THIS week's Advertiser letters page is dominated by the controversy over plans to build 12 houses at Portincaple on the shore of Loch Long – though another spot close to the loch, Glenmallan, also gets a look in, along with confirmation that the Advertiser's readers know an awful lot more about local bird life than our staff do!

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Happy writing!

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I WAS disappointed to read the coverage of the letter by John Urquhart, on the proposed development at Portincaple, in your June 18 edition.

Whilst Mr Urquhart listed the many hats that he appears to wear, the impression given by his comments was that it was written solely through the prism of a tourism business operator.

He claims to have studied the documentation attached to this application, from both viewpoints, and seems to conclude that it complies with the council’s local development plan, while the over 800, and still rising, letters in opposition, can be almost summarily dismissed by virtue that there are a lot of duplicated arguments expressed.

Perhaps Mr Urquhart should have considered the implications a little deeper, before going into print. For example, the original scheme would have doubled the size of Portincaple in terms of dwellings and tripled the number of vehicles using the single-track road. Hardly green credentials and against many of the stated transport objectives in Scottish Planning Policy 2014.

In many of the documents, both the applicant and the officer reviewing the case initially at the pre-application stage, have admitted in print that it does not comply with many of the council’s own policies, and yet the council still seem happy to continue to a conclusion.

Over the years, Portincaple has grown gradually and organically, which fits with both the aims and objectives of the local development plan. And the residents are happy for that to continue, without adversely affecting the biodiversity and areas of ancient woodland present.

Little wonder then that the majority of residents in Portincaple are against this proposal, as we know from the documents produced that the long term vision is for a much larger scheme to eventually turn a quiet residential area into a destination for day trippers and holiday makers, with all the attendant problems of litter and parking etc. as is experienced on a very regular basis by Luss.

Portincaple is a minor settlement of 58 houses, and nowhere in the adopted local development plan does it state that it is classified as any thing other than residential. It does not wish to become what would in effect become a holiday village.

Ron Fletcher, Bridgend, Portincaple

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser letters page: June 18, 2020

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With reference to Mr Urquhart’s letter of support regarding the development at Portincaple, as reported last week: he may have professional qualifications, and be an experienced hillwalker and canoeist, but he does not live in Portincaple.

I do. I speak from the heart; Mr Urquhart speaks as someone having an interest in promoting tourism, not in protecting a way of life.

I myself am an experienced hillwalker with some canoeing experience, but unfortunately, like many residents in Portincaple, am no longer able to enjoy these pastimes.

However, because of where I live, I am still able to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me in this little bit of heaven.

If this planning application is approved, even although it contravenes many of Argyll and Bute Council’s own planning and local development policies, the natural habitat of the wildlife and flora will disappear (we have already lost our traditional bluebells), the air quality will be diminished with the extra cars that will be travelling on an already unsuitable road, not to mention the light pollution at night – all adding to the carbon footprint which the Scottish Government is committed to reducing.

Past and present studies have shown that children are spending too much times indoors playing computer games etc (Covid-19 notwithstanding), because there is nowhere for them to go out to play.

In Portincaple, at present, our children are able to enjoy the freedom of roaming and playing in the woods and fields and on the shore. People are able to walk their dogs and babies in relative safety – this will not be the case with the many additional cars, delivery trucks, tourists etc.

Despite the developer and his architects stating there will be many benefits for our community, in reality there are none.

I think I speak for most of the residents in Portincaple when I say we are not against change, and we do welcome new people to our hamlet – providing the houses are built in a sympathetic manner to blend in with what we already have here.

Catherine Naylor, Portincaple

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Advertiser: June 11, 2020

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If these proposals in Portincaple were to go ahead, then we need to understand, Mr Olive is not wanting any form of tourism support – he is looking to make money.

We have no dearth of private homes in this area and many more are currently being built in brown field sites to meet local demand.

We have huge parts of our local areas given over to the MoD. We don’t need to lose any more to concrete and tarmac, especially with the area concerned being a lovely ancient woodland.

Mr Urquhart (Advertiser, June 18) is misguided and, I would suggest, surprisingly prejudiced in his view. He has obviously not studied the major loss of habitat and wildlife these plans will cause; he puts tourism firmly first. In the end it can’t all be about what the human species of this planet want and then what they destroy to satisfy the desire to play.

The people who live in Portincaple do so because they sought something quite different and recognised the uniqueness of life in this place. It is not at all NIMBY-ism, it’s informed awareness of the value of the natural environment that drives us to protect.

It’s not hard to recognise in this world today, especially after Covid, the value of our green spaces and all that it supports, and that should not be lost to profit and greed. Who will actually benefit against what will be lost?

There is more than enough tourism supported in the National Park and in Argyll in general. There is Arrochar, Tarbet, Ardgartan, camping, hotels, walking, hill climbing, there is the Coulport to Kilcreggan length of Loch Long, and we are a stone’s throw from Loch Lomond.

Portincaple is the last oasis of calm on the east side of Loch Long, betweenCoulport and Finnart, for not only the comm unity but hat delicate wildlife that survives here.

Those parts of the application stating woodland will be renewed are nonsense. Mr Olive will take out acres of ancient oak trees and other species and decimate this natural landscape to replace it with concrete and tarmac and 20 per cent plus more people and housing than is already here.

Increasing access to the water is going to be difficult considering the extent to which Loch Long is utilised by tankers going to and from Finnart, the Royal Navy, MoD and RFA vessels, along with associated tugs and support vessels.

Suggesting 12 more households, with potentially at least half looking for water access, is neither sustainable nor doable.

It is sad to see Mr Urquhart has been so completely sucked in.

Debbie Carr, Braeside Cottage, Portincaple

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser letters page: June 4, 2020

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HOW sad to read of the death of Glenmallan in ‘Eye on Millig’ in your June 11 edition.

My grandmother was Margaret Macleod and was raised by her grandfather, Dr Macleod of Tayvallich., She used to tell me about Scotland as a young boy and how she used to dance on Carsaig Bay and how she used to fish for mackerel using red wool as bait.

We managed to buy the bungalow called ‘Mallanbeg’ which was just between the slipway and the jetty, and enjoyed it for a number of years. We had our own phone box at the bottom of our garden, together with water from the Mallan, which got a bit chilly in the winter.

We spent many happy times there. We watched otters in the loch along with minke whales, sea eagles and even a woodpecker that made a big hole in our roof.

We were visited frequently by red deer at the back of our garden, including a young white red deer. We had a 13-foot Dory with a 50hp Mariner that was stored in our garage and were able to catch cod and mackerel.

The boat turned into a life boat on several occasions, usually during the Glasgow Fair times. We used to watch from our front window as men tried to launch their boats from the slipway, frequently pushing the boat out into the loch without starting their outboard motor.

Once out in the loch the current would take them downstream and they would be frantically pulling the starter cord with no luck and no oars. We would rescue quite a few at that time of year.

The ancient village in the hill behind us was a special place to visit, a must-see for our visitors.

Keith Simmonds (via email)

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Helensburgh Advertiser: May 28, 2020

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I PROBABLY won’t be the only person to point this out, but the beautiful image of a bird on page 21 of your June 18 edition is definitely a bullfinch – not a robin.

Bullfinches are not nearly as common as robins, and are on the amber list for UK species conservation.

Not so long ago I’m sure that a high percentage of people would recognise this bird, but in my experience, sadly, such knowledge is less common today.

Rob Colston, Shandon

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser readers' letters: May 21, 2020

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I WAS delighted to see a photograph of a bullfinch included in your “snap happy scenic photos" feature in last weeks advertiser.

The caption underneath “ A robin in a tree...” made me smile even more!

Peter Donnellan, Ivybank Cottage, Arrochar

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Editor's note: We should point out here that Alan MacLean – the reader who sent us the photograph mentioned by both Rob Colston and Peter Donnellan – did correctly identify the bird as a bullfinch in his covering email. The error was entirely ours when manually adding the caption. Apologies – the RSPB's Handbook of British Birds is on our Christmas list...

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