ONE of Britain’s biggest home builders has apologised after complaints were made alleging that waste material from a Helensburgh building site has been “dumped” in a local nature reserve.

Persimmon Homes said it was “sorry for any concern caused” after complaints were made to Argyll and Bute Council and Scotland’s environmental watchdog.

A public meeting in the town heard claims that around a thousand tonnes of waste material had been found in the town’s Duchess Wood, next door to where Persimmon is building 76 new family homes on the site of the former Dobbies garden centre on Rhu Road Higher.

The company says the material is the result of “tree clearance and relocation of tree mulch”.

Helensburgh resident Stewart Campbell, who until last month was the chairman of the Friends of Duchess Wood (FODW), gave his account of the incident at a meeting of Helensburgh Community Council.

Mr Campbell revealed details of what he found when he gave a presentation on the Friends’ recent work.

He told the public meeting: “I saw what appeared to be a construction vehicle operating in the wood.

“I saw a lot of material from Persimmon’s site. We don’t know the extent of the environmental damage but it’s just awful that Persimmon could think this would be a good idea in a local nature reserve.”

Mr Campbell said the Friends had raised their concerns with Argyll and Bute Council and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

A council spokesman told the Advertiser: “We are aware of this issue and an investigation is ongoing in conjunction with SEPA.”

A SEPA spokeswoman added: “SEPA received an anonymous complaint on December 4, 2018 about unauthorised deposit of waste on land at Duchess Wood, Helensburgh.

“SEPA officers have attended the site and are investigating the matter.

“Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment and we are clear that compliance is non-negotiable.”

Matt Offord, who took over from Mr Campbell as the Friends’ chairman in December, said: “The Friends of Duchess Wood alerted Argyll and Bute Council to the apparent dumping of spoil from the Persimmon site into the Duchess Wood Local Nature Reserve (LNR), adjacent to the south-east boundary of the Persimmon site.

“The Friends have raised this as an enforcement complaint with Argyll and Bute Council.

“We are very concerned about this ‘dumping’ and its potential impact on the local nature reserve and hope to be involved in further discussions over the resolution of this matter.”

Doug Law, managing director of Persimmon Homes West Scotland, said: “We apologise for any concern that tree clearance and relocation of the tree mulch has caused and I would like to reassure residents that this will be dealt with as soon as possible.

“Clearance of the trees was in accordance with our planning consent and we have met with the local authority on site to discuss our approach to resolve this issue.”

Argyll and Bute Council’s planning committee gave permission in December 2017 for a development of family homes on the site, despite objections from more than 80 Helensburgh residents and the town’s community council.

The company is advertising properties at the development – named ‘Duchess Gait’ – for sale from £113,694.

Persimmon’s website describes Helensburgh as “a desirable place to live” which is “set against the beautiful natural backdrop of Duchess Wood”.