THE owners of a Helensburgh woodland say they want to know what the public thinks of their plans to build 18 new homes on part of the land.

Thomas Paterson and Margery Osborne have also accused the Helensburgh Community Woodland Group (HCWG) of spreading “misleading” information in a recent newsletter by referring to plans for a 72-home development at the Castle Woods in the west end of the town – and of refusing to compromise over the future of the land.

The Advertiser revealed last month that talks between the two land owners and HCWG over a future for the Castle Woods had broken down, with the woodland group’s vice-convener stating that their “generous offer” to buy both the Castle Woods and another site at nearby Cumberland Avenue from Mr Paterson and Mrs Osborne had been rejected.

The land owners and their agent, Helensburgh architect Lawrence Hill, have come up with proposals to build six semi-detached houses and 12 flats on around 20 per cent of the Castle Woods site, as an extension to the development already under way for Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA) at the former Jutland Court – which will be named Castlewood Court.

They say that under their proposal the remaining 80 per cent of the Castle Woods would have been gifted to HCWG as a community woodland.

But Mr Paterson said: “The woodland group have wanted to meet us for years. We agreed on the basis that we could come to a compromise, but they had already decided prior to the meeting that their answer to our proposal was going to be “no”.

“There was no compromise from them at all.”

Mrs Osborne added: “We felt our offer was more than generous but we were turned down flat.”

Mr Hill told the Advertiser that he had been approached by ACHA and the Castlewood Court developer Callum Williamson about extending the scope of the new build project.

He said: “The proposal to build 18 new homes on 20 per cent of the Castle Woods, and gift the rest of the wood to HCWG, was taken to the group in May, but they said they weren’t interested and wanted all of the land at Castle Woods and Cumberland Avenue.

“They were then approached by ACHA and said they would consider an alternative to the proposed original layout.

“The woodland group knew, when their newsletter was printed, that we were thinking about 18 units, not 72.”

Mr Hill said the reference to 72 units came from a 2006 planning application for the Castle Woods site, which he said had “never been withdrawn” but had “sat in a file for 12 years with no correspondence”.

Mr Paterson, meanwhile, said HCWG’s trustees had decided to reject the 20 per cent offer without consulting their membership – and that some HCWG members were not aware of the offer at all until last week’s Advertiser was published.

He added: “We want to know what the wider public thinks of the proposal we put forward.

“It’s important that people know what the proposal actually is, so we are looking for public opinion.”

David Robertson, the vice-convener of HCWG, said: “As long as the owners refuse to withdraw the 2006 planning application, as requested several times by planning officers, it remains live and therefore a threat to the woods.

“As we explained to the owners at the meeting earlier in September we had mistakenly presumed that the plans we were given in May were commercially confidential.

“As soon as the owners clarified that this was not the case, we presented their plans to a meeting of all our members held on September 17 at which they were unanimously rejected.

“We informed the landowners of the outcome of our meeting by email via their agent, Lawrence Hill.

“We are disappointed that they appear not to have received this feedback.

“We should remind readers of the Advertiser of all the existing planning protections on Castle Woods including a tree preservation order, open space protection area, key environmental features, area of semi natural woodland and part designated as a local nature conservation site by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

“It is clearly not for us to agree to any building in contravention of these protections – Argyll and Bute Council is the planning authority, not HCWG.

“SNH is the Scottish Government’s authority on conservation.

“Our focus is for the sustainable protection of the entire woodlands and for it to be enjoyed for informal recreation by the residents of Helensburgh.”

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