THE organisation behind plans for a “world class leadership centre” on the shores of Loch Lomond has defended its proposals, writes Darren Gibson.

The Hunter Foundation’s plans, lodged with the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority in March, have sparked concern from some residents.

But the plans have sparked concern from some residents, and from local West Dunbartonshire councillor Sally Page, over the design and scale of the proposed new centre and the effect it may have on the environment and nearby wildlife.

In addition, Nick Kempe, a former president of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and a present director of Paths for All and executive committee member of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks, says that in his view the plans, for a site in the grounds of Ross Priory near Gartocharn, would damage the environment and would not improve the condition of existing listed buildings at the site.

READ MORE: Concern at 'leadership centre' plans for historic Loch Lomond site

Mr Kempe's views are outlined in a post on his Parks Watch Scotland blog.

The development would also be within a few kilometres of the National Nature Reserve and Ramsar designated wetland site.

A spokesperson from The Hunter Foundation said: “All profits from the leadership centre will also be directed to the Ross Priory estate, as an investment in its maintenance and upkeep.

“The proposed buildings will also be gifted to the University of Strathclyde and Ross Priory, allowing Ross Priory to expand as a business.

“Moreover, how can we invest in buildings we don’t own?

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“We assessed numerous sites and buildings across Scotland, and this was by far the best site to inspire Scotland’s future leaders.

“Its proximity to Ross Priory will also allow Ross Priory to benefit from the new buildings, for additional accommodation as well as additional business resulting from the leadership centre’s activities.

“The Foundation takes its responsibility to the environment very seriously indeed, recently investing £1 million in environmental programmes.

“Hence it goes without saying we will undertake all mitigation actions necessary and required by planning to protect the environment there.”

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The Hunter Foundation was set up by businessman Sir Tom Hunter in 1998 following the sale of his Sports Division business to JJB Sports for £252 million.

Sir Tom was reported in 2007 to have an estimated wealth of £1.05 billion – making him Scotland’s first self-made billionaire.

A National Park spokesperson said it would not be appropriate for the park authority to comment while the application was still live.

According to the National Park’s website, 22 objections have been lodged by members of the public, along with one expression of support.

Though the official deadline for public comments was June 23, the park authority – in common with Argyll and Bute Council – usually continues to accept submissions after statutory deadlines have passed.

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