COMMUNITY councillors in Helensburgh say they feel as if they’re being kept “at arm’s length” by Argyll and Bute officials over their attempts to get more involved in the development of the town.

Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) is urging the local authority not to see them as “NIMBYs” after it submitted two official requests to participate in aspects of Argyll and Bute Council’s work.

HCC has used Scotland’s new Community Empowerment Act (CEA) to lodge two official “participation requests” with the council.

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Community councillor Nigel Millar told HCC’s latest meeting: “There have been two participation requests submitted by HCC: one for participation in the development of the town’s roads infrastructure, which was granted, and one in relation to the development of the waterfront site, which was also granted but which hasn’t happened.

“Councils are stretched to the wire because of austerity. But the message that has to come out from this process is that participation gets better results: as a public body you get more input from your customers, and there is greater potential for conflicts getting headed off at the pass.

“People putting in participation requests are not NIMBYs: we are not sticking out a leg for a council officer to trip over. Those officials want to make their communities better, and so do we.

“If officials could recognise the driving force of the people who make the requests, they might be more inclined to grant them and to take part in them.”

Mr Millar was responding to a presentation at HCC’s monthly meeting by Dr Clementine Hill O’Connor from Glasgow Caledonian University, who is part of a team commissioned by the Scottish Government to study the impact of participation requests made under the CEA.

Dr Hill O’Connor said that HCC had submitted two of only 19 official participation requests lodged by community groups anywhere in Scotland since the new legislation came into effect.

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Mr Millar said the town’s Hermitage Park project – where Argyll and Bute Council is working in partnership with the Friends of Hermitage Park on the area’s £3.3 million regeneration – was “a model to be followed, in contrast with the waterfront”.

He added: “A lot of our money is going to be spent on the waterfront; we will be getting something better than what’s there at the moment, but our view, on the whole, is that while it’s good, it could have been better.

“With participation we will get a better result.”

HCC member Roger Clarke added: “Participation in the town’s roads infrastructure has started off very well. But the people dealing with us were trying to keep us at arm’s length all the time.

“There was to be no direct contact with council officials. For a variety of reasons we didn’t have a meeting for nearly 12 months.”

A council spokesperson said: “We have a strong track record of meaningful engagement with community councils. We made considerable efforts to take full account of the views of Helensburgh Community Council on the Waterfront development, which resulted in extensive scrutiny by the planning protective services and licensing committee.”