AN ambitious dream to build a year-round visitor facility on a historic pier has taken another step towards becoming reality.

Plans have been unveiled for an integrated attraction at Balloch that will support the ­operation of the Maid of the Loch, Loch Lomond's historic paddle steamer, and be linked to the Balloch Steam Slipway.

Meanwhile, the £3 million fund to get the paddle steamer sailing again after an absence of more than three decades has breached the £120,000 mark.

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Its owners, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, have also submitted an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The new plans for the site of the old Balloch Pier station show a ticket office, retail sales area, museum, cafe, toilets, and a sheltered waiting area for passengers.

The design was conceived by Glasgow-based architects studioKAP, who believe the facility could become an important national landmark.

John Beveridge, director of the charity, said the plans showed a concept for an iconic Experience Loch Lomond attraction at Balloch.

"We want to create a visitor destination where people can sail on the paddle steamer and enjoy learning about the area's history and culture in a modern museum with interpretive and interactive displays," he added.

"We want to consult on the plans as they are a concept of what could be built at the pier.

"It is important that we hear what people think as the project could bring up to 30 jobs, provide training opportunities, and be a great boost for tourism in the area."

The charity says the total cost of getting the Maid sailing again, repairing the pier, and building the new visitor facility is around £4.9m.

Helen Campbell, a partner at studioKAP, said: "We have considerable experience in designing innovative contemporary buildings in sensitive settings and we are delighted to bring our expertise to this important project with the Loch Lomond Steamship Company.

"All our work involves close engagement with those who will use our buildings and we are very much looking forward to consulting with the local community and hearing their thoughts on the proposals.

"Our initial proposals are designed to complement the wonderful site, the existing pier character and other local buildings. Despite its modest size, we have no doubt that it will in time become an important national landmark.

"The choice and quality of materials and details will help establish a suitably long-lasting character which will help make a positive contribution to this part of the loch."

The charity's plans will be on display at Loch Lomond Shores shopping area on ­Thursday and Friday and at the Balloch and Haldane Community Action Plan open day in St Kessog's Church Hall, Balloch Road, Balloch, on Saturday.