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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 17:58 GMT
Go-ahead for children's hospice
Committee members visit the proposed site
Committee members visited the proposed site
Campaigners for a new children's hospice near Loch Lomond say they are "overjoyed" that planners have given the project the green light.

The hospice will be built at Balloch within the boundaries of the new Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Members of the new National Park Authority had been considering a recommendation to refuse the proposal.

However, after a concerted campaign by the Children's Hospice Association Scotland (Chas), which received huge public support, the authority's planning committee backed the development.


It is the most fantastic news for all the families and children who need this essential care

Ewan McGregor
Up to 300 supporters cheered as the committee made its decision by seven votes to three.

Chas chief executive Agnes Malone said everyone involved in the campaign was thrilled.

She said: "We spent more than a year looking for a suitable place to build the new hospice, during which time we scoured Scotland inspecting nearly 50 different locations.

"Of all the prospective sites we saw, Ledrishbeg Farm was by far the most appropriate when judged against our wish list."

Ms Malone added: "It's great news that we are now a step closer to gaining planning consent for this site."

Planning permission

The campaigners won the support of leading public figures, including film star Ewan McGregor.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted that the planning permission has gone through.

"It is the most fantastic news for all the families and children who need this essential care.

Baby's hands
Sick children and their families will benefit from the hospice
"Scotland will now be able to boast two wonderful centres for the care of its children and I look forward to my first visit to the new hospice at Balloch."

The decision was also welcomed by Gilbert and Sylvia Watterson, from Knightswood, Glasgow, whose six-year-old daughter Robyn suffers from a degenerative disease called Hurler Syndrome.

She has received care from Rachel House in Kinross, Scotland's first hospice, for more than four years.

Mr Watterson, 35, said: "I feel very patriotic and emotional today. Thank you Scotland."

The committee heard acting planning director Richard Hickman argue that the hospice did not meet the key criteria of "specific locational need".


I would say to any member, to vote against application would make our national park a national disgrace

Ronnie McColl
Committee chairman
He said there were better sites on which to build the hospice which would not mean an infringement of planning policies.

But Alan Farningham, a planning consultant for Chas, said: "Although it represents a departure from the development plan, the site unashamedly ranked best, in Chas's opinion.

"Rejection would set realisation of the children's hospice back by at least two years."

Committee chairman Ronnie McColl was one of a number of park officials who visited Rachel House at the weekend as part of their deliberations.

He moved approval for the new hospice on Tuesday, describing it as a "vote for Scotland's children".

Difficult decisions

"I would say to any member, to vote against application would make our national park a national disgrace."

In supporting the motion, the committee indicated that they felt an exceptional case could be made.

However, members were cautioned that it may lead to difficult decisions in the future because of the precedent that has been set.

On Tuesday morning, committee members visited the proposed site in Balloch.

Construction of the new facility should start in the new year.

The charity said the hospice would cost 10m to establish and maintain, for which a fundraising appeal had been launched.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Aileen Clarke reports
"It is hoped that work will start on site early in the new year"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Have your say on the prospect of plans for a children's hospice being rejected because the site is in a  new national park.Hospice plan
Should it be built in a national park?
See also:

10 Dec 02 | Scotland
04 Dec 02 | Scotland
04 Dec 02 | Scotland
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