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Luss for life: plan to boost population of village

It is a picture-postcard village on the banks of Loch Lomond that attracts three-quarters of a million visitors every year.

Plans are under way to boost the ageing population of Luss
Plans are under way to boost the ageing population of Luss

But still the future prosperity of Luss, made famous in the 1980s and 90s by soap opera Take The High Road, hangs in the balance.

With an ageing population, lack of families and a low number of businesses to keep the village thriving throughout the year, a major drive is under way to secure the economic and social sustainability of Luss, where people have lived for more than 800 years, for future generations.

A key aspect of the plan is to increase the resident population, which currently sits at just 120, with a building proposal for up to 60 family homes.

Striking the balance between residents and the influx of tourists, who arrive at the village to catch a view of one of the world's most famous stretches of water, is also at the heart of the changes.

Simon Miller, chief executive of Luss Estates, which is leading the plans, said: "It is an amazingly beautiful place. But as a substantial community, it is not working.

"It would be broadly acknowledged it has an ageing population. There could be more jobs and more prosperity to make the village more sustainable. It needs more families to make Luss not just a great place to visit, but a great place to live."

Eight new commercial premises, two new village greens and a radical overhaul of Luss's traffic management system have also been proposed.

It is also being pitched as a commuter village with Helensburgh, Faslane naval base and Glasgow reachable by car within 45 minutes.

Mr Miller added: "To get a plan that everybody has lent their support to is a tough ask, but it is eminently do-able. Luss has got some amazing strengths and one of them is its proximity to these economic engine rooms."

Mr Miller said the proposals had, so far, been well received but described the process of making the hoped-for improvements as "quite a long road".

The move for change has come from the present laird, Sir Malcolm Colquhoun of Luss, who aired his concerns over the future of the village following plans to close down the primary school last year.

A parents' campaign saw off the proposal but the school, which has just 20 pupils and two full-time teachers, is seen as central to the village's stability.

Mr Miller said: "The catalyst for this piece of work came from Sir Malcolm asking a very simple question: 'What can Luss Estates do to help make Luss a sustainable and thriving community?'

The Colquhouns have owned the estate for more than eight centuries, with the village built in the late 1800s to house workers employed at the family's cotton mill and slate quarry.

Some of the cottages, mainly but-and-ben type buildings, were sold off in the 1970s with others fully restored to gain Luss conservation village status. A £3m investment in the old Colquhoun Arms, now the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel, has given impetus to the village improvements, Mr Miller added.

The Loch Lomond Park Authority will decide all planning applications, with the proposals almost certain to trigger calls for a policy rewrite given that national park rules currently prohibit families from outside the national park boundaries relocating to new housing developments in the area.

This is in place to allow those who have lived in the area for at least three years to benefit from new housing that becomes available.

Gordon Watson, director of rural development and planning at the park authority, said: "The National Park Authority is keen to respond positively to those proposals which will most benefit the community and help improve the visitor experience of one of our most picturesque villages.

"We will consult on any changes to current planning policies that may be needed to enable this."

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