Leisure hopes revealed for derelict Arrochar site

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The new owners of Arrochar’s former torpedo range put themselves in the public firing line as they presented their aspirations for a new development on the eyesore site.

Around 30 to 40 people turned out to the Three Villages Hall on November 29 with a palpable mood of caution, given the fact that a previous leisure resort plan for the site failed to materialise.

Having finalised the purchase the previous week, the new owners were there – Peter Wylie, a Paisley-based actuary, originally from Dunoon; marine engineer Keith Russell; and Ian Henderson, with a background in property and leisure developments.

Paisley architectural firm Framed Estates is leading the design. Company founder and director Sheenagh Gray opened proceedings by pointing out that everyone involved in the scheme was a ‘west coaster’ and committed to the area.

The purpose of the informal evening, said Peter Wylie, was to explain the outline plans – though these are at the earliest stages of development – gather local opinion and ideas and ‘to stop rumours flying around’ about the development.

Sheenagh explained: ‘We want to see the site given a new lease of life. We are at a really early stage and are talking to planners about what can be done.’

The derelict former torpedo range base on the shores of Loch Long opposite Arrochar. Photo: Phil Champion, geograph.org.uk/Creative Commons

The current idea is to create a marine development with an element of leisure, including a marina, holiday lodges, a camping/glamping area alongside a number of loch-side, self-build plots.

A boat maintenance centre and facilities for divers may also be included. A cafe and leisure facilities would be open to the public.

In time, the hope is to bring larger passenger vessels to the site’s pier.

Any development, said the designers, should ‘nestle into the environment and be well-fitted’.

In reply to a question about the budget available for the project, Mr Wylie said there is ‘no ball-park figure yet’.

Points raised from the floor included potential harm to the marine environment of Loch Long, which Mr Wylie said should be minimal given modern vessel design. On the problem of marine rubbish collecting at the head of the loch, Mr Wylie said he was interested in measures on the Thames estuary to tackle a similar issue.

The capacity of Arrochar village to cope with an influx of visitors was also a point of concern, given the lack of public toilets, litter bins and other amenities.

Ian Henderson responded: ‘The development will hopefully bring footfall to Arrochar, and though there are obstacles we aim to work with the community to overcome those.’

Should planning permission be sought and granted, the first job would be to clear the site of vegetation and building debris, for which local firms would be invited to tender, and the intention is to involve local companies and the wider community throughout.

One voice from the floor spoke up towards the end. ‘I’ve lived here all my life,’ said the gentleman, ‘and Arrochar used to be able to have plenty of steamers coming in, the place was full and we coped fine.’

Another added: ‘Anything that removes that eyesore is welcome.’

Sheenagh concluded: ‘This is just a preliminary discussion. We hope to come back some time in January with a more developed scheme.’