A WILDLIFE conservation group has caused a flap over plans to build a footpath and boardwalk on its Loch Lomond nature reserve.

The RSPB’s proposal for High Wards Farm at Gartocharn is being opposed by locals and visitors – including one from the USA – who fear another path will create unnecessary damage and disturb wildlife.

The society also wants planting, seating and interpretation focal points to be built.

Among the opponents is Conservative councillor Sally Page, who represents the Lomond ward on West Dunbartonshire Council.

She said: “Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve was designated 70 years ago for its special qualities. It is a haven of flora, fauna, wildlife and bird life in abundance.

READ MORE: Super-fast broadband coming to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

"This is due to the correct conditions being present across the reserve, which include tranquility.

“The National Park’s ambition of a wildlife tourism destination, run by the RSPB, does not put the protection of the natural environment first.

“There are sites within the LLTNP with infrastructure in place that would be more suitable for wildlife tourism. There are 700 kilometres of paths already to enjoy.”

However, opposition to the plans is far from unanimous: as this article was published online, the proposal had attracted 17 objections and 17 expressions of support from members of the public.

Among the supporters are the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, the independent conservation charity in the area, whose vice-chairman, John Urquhart, says in the group's official submission on the plans: "We would commend the carefully researched, comprehensive and detailed supporting statement provided by RSPB itself."

READ MORE: Picture special: RSPB's 'Big Garden Birdwatch' comes to Helensburgh

The Friends also say they believe the proposals are in line with the requirements of the area's local development plan and the National Park Partnership Plan, "particularly with regard to enhancing opportunities for people to enjoy and experience the Park's special landscape qualities and sense of place".

Kilmaronock Community Council (KCC), in its submission, says that at a public meeting in March, a show of hands found 12 people in favour of the project and nine against.

However, KCC also says that "previous discussions...have raised concern over 'project creep' from this application" and raises concerns that "we do not have sight of a holistic plan, and are concerned over future development on the National Nature Reserve and its immediate surrounds".

KCC has also asked that the application be decided by a "full planning committee process that would include scrutiny of the independent expert opinions".

Scottish Natural Heritage has told the park planners it considers the development small in scale and says supporting documents confirm the applicant has amended the design to avoid any conflicts with nature.

READ MORE: Check out all the latest news headlines from across Helensburgh and Lomond here