This week's Councillor Column is written by Richard Trail, SNP councillor for Helensburgh and Lomond South.

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A PLAGUE has hit the High Street. Big name stores that we have grown up with have bitten the dust.

From British Home Stores to Poundworld, many familiar shops exist now only as memories and boarded-up premises. Debenhams, House of Fraser and Homebase are in trouble. More closures are inevitable as the British public show they have fallen out of love with shopping in town.

Or have they? The appeal of street markets and souks is still strong. Our traditional shops have served us well for many years. The arrival of supermarkets was a revolution which caused the closure of so many butchers, bakers and grocers, but these same supermarkets are now facing new problems with the public’s growing concern over excessive use of plastic packaging.

Revolutions bring difficulties for some but opportunities for others. In Helensburgh we want to encourage the others, who will remodel the town centre and make it attractive for the young generation.

What will Helensburgh’s town centre look like in 20 years’ time? There is now an opportunity to think and plan for a continuing, vibrant town centre.

The development at the pier car park includes an area designated as ‘retail’ along West Clyde Street. At present, there are no specific proposals for this part of the site. Argyll and Bute Council may be delighted if the area attracts the interest of a supermarket which will bring a large capital receipt into the coffers. But it need not be like that if some more imaginative proposals come forward.

The recent Summer Festival in Colquhoun Square showed the limitations of holding street markets out in the open. The Saturday was fine, with good weather and big crowds, but on Sunday it was a washout, and the stall holders were packing up and leaving by lunchtime.

A covered market place is more sensible in our climate. A simple multi purpose structure along West Clyde Street could be an answer. Pop up shops are in fashion just now. What do they need to encourage this new style of retailing?

Some fresh ideas need to be brought to the table to keep Helensburgh as an attractive destination for day trippers. The town centre needs to be kept busy with customers meeting traders and buying goods.

The shops, the goods, and shopping experience all change. Right now traditional stores are under pressure from the internet. Rather than bemoan the loss, we can embrace the future and keep our town buzzing.