An MSP has claimed another major milestone in his continuing battle to safeguard an area of shore and woodland on the banks of Loch Lomond.

A petition launched by Green MSP Ross Greer, which calls on landowner Scottish Enterprise to end its exclusive agreement with resort operator Flamingo Land, has hit its initial target of 10,000 signatures.

An earlier petition by Mr Greer calling on National Park planners to reject the company’s application for a resort at the site drew massive public support with almost 60,000 signatures, leading the MSP to say the planning bid was the most unpopular in Scottish history.

Although the application was withdrawn by Flamingo Land, the MSP is now calling on Scottish Enterprise to end its exclusive agreement with the company over the sale of the site and give residents a chance to bring the area into community ownership.

He said: “While Flamingo Land withdrew their controversial application for a major tourist land in Balloch last year after a record number of objections, they still have an exclusivity agreement with landowners Scottish Enterprise, a Scottish Government agency.

“This agreement gives Flamingo Land exclusive rights to purchase the land until the end of 2020, having already been extended by two years.

READ MORE: Flamingo Land withdraws 'Lomond Banks' planning application after £30m development plan sparks 56,000 objections

“Should Flamingo Land want to lodge another application, it is increasingly likely that they will need a further extension.”

Mr Greer said the agreement prevents other potential owners, including community groups, from advancing alternative options for the site.

A well-attended meeting last year had revealed, he said, a range of alternative ideas that would protect the ancient woodland, contribute to tackling the climate crisis and support the economy.

He added: “On top of the record-breaking number of objections to Flamingo Land’s plans for Loch Lomond we now have a massive - and growing - response to our petition to keep the site in public hands.

“This is really important. If Flamingo Land still want a development it’s likely they’ll ask Scottish Enterprise for another extension.

“Even if they announce plans now, they’d have little hope of getting permission by the end of this year.

READ MORE: Flamingo Land slammed in Scottish Parliament debate on the future of Loch Lomond

"That means that it’s in the hands of Scottish Enterprise and their bosses in the Scottish Government.

“If they want to, they can save Loch Lomond by refusing to renew the agreement. I hope they listen to the community and others who have supported our petition.”

Mr Greer’s comments come as the Loch Lomond tourism economy has taken a massive downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A Scottish Enterprise spokesman said: “The site at West Riverside has the potential to attract considerable inward investment, creating jobs and a much-needed tourism boost for West Dunbartonshire.

“We are now considering next steps for the site and it is essential – particularly as we face into the post-coronavirus economic landscape – that we ensure the most viable and appropriate solution to maximise the economic opportunities for the area.”

READ MORE: Green MSP Ross Greer backs community's vision for future of Flamingo Land site at Loch Lomond

Mr Greer has now set a new target of 15,000 signatures on his petition.

Flamingo Land chief executive Gordon Gibb told the Advertiser: “The land in question has been earmarked for leisure and tourism uses and advertised to potential developers for over 20 years.

“Ross Greer had never previously shown an interest in the site until 2018, when he was initially very positive towards our plans.

“The majority of the area itself is a brown field site and heavily polluted from its historical industrial uses. including dye works, oil pipelines and railway sidings.

“Flamingo Land is committed to clearing up the site for the benefit of the local ecosystem.

READ MORE: National Park officials say Flamingo Land's Loch Lomond plans should be rejected

“We have repeatedly asked Ross Greer to provide evidence of his reported petition but he has chosen to ignore us.

"The petition has not been independently interrogated and we consequently do not believe that it is genuine.

"There is no reason to believe that his latest publicity stunt is any more genuine.

“Flamingo Land regrets that the behaviour of an MSP is potentially denying local people the benefit of employment and the enjoyment of a world class leisure destination.

“Ross Greer’s attention-seeking behaviour is giving people the wrong impression of our development for no good reason other than pursuing his own political gain.”

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