A HELENSBURGH community group has lodged an “asset transfer” request for a former Argyll and Bute Council depot in the town.

The Friends of Hermitage Park has expressed an interest in the site, next door to the century-old park, under community asset transfer legislation.

The Friends hope to lease the land from the local authority for community use in conjunction with the park’s £3.3 million regeneration.

The group hopes that ‘asset transfer’ legislation might resurrect hopes, thought to have been dashed in 2014, that the former depot could be handed over for community use

But their plans may face a potential stumbling block because the council itself has already factored in the proceeds from the sale of the land to help meet the cost of the authority’s new Blackhill roads depot.

Fiona Baker, the Friends’ chair, said: “We would like to use the depot for horticultural therapy, to grow and sell plants, to supply the fresh produce for the new pavilion’s cafe, and perhaps also to provide a home for the Men’s Shed in Helensburgh.

“Other things we would like to be able to set up include a tool bank, an equipment bank, and storage space.

“The Friends don’t want to own Hermitage Park, or be responsible for all its management and maintenance, but we do want to be sure the park is sustainable, and self-sustaining, in the future.”

A report to the council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee last month stated that there had been “a good level of interest” in buying the former depot site, which the authority hopes to sell for housing.

Ms Baker continued: “I’ve been made aware that the council’s intention is that money raised from selling the depot will be used to pay for the new roads facility at the top of Sinclair Street.

“But access to the former depot from Sinclair Street is not great, and what kind of housing could you realistically build there if everyone has two cars?

“We’ve also sent a letter to everyone in the sheltered housing nearby and everyone there is fine with the Friends’ proposal, because it wouldn’t see any increase in traffic.

“We will be seeking expressions of support for our proposal, because we believe the idea makes a great deal of sense.”

Council officials rejected a request in 2014 from the Helensburgh Community Centre Trust to hand over the site for community use.

The Friends are not the only group in Helensburgh seeking to make use of asset transfer legislation: in September the Advertiser reported that Helensburgh Football Club hoped to secure a lease for the public park in East King Street under the same regulations.

Cllr Ellen Morton, chair of the area committee, said she was aware of the Friends’ interest in the site.

She told the Advertiser: “The site has been advertised for sale and there is considerable interest. A closing date for formal offers will be set very shortly.

“The money from the sale is not unallocated money – it was part of the business case for the new roads depot at the top of the hill.

“Unlike the King Street Park, the former depot was declared surplus and has been advertised, and I understand that creates a difference in legal terms.”