COMMERCE chiefs are urging businesses in Helensburgh to join together to rally against the waterfront proposals which they fear could hit the town’s retail outlets.

At last week’s AGM of Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce, it was agreed to reduce membership to £10 for the coming year in a bid to attract more members.

Just 21 businesses have signed up to the chamber, which is considered to be a voice for companies in the area – with fears expressed that it may have to be wound up.

It was also agreed that a sub-committee, chaired by Chamber director Vivien Dance, would co-ordinate responses to the plans for the waterfront, with concerns still arising over coach parking and a possible retail development.

Addressing the AGM, chief executive John Clark said: “We continue to represent the voice of business in the area, but with the numbers we have, it was voiced that we should consider winding up. That is a decision I would be very reluctant to take.

“We have been racking our brains as to what the chamber should do.

“From a business point of view, the biggest single factor (in the waterfront development) is the lack of coach parking. At the Helensburgh and Lomond Area Committee meeting (on Thursday, June 21) a question was asked indicating there would be six coach parking spaces.

“The officer did not have the information to hand, but it turned out there are actually only four designated for short term parking. This will drive coach traffic away from Helensburgh, which could mean £0.5m lost to businesses.”

The chamber has also previously stated its opposition to a proposed retail outlet at the waterfront – but this is not part of the current set of plans, which are set to go before the planning committee.

Mrs Dance said: “We are heading for the planning process. This will be an opportunity for groups to have an automatic right to speak against the officers’ recommendations, which will surely be approved as proposed.

“You can only challenge a planning matter on planning issues.

“The clever thing they have done is leave the retail outlet proposals out of the planning application so that it cannot be spoken out against. It will go at a later date.

“We know we could lose up to 50,000 visitors a year because we have already heard from coach companies that they will not come to Helensburgh if they cannot park and wait.”

Councillor Ellen Morton, chair of the Helensburgh and Lomond area committee, previously said: “I’m very pleased that this important development has taken such a big step forward and that the project team can now move towards applying for detailed planning permission and getting on with the technical design, which will take into consideration the views of the public.”