SIR Tom Hunter’s plans to create a leadership centre on the banks of Loch Lomond to help Scotland “take its rightful place in the world” has been approved – despite environmental concerns raised by locals.

The Hunter Foundation's plans for the lochside site at Ross Priory, owned by Strathclyde University, were unanimously approved by the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority – having secured the backing of the university and the independent Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs conservation charity.

But locals raised concerns over the environmental impact of the scheme – warning the national park authority “would be embarrassed” ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow next year.

The proposal, which was recommended for approval by the national park authority, will be Scotland’s first dedicated leadership training centre and cater for small groups of up to 25 teachers and trainees.

The development will also contain three five-bedroom and one four-bedroom modern accommodation pods.

Sir Tom Hunter told the national park’s planning committee that the foundation has “committed to putting every headteacher in Scotland through a leadership academy”, with 1,000 put through their paces before the pandemic hit.

Sir Tom said the foundation hopes to expand the programme to “the whole gambit of civic society in Scotland” including, health, police and local authority leaders, while he confirmed the development will be gifted to Strathclyde University “to be the custodian of it”.

He added: “We really think that having a leadership centre in Scotland for Scotland but with a global outlook will really set up and equip Scotland to prosper over the next 50 years.

“It’s a magical, inspiring place and I think by bringing people to that location, they wil be inspired to do their best for Scotland.”

Sir Tom said he was having to pay out around £700,000 for sewage improvements as part of the proposals.

He said: “This is not some money-making scheme of mine as some scurrilous people in the community council have said.

“This is going to cost me a lot of money – I'm not going to make money from it.”

He added: “My wife and I have feel very lucky to have been born and been able to bring up our kids in Scotland – we're determined we’re not going to be the richest people in the graveyard. We care about Scotland and believe, with the correct leadership, Scotland can prosper and can take its rightful place in the world.

“We believe passionately that our centre on Ross priory will help us achieve this.”

But Gavin McLellan from Kilmaronock Community Council, told the committee that dozens of objections from locals was proof of “a clear indication that the project is not wanted”.

He added that an an environmental impact assessment “is essential” and claimed that by approving the plans, the national park was “failing to apply climate change legislation” and would be “contrary to Scotland’s net-zero targets”.

But officials confirmed that there was “no potential breach of the Climate Change Act” and “no obligation” for an environment impact assessment to be carried out.

Mr McLellan added: “We urge the committee not to follow this recommendation but give it the scrutiny it deserves and take a broader and long-term look.

“To fail all this with COP26 coming to Glasgow, the Loch Lomond Park authority would be embarrassed.

“There's been other cases on Loch Lomond where they have built additional buildings which are almost invisible against he background. This new, modern construction, to quote one comment has mentioned Abu Dhabi – another one has quoted the accommodation pods as brutalistic objects and someone else has said that from the loch it looks like a series of LCD screens.”

But the committee unanimously approved the Hunter Foundation's proposals.