By Kirsty Topping
CHURCH mediators have been called in after a minister and businesswoman declared war over a visitor centre on the banks of Loch Lomond.
Denice Purdie claims the local minister, Reverend Dane Sherrard, has “a vendetta” against her after she was granted the lease by the national park authority on for the Luss centre rather than the community being allowed to run it.
So bitter is the dispute that the Christian entrepreneur has now called in Church mediators.
Rev Norman Drummond, who is a chaplain to the Queen, will arbitrate between Purdie and Sherrard, who earlier this year blasted “cuckoo brides” who were photographed outside Luss Parish church after getting married elsewhere.
Purdie, 43, accused Rev Sherrard, who is also chair of the local community council, of using his blog on the community website, “Dane’s Diary”, to attack and undermine her.
She said it claims she is breaking the terms of her lease, endangering the livelihoods of other businesses in the area and that he intends to have her lease revoked.
The visitor centre operates as a commercial soap and candle shop, as well as giving advice to tourists.
The Rev Sherrard claims that while the business started out that way, it has since become a 100-seat restaurant and gives very little tourist advice.
He claims it is in stark contrast to how the venture was previously run – as a not-for-profit enterprise dealing with more than 750,000 visitors every year.
Purdie, who owns Purdie’s of Argyll Ltd said: “Ever since Dane Sherrard got himself onto the community council he has gone hell for leather to find a loophole to get me out.
“He is using Luss On Line to tell everyone what has happened at community council meetings but it ends up being directed at me. He keeps saying things like ‘I’ve got no bones against this woman… it’s the National Park.’ But then goes on to criticize what I’m trying to do.
“The tone of it is that I shouldn’t have the premises, that I’m an outsider, a big commercial business, that I’m putting local businesses out of business, that I don’t employ local people or give out visitor information.
“The day I opened my visitor centre he opened his own visitor centre and the Pilgrimage building at his church five minutes away. As far as I’m concerned this man has committed defamation of character against me and I intend going to a solicitor to see what can be done.”
Rev Sherrard denied the claims, and maintains he is against the loss of a first-class visitor centre due to the way the National Park Authority handled the situation.
He said: I don’t think what Ms Purdie is saying is true. There is no axe to grind and there is no bad feeling.
“At every stage we have made it clear our argument is with the National Park, which we feel has let down the community and our visitors.”
He claims a community bid to run the centre, put in two days before Purdie was granted the lease, was disregarded.