HELENSBURGH’S new waterfront leisure centre development faces “significant” financial challenges despite recently being granted planning permission, a report has claimed.

The cost of the complex, which is scheduled to open in October 2021, has recently increased to more than £19.5 million.

That figure was approved by Argyll and Bute councillors as part of the authority’s 2019/20 budgeting process, but in a new report, the council’s executive director of development and infrastructure, Pippa Milne, has warned that obstacles remain in place to the completion of the project.

The document has been produced for a meeting of the council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee at the Helensburgh and Lomond Civic Centre on Thursday, March 21.

Ms Milne’s report states: “In December 2018 members recommended to the policy and resources committee that additional funding should be made available for the delivery of environmental improvements/public realm works at the north of the site.

“At the February 21 full council budget meeting, members approved this additional budget allowance, taking the approved budget to £19,510,680.

“Whilst this is a major commitment of capital, we recognise that there are still expected to be significant challenges to overcome.

“[These include] Overall affordability of the project at a time of a reduced capital budget within the council, and with an expectation that the year-on-year situation is unlikely to show an improvement in the short to medium term.

“Reduced availability of capital funding from external sources, with the focus moving away from local authorities and towards community and third sector organisations.

“Availability of construction resources, including engineering personnel, general labour, plant, equipment and materials with a number of nationally important projects coming on stream.”

Building work on the new pool is due to get under way in September, according to Ms Milne’s report.

After the new pool’s planned October 2021 opening, the current pool will be demolished and  landscaping and car parking facilities completed.

The report also advises that much of the technical design process for the new leisure centre is almost complete.

The contract for building the waterfront complex is expected to be awarded in August, with a rigorous procurement process currently ongoing.

Ms Milne added: “Following the assessment of the EPSD [European Single Procurement Document] submissions, we expect to issue the Invitation to Tender to suitable candidates on April 23. Deadline for returning tenders would be June 7.

“Members will wish to note that starting the procurement exercise for the main works contract will provide hard market data and prices, which will enable the project team to make subsequent and informed recommendations to the committees of the council with respect to the affordability of the project overall.

“Starting the procurement exercise in no way commits the council to awarding any contract, nor does it commit any significant capital expenditure at this stage.”