead has hit out at “a deliberate and focused campaign of misinformation” by local protesters.

A formal planning application for the construction of 12 houses at Portincaple was officially lodged with Argyll and Bute Council in January, following an initial ‘screening opinion’ submitted last year.

Early drawings were made public in July 2019 which featured 36 houses and a hotel, prompting a local residents’ association to launch a community fightback campaign, called Save Loch Long: Protect Portincaple, which has since attracted cross-party political support against what they deem “the aggressive over-development” of the natural landscape.

At a campaign launch event held in Helensburgh Parish Church, last month Green Party MSP Ross Greer, who also fought against the proposed Flamingo Land development at Loch Lomond which gained more than 60,000 public objections, told campaigners to use that campaign as inspiration.

READ MORE: Portincaple plan is 'wrong development in wrong place'

He said: “When we started the Flamingo Land campaign I don’t think any of us thought we would win.

“We have another opportunity here to rally support from across the country against aggressive over-development.

“There is something really special about the area that can and should be defended.

“There are so many areas of this development that simply would not work.

“It really struck me as the definition of over-development. It would overwhelm the community it is being put right in the heart of, something we are becoming all too familiar with as developers are looking to maximise their profits.”

Now, Bruce Jamieson of Puregreenspace Architects, the firm which designed the plans, has offered a clearer picture of what can be expected should the site get the go-ahead.

He told the Advertiser: “We plan to eradicate rhododendron from the site, improve the steep and dangerous bend at the north end of the road, introduce managed woodland to re-establish a healthy biodiverse natural habitat, construct a mixture of 12 terraced, semi-detached and detached eco houses, and re-discover the historic connection to the loch that has not existed for decades.

Helensburgh Advertiser:

“The development will open up Portincaple to occasional visitors and make the beach and the ancient drover and ferry route across to Loch Goil more accessible for everyone.

“The houses have been designed so they only take up a small footprint of the site - leaving the majority of land for regeneration of woodland, and the houses will be highly sustainable prototype designs which, as well as being flexible and future-proofed, will benefit from 100 per cent heating and hot water from low carbon technology, using as far as we know, the first domestic ambient loop loch water system in Scotland.

“It has taken a great deal of expertise to come up with these solutions, and this development could revolutionise the way other off-grid, coastal communities overcome fuel poverty, as not only will the new houses use the loop but existing houses in Portincaple will also be able to switch from fossil fuel to heat pumps in the future by connecting to the loop.

“We hope the design will be an exemplar for sustainable housing initiatives in Argyll and Bute and beyond.”

READ MORE: Portincaple residents' fears over major lochside plans

Mr Jamieson, working on behalf of the landowner Pelham Olive, refuted claims that around 100 trees had been cut down at the location, as well as suggestions that a variety of endangered species are present.

He said: “It is clear that this site has suffered for a long time from a lack of natural biodiversity, which will be actively reversed by this development.

“Natural grasses and wildflowers will seed on the woodland floor which will encourage native invertebrates, insects, birds and mammals to re-establish themselves.

“Since the start, Mr Olive has always tried to have good communications with the community council and from the outset took on board suggestions that with road improvement a bus service might follow, that development from the high water mark would help the local mooring association, that the rhododendron clearance was positive, and that development would improve local infrastructure.

“However, when he went to meet the community, which was completely voluntary, the meeting splintered from the formal community council meeting and accusations of him being rich and offering bribes in brown paper envelopes were levelled in a manner that came over as being not only non-constructive, but hostile and abusive, and he was told that ‘no development’ was all that would be accepted.

“This has since been backed up by a deliberate and focused campaign of misinformation and clearly made it impossible to communicate on any civilised basis, despite best intentions.

“We have now presented our proposed development for 12 highly sustainable houses, which will complement a very well planned, biodiverse setting.

"It is a long way off from the 36 houses and hotel being touted by the Protect Loch Long group.

“People will have an opportunity to lodge support or objections to the application through the planning system.

"We are in discussions with the politicians involved in the protest meeting and hope to have their more measured opinion on our actual proposals.”

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