On Saturday, November 3, I was in the centre of Helensburgh when I noticed a number of people collecting for the RNLI.

Nothing unusual about street collections and it is for a worthy cause – a cause that I have believed in for all my working life. As a professional seafarer all my working life I saw the benefit of this to people in distress on the water – some through their own carelessness, lack of knowledge, stupidity or beyond their control. Whatever the circumstances, it does not matter; the lifeboat was there for them.

The lifeboats have undertaken a great role to which we are eternally grateful. I personally have never had the need to call on their assistance, however I have been involved in assisting them whilst serving at sea.

However I was very upset to see them on the streets collecting at this time of year.

This is a time when our thoughts and donations should turn to Armistice Day and remember the ‘Fallen’ who gave their freedom for us.

My personal view is the organisers should hang their heads in shame at encroaching into this period. I might add many of the fallen were both Merchant and Royal Naval personnel.

Captain Neil L Smith RD MN, via email

As always the fireworks display put on by Helensburgh and district round table was first class,

The pictures in last week’s Advertiser, and on your website, showed how much people enjoyed the event. However I feel that showing so many children with sparklers in their hands would suggest that the Round Table endorsed this practice.

I don’t believe this to be the case. One of the primary reasons for a organised display it to reduce risk; this, I believe, only increases it.

There is a place for sparklers, but not in the crowd of an organised display where they could do harm to others.

I know they didn’t, and am pleased everyone had a safe and enjoyable experience, but I think sparklers belong in the back garden in small groups.

Well done to the Round Table for organising the event, and to the kind people of Helensburgh for supporting it.

Dave Tipple, via email

I READ with interest Councillor Morton’s half page ‘opinion’ item in the Advertiser last week.

She raised a comment concerning the Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) that we had made an untrue claim on a ‘Changing Places’ facility.

We pride ourselves in presenting facts when representing the community view. We do not recognise and indeed have no knowledge of what her statement means.

In accord with the majority of the town, HCC supports the replacement of the existing swimming pool on the pierhead. But the fact of our community survey was that 55 per cent of those polled disapproved of the current planning application.

Fifty-seven per cent felt that the facilities would not meet their needs, and that there are no additional leisure facilities that will bring, and keep, families in the town rather than going to Dumbarton, Clydebank or Linwood. In particular, there was major concern about the removal of the skatepark and the planning application still contains no commitment for a replacement.

A total of 62 per cent do not want the additional retail development that we are told is essential for the delivery of the current plan, since this will have a negative impact on the existing fragile economy of our town’s independent retailers and restaurants.

And 69 per cent rejected the reduction in car parking as being untenable for the town centre. The current 511 spaces will be reduced to 265, and the current seven coach parking spaces will be reduced to just two.

The council’s parking survey recommends that additional coaches can be parked in residential streets.

As a community council, we have also taken action on information that was not generally available to the public at the time of our survey.

With respect to the history regarding the location of the building, we have identified that it contravenes explicit decisions made in 2012 when Argyll and Bute Council approved the Masterplan for this site.

We have also investigated the flooding risk to the building because the council-commissioned flood risk assessment was not available until August this year, and certainly wasn’t available to the area committee in December 2017 when they chose to site the building in its proposed location.

We have raised these concerns at our monthly meetings and in our submissions to the council at the pre-application and planning application stages.

The community council strongly encourages the community to attend the public hearing on November 19 at 10.30am in the Victoria Halls. The hearing represents an opportunity to hear the prevailing facts of the matter and make comment where appropriate.

This is a major investment of £18 million of public money in the town, and it is essential that the pros and cons of the discussion are clearly aired for judgement, so that the best outcome for the town is achieved. We need to concentrate on the reality of facts and evidence, not opinions.

Whether or not you can attend in person, we also encourage people to ensure they have made their voices heard by emailing planning.handl@argyll-bute.gov.uk about Application 18/01614/PP with your comment before November 19.

Norman Muir (convener, Helensburgh Community Council)

John Black writes eloquently (Advertiser Comment, November 8) about why Helensburgh needs a pier. It is obvious that the council has written it off.

Elsewhere in last week’s Advertiser there was a report of the public meeting to save the pier; this concluded that a joint approach with the council was the preferred option.

I fear there is no chance of much meaningful assistance from our council, it will have to be either taken on by the town or watch it disintegrate.

Also in last week’s letters page, George Freeman writes positively about the proposed idea of amalgamating councils and reducing the number from the present 32.

He correctly points out that multiple sets of highly paid officials doing similar things throughout the country is not sensible. There is no doubt that the present arrangement of supposedly ‘local’ councils is not fit for purpose. In my view neither are the truly local nor do they properly listen to the wishes of those within their areas of control.

At a strategic level we need a broader view with fewer and leaner councils looking after the wider infrastructure, and this is an argument that is unanswerable.

There is, however, a need for local accountability for local issues and a local management organisation should be in place.

Helensburgh Community Council has taken on some of those things, like maintenance of the flower beds in Colquhoun Square and organising volunteer beach cleaning days. But the community council has neither cash nor power; they can ask the council but they have no powers to act.

Those on the community council are unpaid volunteers and, in my view, that is as it should be. I would, however, suggest that they should be given some direct responsibility for local matters and a part of the council funds that goes with them.

Should Helensburgh look after things in the local area like parks, parking, street and beach cleaning, lighting, pothole repair and any other “local” issues? I suspect these sorts of jobs come under at least one or two of the number of people on approaching £100,000 each within the existing council.

A more responsive and listening ‘local’ council is something that we would all appreciate.

Dougie Blackwood


Helensburgh Community Council would like to thank all those who participated in taking part in the Remembrance Day Parade last Sunday.

It was a communal effort and ranged from the poppy montages done by Hermitage Primary School and Lomond Junior School and the poppy garlands round the memorial gates by the Flower Club, to the sterling work by the unsung staff of Argyll and Bute Council who prepared the park and memorial for the service, and the Live Argyll staff at the Victoria Halls, who supported us exceptionally well.

We should also like to thank all those service, volunteer and youth organisations who took part, including the HMS Neptune Volunteer Band and the Helensburgh Clan Colquhoun Pipe Band – and of course HMNB Clyde itself who provided the honour guard and traffic support staff.

In addition, and we will get a bit of grief for this from Michael Curley, who tends to discourage publicity about his philanthropy around the town, but we owe thanks and appreciation to both Michael and Anna of the Buffet Shop, who provided, from their own resources, the buffet for the parade participants after the ceremony.

Lastly, our appreciation to all the community who turned up in impressive numbers to commemorate the event.

The poppy montages and the garlands will remain in position at the memorial for this week.

Norman Muir

Convener, Helensburgh Community Council

I WAS dismayed to read (Advertiser, November 1) that again vandals have damaged items in Hermitage Park. Surely the money needed to provide proper security would have been far less than that required to repair these artefacts?

That it seemingly did not occur to the ‘powers that be’ that, even in Helensburgh, vandalism is always at least a possibility, is surprising. That it should be allowed to happen again is astounding.

It would be useful if the subject was discussed in local schools. Experiencing the odium of other children for the offences may be an effective deterrent to further damage.

John Munro

68 Buccleuch Street, Glasgow

Councillor Ellen Morton is misguided in her enthusiasm for the waterfront plan (Advertiser, November 8).

The plan first saw the light of day as an afterthought to a 2009 report commissioned by The Helensburgh Partnership, a local body charged with spending £600,000 of public money to tell us what we needed. There was no public consultation involved and there has been little since. Councillor Morton served on The Helensburgh Partnership.

The 2009 report was the basis for the Helensburgh CHORD Project. This was an unmitigated disaster and we are living with the result today.

Now the same team who inflicted CHORD on us want to spend £20 million of public money on another crazy scheme.

The pierhead site has numerous issues. The ownership of the land is uncertain. There was no planning application or consent for the present south car park, which served as a dump for building rubble by a local contractor. The existing car park is flooded on a regular basis. The decision to raise the level by 2.1 metres is arbitrary. The changed orientation of the leisure centre places the main entrance at the south west corner of the building open to the full force of winter gales. This will be a carbuncle on the seafront of Helensburgh.

A multi-storey car park would provide adequate car parking in the town centre. The ground floor could provide space for Waitrose to move from their present location.

We also need a luxury hotel with modern conference facilities. All of this is possible in the area to the east of Sinclair Street.

There is a solution to this problem if we are prepared to look forward and think critically of the integrated needs of Helensburgh.

John Black

6 Woodhollow House, Helensburgh

On Monday, November 19, the planning, protective services and licensing committee (PPSL) of Argyll and Bute Council will be deciding whether the plans for the leisure centre and swimming pool to be built on the pier car park will go ahead.

Residents of the Helensburgh area would be forgiven for thinking that a decision of this importance would be taken by local people. In fact the local councillors who will be taking the decision are very much in the minority, there being four from Helensburgh itself and one from Garelochhead, out of a total committee membership of fifteen.

Two of the other PPSL committee members hail from Islay, two from Dunoon and Cowal, and two from Lochgilphead. Campbeltown, Tobermory, Oban and Bute each contribute one member.

Thus these councillors from outside the Helensburgh area – and in most cases well outside the Helensburgh area – constitute two-thirds of the committee. In my opinion, they are not exactly local.

Yet Scottish Government policy is that local people should be getting a greater say in the decisions that affect them. Argyll and Bute Council practice seems to run totally counter to that.

It was the PPSL committee which decided, in the face of substantial local objections, to go ahead with the over-development of the former Ardencaple Garden Centre. Not a great precedent.

In June Helensburgh Community Council unanimously asked Argyll and Bute Council to carry out an urgent review of how the PPSL committee is constituted. There has been some exchange of emails over the matter, but so far no urgent review.

Do the people of Helensburgh really want councillors in many cases from the far-flung corners of Argyll and Bute to be deciding on important and controversial developments for the town? I ask this question, because this is what is happening.

Stewart Noble

Treasurer, Helensburgh Community Council