THE controversial plans for a new swimming pool and leisure centre on Helensburgh's waterfront should still be approved, according to council planning chiefs – despite more than 150 objections from members of the public and the town's community council.

The application to develop the site will be considered by Argyll and Bute Council's planning, protective services and licensing committee in Lochgilphead on December 19, after a public hearing in Helensburgh last month ended with a decision to defer a final verdict to await updated climate change predictions.

An updated report on the application, prepared ahead of next week's meeting, was published on the council's website on Thursday – and recommends, as the orginal report did before last month's hearing, that planning permission should be granted.

The new report addresses concerns over flood defences, the location of the proposed centre at the southern end of the pier head site (rather than further north against the pier, as recommended in the approved 2012 Helensburgh Masterplan), the objection lodged by Helensburgh Community Council, and future arrangements for the provision of a skate park at the site.

The supplementary report, by planning officer David Moore, includes the following comments.

Flood defences

"The new climate change data was published on November 26, one week after the hearing on November 19. Following this publication, the applicant has prepared an updated Technical Memo on flooding matters dated December 2018.

"This is clearly a complex technical submission, however the main points to be extracted, following review of the updated climate change information on sea levels are that:

- The proposed floor levels of the building do not need to be changed

- The proposed height of the site does not need to be changed

- The sea defences have been raised to reflect the new climate change data and address wave overtopping for the projected lifetime of the building. This involves raising the height of the sea wall from 5.4 mAOD to a maximum height of 5.9 mAOD at necessary sections.

"The result of the changes to the sea wall defence is that the flood defences will last the life time of the building of some 40 years. This provides confidence that robust and up to date climate change information has been used in arriving at the design of these features."

2012 Helensburgh Masterplan

"The Scottish Government clarifies in Planning Advice Note 83 in respect of Masterplans that: 'Most commonly, it is a plan that describes and maps an overall development concept, including present and future land use, urban design and landscaping, built form, infrastructure, circulation and service provision. It is based upon an understanding of place and it is intended to provide a structured approach to creating a clear and consistent framework for development.

'Although a masterplan may specify more detailed governing principles such as building heights, spaces, movement, landscape type and predominant uses, it does not necessarily preclude a degree of flexibility in designs within the plan.

'A major challenge is to ensure that the vision is capable of implementation. All parties must be realistic about what can be achieved with the available budget.'

"Officers remain of the opinion that the proposed building location and other external works are in conformity with the approved 2012 Masterplan addendum in respect of planning considerations, in that the application:

- Promotes a high quality Landmark Building on the site

- Locates the new building at the southern end of the site

- Does not compromise the future development of the northern section of the site for retail (which is the approved Masterplan use)

- Creates a strong linkage to the town centre through architectural detailing of the entrance to the building and high quality public realm works connecting it to West Clyde Street.

"Masterplans are not detailed planning permissions, and as PAN 83 clarifies, flexibility and realistic aspirations are an essential part of moving Masterplans forward to detailed planning permission.

"The essential elements of the approved Masterplan, from a planning perspective, are delivered by the current planning application and therefore officers remain of the opinion that the proposals are in accordance with the 2012 Masterplan addendum and the current proposals are a welcome “first step” in delivering the whole site Masterplan aspirations.

Building location

"A number of questions were asked at the hearing on November 19 as to why the building was proposed to be located at the very southern edge of the site and what design or other reasons were behind this rather than locating it further to the north.

"The applicant provided verbal response at the hearing, and has now provided a short additional addendum to the design and access statement covering these matters.

"It is clarified that:

The concept is to provide a prominent building along the waterfront esplanade with a significant and clear main entrance with good accessibility in terms of movement and visual connections to the proposed surrounding development.

The siting of the building within the southwest corner of the site is a deliberate and decisive place making decision. This move allows the building to engage physically with the pier head, slip way and sea wall defences and visually with the wider context of the town of Helensburgh.

We will, by good design, at all times eliminate technical aspects that relate directly to swimming pool construction, siting and orientation. In this instance by the siting of the building we are able to use the mass and form as a shield to the south westerly’s, providing enclosure and shelter to the building users as they walk towards the building from town and car park. By placing the pool halls on the north façade we are able to eliminate the phenomenon of spectral glare and have embraced this opportunity by opening the pool hall up to the town with large expanses of glazing whilst the random rubble walling synonymous with sea defences transitions into dressed stone panelling to accord with the civic qualities of the Helensburgh street scape and thus creating an important dialogue from building to town.

The large glazed areas on the elevations allow views into the entrance foyer, pool hall, and fitness suite and studio spaces. At night these spaces will generate activity and provide visual interest towards the building. It is intended that these elevations will provide a shop window for the new facilities and locating these animated spaces would enhance the building both internally and externally.

"This further clarification of the design process is welcomed in providing further clarity. Officers remain of the opinion that this is an attractive building which is well designed and appropriately located to meet both its civic function and its role as a landmark building on a prominent and important development site.

"The positioning of the building at the southern end of the site also has the benefit of promoting an efficient use of the overall site by leaving no redundant space at the pierhead and maximising the available land for other uses such as parking, open space and future retail provision on the site."

Helensburgh Community Council objection

"At the hearing on November 19 a presentation was led by HCC stating that the majority of responses to their own consultation exercise did not support the current proposals.

"However a more detailed examination of this HCC report, focussing in on the main planning considerations of design/appearance and location, and not operational matters such as internal facilities, provides further clarity on how the community viewed this proposal.

"Members are requested to note that the Community Council’s own consultation exercise, which attracted 1,100 responses, asked specific questions on the appearance and location of the pool building.

"Set out below is an extract from the HCC community consultation report which clarifies at paragraph 6.2:

"The first question in the survey asked whether the public felt that the proposed location of the leisure centre, at the seaward end of the carpark, was appropriate or whether it should be closer to the town.

"The response was:

- Seaward end of the carpark: 59%

- Closer to the town: 41%

"It is also considered material to note that in respect of the appearance of the proposed building that again a specific question was asked in the consultation exercise as follows:

6.7 Does the appearance of the building do justice to the prominence of the site?

- Yes: 70%

- No: 30%.

"The HCC consultation exercise found that the majority of the 1,100 community respondents, in respect of these specific and important planning matters, supported the current planning application proposals."

Future skate park arrangements

"Members will recall that as part of their presentation at the previous hearing the applicant clarified that the existing skate park equipment would be reinstated for a temporary period following the raising of the ground levels. This would continue to provide this facility until such time as the permanent design and site can be brought forward as endorsed by the [Helensburgh and Lomond] area committee, thus minimising the period of time the facility will be unavailable to users.

"To clarify this matter the applicant has provided a short submission formally confirming this intention. Officers are content that this can be secured through the use of an additional condition which requires details of the temporary skate park location and provision to be submitted and approved prior to the removal of the existing facility.

"A new condition is therefore recommended to address this matter."

Mr Moore concludes in his report: "It is the view of officers that: (i) The proposal is in accordance with the policies of the adopted local development plan; (ii) the proposal is in accordance with the approved 2012 Masterplan addendum; (iii) There have been no objections from statutory consultees other than Helensburgh Community Council; (iv) the proposal fulfils its role as a landmark building on this prominent and important site; (v) the new leisure facility will provide benefits for the whole community and also tourists and visitors to the town; (vi) no technical objections are raised on flooding matters which have now been fully addressed using the most up to date climate change information to inform the amended flood defence measures proposed."

Mr Moore's report recommends that 15 conditions be attached in the event of planning permission being granted.

At the time his report was compiled, there had been been 151 objections to the application, 97 submissions in support, and four representations neither for nor against.