COMMUNITY councillors in Helensburgh say they’re still unhappy at Argyll and Bute Council’s approach to the town’s £18 million waterfront development – and its attitude towards the public’s views on the plans.

The proposals, which were unanimously backed by Argyll and Bute’s Helensburgh and Lomond councillors last month, were labelled “an exercise in mediocrity” at the latest monthly meeting of Helensburgh Community Council (HCC).

And HCC members were reminded that according to the community council’s survey of public opinion on the proposals, more than half of the people who took part did not back Argyll and Bute’s original plans.

Vice-convener Peter Brown told members: “Overall, 55 per cent of the public did not approve of the proposals as presented.

“We made seven recommendations in response to those opinions, and the only one that has been significantly incorporated in the revised plans is that there will now be a café.”

Mr Brown also reminded HCC members that the planned retail space along the north of the pierhead site, next to West Clyde Street, would not form part of the formal planning application – and nor would the possibility of a skate park, an idea which has been backed by a petition with more than 1,000 signatures online and in print.

He added: “Seventy per cent said they were happy with the appearance [of the proposed leisure centre] as it stood. But 130 comments called it ‘uninspiring’.” We suggested that some improvements be made to make it more inspiring.”

HCC member and local businessman Roger Ferdinand, who is also a member of the Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce, said it was vital that the two organisations worked together to come to a single view on the planning application when it’s published.

But Mr Ferdinand didn’t hide his disappointment at the revised Argyll and Bute design proposals.

He said: “The chamber has its own concerns, but we shouldn’t have two separate approaches, otherwise we risk falling into the trap of ‘divide and rule’.

“This is not about ‘us and them’. It’s about Helensburgh, and we need to be working together.

“However, nobody is trying to stop this. We all support the principle of developing the pierhead. But it’s an exercise in mediocrity at the moment and Argyll and Bute Council is completely ignoring public opinion.”

HCC now plans to wait until the planning application is published before deciding whether to go back and consult the community for a second time on the revised proposals.

Community councillor Nigel Millar said: “Given that there has been minimal change to the plans, apart from the servery, you could say we don’t need any further consultation.

“We are saying that the design is not bad – it doesn’t need chucked out and something radically different put in its place – but it’s not good enough.

“But I think we have to be pro-active. We can’t stand back and wait.”

Mr Millar also pointed towards the Waitrose supermarket at the east end of Helensburgh, and said that after input from the community council and others in the town, the company’s plans for the Cardross Road site had been changed from “a shed” to something which won an award for its design.

Helensburgh councillor Gary Mulvaney, policy lead for the waterfront project, said: “When you look at the survey, as distinct from the community council’s own recommendations, most folk were happy with the design of the building, the level of seating, the inclusion of a café, space for a future skate-park, and the location of the new pool. That is all positive.

“In terms of the fun elements, of course we need to take that on board and I am sure the Live Argyll Trust who will run the pool, are aware of the need to cater to as wide a customer base as possible.

“Now is the time for us all to get behind this and make sure that in three years’ time it is open and our waterfront is transformed.”