THE people of Helensburgh are about to be consulted on a conservation exercise for the town centre which could net £1.5 million in government funding.

Argyll and Bute Council will launch a consultation process on Wednesday, May 1, seeking residents’ opinions on turning part of the town centre into a conservation area.

The proposed zone would run mostly between James Street and Maitland Street, extending out for Helensburgh Central Station, and as far north as King Street.

The scheme has been described as “a marvellous opportunity” for the town, and came about as part of an application to Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funding.

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Councillors attending Helensburgh and Lomond area committee’s meeting on Wednesday, April 24 agreed to start the consultation process – but there was one dissenting voice.

Lomond North councillor George Freeman said: “I appreciate that the CARS application is dependent on it, but when you look at the other two conservation areas in Helensburgh, and stand on the pier and look towards the town, it is difficult to see how you can justify a conservation area – in my humble opinion.

“The square is now a modern area after refurbishment but it doesn’t have a lot going for it when you compare it with other conservation areas.

“But if you want to go to consultation, I’m not going to die in a ditch over it.”

Council leader Aileen Morton immediately responded: “I completely disagree. I remember looking at a map of lower Helensburgh and it was surprising to see how many listed buildings were in the town centre compared to existing conservation areas.

“What the map draws to my mind is the work done by the residents and businesses in the area, like the tenements on Sinclair Street at East Princes Street.

“It would make a massive improvement but when you look at other areas that have done this, and other benefits of how to work with conservation materials, this would be a massive opportunity for Helensburgh.

“I appreciate a conservation area does not deliver the CARS scheme, but a conservation area would be of benefit.”

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A report prepared in advance of the meeting by the council’s executive director of development and infrastructure Pippa Milne stated: “The Helensburgh CARS application was submitted alongside a bid for a Lochgilphead CARS, which has secured £969,700 and which will be delivered between 2019 and 2024.

“In addition to Lochgilphead, Argyll and Bute Council has been successful in securing a total of £4,344,781 in CARS funding for the town centre conservation areas of Campbeltown, Rothesay, Inveraray, Dunoon and Lochgilphead.

“If a conservation area is designated in 2019, the application for CARS funding to the value of £1.5m would be determined in the early part of 2020.

“If successful, a Helensburgh CARS project would target buildings in the town centre requiring substantial repair and be delivered over a five-year period between 2020 and 2025.”

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Councillors were also asked to note that Helensburgh’s bid for CARS funding has been deferred until 2020.

Depute council leader Gary Mulvaney said:  “This is a means to an end. Without conservation area status we wouldn’t be able to do a CARS bid, so we either accept that, and the town centre stays the town centre, or we look at it as a means of getting a bid in.

“If you look at other towns where we have done the CARS scheme, like Campbeltown and Rothesay, they have been able to deal with issues.

“You look at some buildings in our town and think that we need to do something with them.”

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Councillor Ellen Morton, the area committee’s chair, said: “I think it is an incredible opportunity for Helensburgh to get.

“It is a marvellous opportunity to enhance the work already done in Helensburgh, such as the work done on the municipal chambers.

“The scaffolding is now away and you can see the improvement that has been made.

“The town’s new swimming pool is also three years away and we hope to go out to tender shortly.

“In other towns they have raised £5million in conservation grants. The best example is Campbeltown, whose town centre was derelict-looking 15 or 20 years ago.

“We would be foolish not to try to take advantage of this. All we are asking about at this stage is going out to consultation and asking the community if they want to consider this.

“The benefits enormously outweigh any disadvantage.”

More details of the consultation will be available at