THE man behind plans to transform one of Helensburgh's most handsome town centre buildings says the development will still go ahead – despite the sale of part of his empire to two local businessmen.

Tony Johnston told the Advertiser this week that the sale of his two Peckham's delicatessens in the west end of Glasgow to Burgh duo Andrew Duncan and Lee Fish will not affect his plans for the former municipal buildings on the corner of Sinclair Street and East Princes Street.

Mr Johnston said the sale of the two Glasgow branches of Peckham's, in Byres Road and Hyndland Road, would enable him to concentrate on projects such as the one in Helensburgh town centre, which will feature a restaurant, delicatessen, function rooms and flats.

He said: “This news [of the Glasgow shops' sale] doesn't jeopardise our plans at all. Quite the opposite.

“My decision to pull out of retailing was taken several years ago having been involved in the trade for over three decades. 

“My main focus now is on restaurants, cafe bars and boutique accommodation which is exactly what we are doing in Helensburgh.

“We are nearing our start date and the plans and ideas are all very exciting.”

The municipal buildings project, unveiled last September, has secured planning permission and listed building consent from Argyll and Bute Council, and a provisional alcohol licence from the area's licensing board.

The last hurdle is the granting of a building warrant, for which an application is currently being considered by the local authority.

Mr Johnston continued: "The development will trade as Peckham's, as will the other projects we are working on.

“I established the brand in 1982 and have always been committed to quality and standards within the food and drink industry.

"We remain known for these attributes by our customers and have strong brand recognition and approval.

“The building control application is making its way through the system, and work will start on granting of the warrant.

“This is, however, a complex process as we have two listed Victorian buildings that have to be converted to a completely different use, brought up to today's building standards while retaining the characteristics and architectural qualities of the existing property. 

“The more we are on site, the more I love the property and area, and look forward to bringing the project to fruition.”

Mr Duncan, meanwhile, confirmed to the Advertiser that the Helensburgh project did not form part of the deal he and Mr Fish struck last week to buy the two Glasgow shops.

But he said he was still hopeful of establishing a Helensburgh presence of some kind in the future.

Mr Duncan said: “A Peckham's in Helensburgh is definitely something we would be interested in but it would depend on a number of other factors which are not in our control.

“We're in discussions about whether we might open a retail unit in the town as a Peckham's.

“Those plans aren't part of this deal but we hope they will happen.”

Mr Duncan is the founder and managing director of mobile and web tech business SwarmOnline, while Mr Fish, who formerly held the UK franchise for O’Briens sandwich cafés, currently owns Kitchen, a small chain of independent cafés in the west of Scotland.

Mr Fish still runs two O’Brien's shops in Edinburgh and Newcastle.

The pair met through their membership of Helensburgh Round Table and decided to take the plunge after a conversation at a barbecue.

Mr Fish said: “Peckham’s has suffered from a lack of investment in recent years and we will address that immediately.

“We intend to revitalise stock lines and develop new relationships with producers, particularly in Scotland.

“We will also focus heavily on wine and hope to attract those who currently buy at supermarkets.

“Our service will be well informed, well priced and personal and we hope to bring in new customers as well as those who have perhaps abandoned Peckham’s.

“We will cater for every day items through to gourmet.”

The pair say they also plan for Peckham’s to re-enter the Edinburgh market, and they are already on the hunt for suitable premises in the capital.