A VOLUNTEER group set up to help conserve a Helensburgh woodland has warned that it could be "some time" before full access to the area is restored after it was shut on safety grounds.

Argyll and Bute Council announced on Tuesday that the Duchess Wood had been closed temporarily "to ensure public safety".

The council said "urgent remedial works" were required to some trees in the woodland.

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The council decided last year that it will not renew a management agreement for the woods' maintenance when it expires in the summer of 2020, and has invited interested parties to stake their claim for alternative solutions.

However, Matt Offord, chair of the Friends of Duchess Wood, says the group needs more help in running the site.

He said: "We understand there is a safety issue preventing access to the wood.

"We hope that Argyll and Bute Council will make the wood safe for the community to enjoy again as soon as possible and that FODW will be in the loop to advise on practical ways forward.

"This safety issue underlines the serious problems faced by FODW and the community when Argyll and Bute Council walk away from management of Duchess Wood next year, since FODW are not resourced to deal with issues of this magnitude."

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The group added, in a statement on their website: "Further discussion indicates that the council have been carrying out a tree survey which has raised some concern re the safety of trees overhanging paths and the car park; hence the decision to close the wood.

"The council have still to determine the way ahead and to see if there can be a phased reopening of the wood as remedial work is completed.

"We suspect that it will be some time before access to some parts of the wood is restored and FODW will press for an early resolution of this."

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Helensburgh councillor Lorna Douglas, who is the chair of the wood's current management committee, said: “I can understand that people were taken aback with the announcement. I was too.

"I have spoken to officers and now appreciate that this has been done as a result of recommendations made in a draft, independent survey.

"This survey is part of a programme of good management and wood maintenance practice.

“The survey recommended closing the wood because of issues around risk. The council’s decision is based on those recommendations.

"It will take a bit of time to fully understand the implications and how best to manage the risk, but the intention is to try to make the woods accessible as soon as possible.”

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Confirming the wood's closure on Tuesday, the council said in a statement: "In order to ensure public safety, a decision has been made to close Duchess Wood in Helensburgh until further notice.

"Part of the on-going management and maintenance of Duchess Wood includes undertaking a survey of the condition of the woodland.

"Unfortunately, the most recent survey has highlighted a number of safety issues which need to be addressed, including urgent remedial works to trees.

"We have therefore been advised it is necessary to close the woodland whilst necessary works are completed.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused."