TOPICS in this week's letters to the Advertiser include the debate over the location of Helensburgh's new leisure centre, parking charges in Arrochar and a special mention for a local charity. To have your views featured in upcoming editions, send them into


IN its November 19 issue, the Advertiser made a fine job of reporting on the public hearing on the leisure centre planning application, and on the well-researched and presented objection of Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) over likely flooding issues as well as the siting of the building.

The council’s planning committee sensibly, albeit not unanimously, delayed its decision pending further assessment on these issues.

However, the reporting was unable to cover the presentation by Nigel Millar of Architecture and Design Helensburgh (A&DH).

This professional panel is part of HCC and assesses the design aspects of major developments.

In this case its assessments were submitted at the earlier pre-application and full planning application stages, and re-presented to the November 19 hearing.

A&DH assessed both the leisure centre building using HCC`s six characteristics of good design (based on council planning policies) and the waterfront site overall against the Scottish Government`s Place Standard tool.

Observing that the site is in a central and prominent location in what is considered one of Scotland’s more attractive seaside towns, this is clearly a unique opportunity to deliver a high quality of building design, which is not just functional, but is distinctive and worthy of the town`s architectural heritage.

The leisure centre building design has been assessed by A&DH as ‘indifferent’. In addition, the layout of the site scored poorly in relation to place-making and a sense of identity.

Situated at the water’s edge the leisure centre would be isolated from the town centre by a large, unattractive expanse of car parking.

Examples were offered at the hearing of other Scottish towns embracing the opportunity and successfully responding to these issues by providing beautiful, noteworthy, practical buildings with local relevance. Good design has made each of them a ‘better place to live’, whilst raising their business and visitor profiles.

Closer to home is the council’s own new civic centre – a fine marriage of a new build with the old B-listed East Clyde Street School. What an uplift this has given to the east of Helensburgh town centre!

The planning process reached the hearing stage with earlier input from A&DH and the community having been largely ignored on the important design issues.

Although unlikely, A&DH remains hopeful these can still be seriously addressed and acted upon.

We hope that this letter will let your readers know that A&DH for nearly a year has consistently called for a more distinctive and imaginative building which is much closer to, and integrated with, Helensburgh town centre .

Like almost all the other objectors, A&DH supports the provision of a new leisure centre on a much-improved waterfront site. But it should be, and could yet still be, so much better in so many ways than what is being proposed by the council.

Architecture and Design Helensburgh

Via email


I RECENTLY came across an interesting article from the Helensburgh & Gareloch Times, dated Wednesday, December 20, 1972, with regard to what was then the town’s ‘new’ indoor swimming pool.

At a council meeting chaired by Cllr Billy Petrie, Cllr Gillies stated: “In any case the sea front is a crazy place to have it. It should be up near the Victoria Hall.”

There was someone with a bit of foresight. We are now 46 years on, and nothing seems to have changed.

The new proposed design looks much like the Waitrose building, relocate to this area and use sea defence money to buy land.

Brian Maguire

East Clyde Street, Helensburgh


HELENSBURGH is set to join Oban with a distinctive architectural feature.

Oban has McCaig’s Folly which has dominated the skyline since 1902. In Helensburgh, work has started on The Folly on The Hill. Construction crews are on site at the Hill House on Upper Colquhoun Street and building the ‘Big Box’.

A folly is defined as a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose. The Big Box meets the definition. It is a folly. A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose.

Two disastrous fires have destroyed The Glasgow School of Art, acknowledged as Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece. The Hill House has assumed greater status as his domestic masterpiece.

The property was completed in 1904 to the instructions of Walter Blackie, the wealthy publisher. It sits on an exposed site above Helensburgh. Water ingress has been a problem throughout the life of the building.

The Hill House was sold by the Blackie family, was on the market in the late 1970s for offers around £25,000 and was purchased by The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) in 1982.

Mackintosh used an experimental Portland cement render instead of the traditional lime. Lime render allows a building to breathe; cement render does not. Water getting into the structure can’t get out. The Hill House suffers from damp. Damage is clearly visible on the interior walls.

The NTS has ignored the problem for 36 years. 2018 is the year of action. They have a plan – spend £5 million and build a Big Box. They claim that this will allow the building to dry out slowly while they assemble “the brightest and the best” to come up with a solution.

The Big Box will be a feature on the town landscape for five to 10 years. Not a penny of the £5m will be spent on conservation of The Hill House.

The Hill House has survived 116 yearly cycles of Scottish weather. It is not the Mary Rose, submerged in sea water for centuries and likely to fall apart if allowed to dry out.

Building materials and techniques have moved on since the house was built. The House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow is its twin sister, built in the 1990s to an original Mackintosh design. The House for an Art Lover doesn’t have the same water issues.

The Big Box has no practical purpose. It is a monument to indecision – truly a Folly on the Hill.

John Black

6 Woodhollow House, Helensburgh


THERE have been many letters in the Advertiser about the extortionate parking charges introduced at Arrochar and Tarbet that penalise those who take pleasure from walking in the magnificent hills and countryside at Arrochar.

Here is my story about how these parking charges are potentially putting lives at risk.

I go up the Cobbler every Saturday with my dog. I’ve done this for years. Recently, as I was coming down the track, I came across two guys and a black Labrador who were stopped on the track.

“It’s his knees” said one of the guys. Being a dog person, I immediately thought he was talking about his dog.

“Ouch,” says I. “Poor thing, how old is he?” “56,” came back the response.

At this, I realised my mistake and asked after the welfare of the other guy.

He was struggling badly, having enjoyed a great day on the hill in the fine autumn sunshine, however his knees had given way and he was injured and in extreme pain.

He was being urged on because they (John and Drew, John being the injured one) had put £4 into the parking meter and were now over their time due to John’s injured knees.

I lent John a pair of walking poles to help him, and told him to hand them into the Kitchen Garden cafe in Arrochar.

John’s pal then ran on to get back to the dreaded parking meter. I discovered later his efforts and the efforts of the injured John had been in vain and a £60 parking fine awaited them, courtesy of the good folks at Argyll and Bute Council.

I’ve given John and Drew my name and I’m hopeful they may be able to challenge the fine.

However, the really serious point here is that climbers and walkers could potentially risk injury. As we all know the hills can be a dangerous place, and people should not put themselves into a potentially life-threatening situation by trying to rush to get back to save themselves a parking fine.

The hills are there to be enjoyed at whatever pace you like, but to be tackled with care and an awareness of danger, not pressured by time and money.

Argyll and Bute Council, and Aileen Morton, the council leader, who told me when I complained about the hourly parking regime that the council “had to make hard decisions” should be ashamed of themselves. Hard decisions maybe, but surely not ones that put people at risk.

I’ll be charitable and say they can have no concept of the risks they are potentially making people take to try and beat the meter.

However here is the evidence, so they now know the potential harm that can happen as a result of the hourly parking charge.

The weather on this day was fine, but as anyone who lives in Scotland knows, that is not always the case, especially in winter.

An hourly charge is perhaps for those who want to stop for an hour or so to walk into Arrochar and have a coffee, but an hourly charge is completely unreasonable for leisure activities in the great Scottish outdoors.

Surely, therefore, parking charges should have a capped daily rate for climbers and walkers so there is no risk of penalty if the day takes longer or injury happens.

Argyll and Bute Council, take this incident as a warning and make better decisions, rather than hard ones!

Morag Cook



IN response to Cllr Alan Reid’s letter of November 29, I am not trying to defend the SNP’s record. (With 35 MPs and 62 MSPs, as against the Liberal Democrats’ 12 MPs and five MSPs, it speaks for itself.)

What I am standing up for is the workforce that are working in all weathers, and have done an excellent job with the mitigation measures they have put in place, by keeping the road open in 23 of 24 occasions in the last three years.

I am grateful to Cllr Reid for pointing out that he attended many meetings over the years, presumably as MP and latterly as councillor, some of which took place on “cold winter’s days”.

I was not aware that this was the case, especially attending in winter – I suppose that illustrates the point that I am making, that if you ask the questions you get the answers in this case that the road stayed open on 23 or 24 occasions in the last three years.

Cllr Reid will know that Scottish Government government minister Michael Matheson has made a commitment to finding a permanent solution that will bring an end to the disruption.

We could get into a debate in which Cllr Reid says he has one transport official saying it would not work, and I could say that I have spoken with several transport officials and engineers that say that it has worked, but that would just result in more ‘ping pong’ in the Advertiser’s letters page, which I am sure our constituents are getting fed up with.

As I have said, it is about communicating and being informed – that’s the key. (And here endeth the lesson.)

Cllr Iain Shonny Paterson

(SNP, Lomond North)


THE Helensburgh and District Save the Children Committee would like, through the Advertiser, to thank all whose who have supported its two most recent events, the annual autumn bridge drive and the Christmas Gift Auction.

Helensburgh Bowling Club was the venue for the former which raised the excellent total of £967. Many thanks to those members of the bowling club who were very helpful prior to and on the night.

The Christmas Auction was held once again in the Old Pump House, and Rodger Scullion’s auctioneering expertise, along with the generosity of those present, raised £500 for the charity.

The next Save the Children fund-raiser is the charity’s annual Christmas Jumper Day, taking place on Friday, December 14.

Whether it’s with colleagues, school friends or just you and some friends, by sticking on a festive knit, signing up and donating £2 to Save the Children (£1 if you’re at school) at, you will be helping give children hope for a better future.

You can find out more about the scheme, and/or give a donation, by phoning me on 01436 675767 or by calling into Humbles or PJ’s Kitchen in Helensburgh, or to Ardardan Estate, who will all have collecting cans on December 14.

Please put on a festive knit and and give £2 to save children’s lives. Thank you.

Diana Macintosh

Chair, Helensburgh and District Save the Children Committee