A GLASGOW nightclub owner wants to spend £100 million developing a theme park on the banks of Loch Lomond.

Wayne Gardner-Young hopes to build the attraction, along with a hotel, cafes and restaurants, to sit alongside a five-star touring caravan site with a spa, plus a variety of holiday apartments and lodges.

The entrepreneur, whose interests range from Azure, formerly Victoria’s Nightclub, Glasgow, to the £23m transformation of a West Lothian wasteland into an adventure park, is already developing the site of the former Highland Lodge, Balmaha, into a £1.5m cafe-restaurant complex with 15 lodges.

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He is in advanced negotiations about the £100m project in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, but declined to give specific details about the location. The plan could take five years to develop.

The project, which is to be funded by European venture capitalists and Mr Gardner-Young, will be based around “nature and the Loch Lomond environment” and will involve “zip-line rides, treehouses, and adventure”.

The 43-year-old, who drives a red Ferrari, last year acquired the Buchanan Arms Hotel in Drymen, Stirlingshire, for £2.5m in his first foray into the national park area.

He said he anticipates the Balmaha site, which was acquired from the Allied Irish bank for a “bargain price” after former owner McKever Group went into administration, will be up and running by next Easter and will include 15 two-storey cabins, each with its own hot-tub and spa.

Fiona Logan, chief executive of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, confirmed the park authority was in negotiations with Mr Gardner-Young, but declined to be specific about its location because it was “still in the pre-planning application phase”.

Mr Gardner-Young said: “Negotiations are continuing, so I don’t want to be exact. I will say it will be situated right on the shores of Loch Lomond and there is little doubt this will happen.”

Asked if he was concerned about potential clashes with environmentalists, given the minimal development and relatively unspoiled nature of the area, Mr Gardner-Young insisted: “This will be a high-class development that will be built in harmony with the countryside and the environment.

“It will be something Scotland and Loch Lomond-siders can be proud of.

“I’m not sure why a project of this size and ambition has not been done before at Loch Lomond, probably a combination of lack of vision and lack of guts -- too much parochialism, too much of a B&B, ham and eggs mentality.

“However, I do not want to drive past that site in a few years and say, ‘I wish I had done that’.

“I’m sure this will go ahead, and I think that is down to the pro-active attitude of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority.

“I deal with planning boards all over Scotland, and it is amazing how proactive the planners at the park authority are. They are very business-minded and, if you ask me, a breath of fresh air. It is exactly what the area needs.”

Amid the competing interests of walkers, homeowners, farmers and water sports enthusiasts, the national park has been accused since its beginnings in 2002 of favouring commerce over conservation.

Ms Logan noted that while the primary duty of the authority is to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the 720 square miles in its care, it also has the promotion of the sustainable and economic development of the communities as one of its core aims.

She added: “We have very much embraced an ‘open for business’ attitude within the park. I think Wayne Gardner-Young’s development idea -- at least at this pre-planning application stage -- is very much the type of development we want in the park.

“Some say we are jeopardising conservation, but I think it is the opposite. With this kind of development, we are celebrating the outdoors.

“It encourages more visitors to appreciate nature and provides them with a better experience, which means they will return again and again.”

 

Wayne Gardner-Young: a CV

  • He was the operator of a small West Lothian building firm when he got his first major business break with the Boxing Day storms of 1990.
  • Winds of 90mph damaged houses all over Scotland and he repaired 800 roofs in three weeks at £500 each.
  • With the profits he began buying flats and houses, doing them up and selling them.
  • He has since built his WGY Group into a construction and development business. The firm employs 180 people.
  • It has a £70m commercial property portfolio, hotels, nightclubs and residential rental properties.
  • The entrepreneur is the process of transforming the former Victoria’s nightclub in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, and the building next door into a 72-bedroom hotel with two nightclubs and a rooftop terrace.