THE Paddle Steamer Waverley may never return to Helensburgh if the town’s pier is left in the hands of Argyll and Bute Council, business chiefs have claimed.

Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce also said in a statement that one local business is set for a 10 per cent drop in summer trade as a result of the ship not stopping at the town during summer 2019.

Waverley Excursions Ltd has announced that no stops will be made at Helensburgh at any point in this year’s season, having already intimated that the town would not feature during the late May Bank Holiday.

Kilcreggan Pier will be used as an alternative stopping point, with a shuttle bus service provided two days a week.

The Chamber has pledged to support the Helensburgh Seafront Development Project’s efforts to safeguard the pier’s future.

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A spokesperson for the Chamber said: “It is no surprise to anyone in the town that the Waverley will not be coming to Helensburgh this year. In fact, if it is left to the council it is unlikely that she will ever call at Helensburgh again.

“The detail of the plight of Helensburgh Pier and the threat its condition posed for the future of Waverley sailings has been known to local councillors for at least two years.

“They have allowed this devastating blow to the town simply to happen because they cannot get their paid consultants to deliver reports on time to allow action to be implemented.

“A number of very angry local businesses commented at the weekend that local councillors should hang their heads in shame.

“This has happened on their watch and feeble excuses are no comfort to the many businesses who will lose trade from the loss of the Waverley customers.

“It is an iconic vessel. Helensburgh has always been the envy of many coastal towns because Helensburgh has been a calling point for decades.”

The Chamber has now called on the council to try to ensure that the Waverley will call at the town again in the future.

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The spokesperson added: “Passengers come to Helensburgh from many places to board and in the morning they use the cafes and shops and on return many of them stay for a meal or a carry out.

“Many also come just to watch the Waverley arrive and leave and then they spend the rest of the day in the town.

“One local business told the Chamber he would lose 10 per cent of his summer trade by not having Waverley customers and supporters. However, what matters now is that councillors insist that officers come forward with a repair plan and ensure that is completed by the autumn so that discussions can begin to ensure Helensburgh is reinstated on the Waverley’s schedule next year.

“In the meantime the Chamber will continue to support the Helensburgh Seafront Development Group in efforts to ensure the pier has a future and it is obviously not going to happen if it is left in the hands of Argyll and Bute Council.”

The news about the pier’s poor condition was described as “a punch in the solar plexus” by Chamber director Vivien Dance when it first emerged in September.

She added: “The impact on the local economy if the Waverley is no longer able to call at Helensburgh pier will be significant.”