THIS week's councillor column comes from Lomond North councillor George Freeman, who criticises Argyll and Bute Council over the rising cost of Helensburgh's proposed new waterfront leisure centre.


A RECENT report to the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee (EDI) highlighted the projected rising costs of the proposed new leisure centre on Helensburgh’s waterfront and stated that ‘value engineering’ options may have to be considered if tender prices are unaffordable.

In plain English, that means potential cuts to the project to try and ensure that it remains within the allocated budget.

The report also states that potential increased costs “will already have impacted on the project budget due to the delay in securing planning approval following community council objections to the planning hearing”.

It is most disappointing that the council appears to point the finger at (unnamed) community councils for the delay in securing planning permission but fails to highlight that, apart from two community councils, there were 115 objections submitted to the council relating to this planning application.

READ MORE: Report raises fears over Helensburgh waterfront affordability

As anyone who has followed this issue will be well aware, Helensburgh Community Council submitted significant and well researched objections to this application. The planning, protective services and licensing committee (PPSL), of which I am a member, takes all representations into account when dealing with any planning application, and it is therefore disappointing that the report has singled out community councils for objecting.

I also noted with interest that Councillor Ellen Morton told the EDI committee that the council should not be held responsible for the predicted rising costs of delivering the new waterfront leisure facility.

That is clearly debatable as it could be argued that the council, as the developer in this instance, failed to submit a planning application that was acceptable to the planning authority – hence the reason for the delay in obtaining planning permission.

READ MORE: Helensburgh waterfront delays and rising costs 'not council's fault'

If officers are highlighting pressure on funding, and the possibility that the new facility could be well over budget and that the tender prices could be “unaffordable”, the question must be asked again: why did administration councillors, including a number of local councillors, agree to the transfer of the £5 million from this project to Dunoon pier when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) contributed £5m to the cost of the leisure facility?

The only project to benefit from the £5m MoD contribution was the Dunoon pier project. As a result, the Helensburgh and Lomond area is likely to end up with a downgraded leisure facility.