A GROUP set up to help look after the Duchess Wood in Helensburgh has called for talks to take place as soon as possible on the local nature reserve’s future.

The Friends of Duchess Wood are anxious for a meeting of the wood’s local nature reserve committee to take place at the earliest opportunity following its recent closure on safety grounds by Argyll and Bute Council.

The next meeting of the council's Duchess Wood local nature reserve committee (DWLNRC), chaired by Helensburgh councillor Lorna Douglas, is not due to take place until Tuesday, August 20.

In an open letter, the Friends also hit out at what they view as a lack of transparency over the wood’s closure, which was enforced on Tuesday, June 18.

READ MORE: Council closes Duchess Wood over 'safety concerns'

The council is due to stop managing the wood next year after councillors voted in 2018 not to renew the current management agreement.

There is still no clarity as to when the wood will re-open, with the final version of a report by external consultants awaited after a draft recommended it was closed.

The letter, written by Friends chairman Matt Offord, said: “This decision was not taken by the Duchess Wood Local Nature Reserve Committee (DWLNRC), which has been provided with delegated responsibility for ‘management of the wood’ by Argyll and Bute Council.

“Not only was the DWLNRC not consulted but members of the DWLNRC were not informed of the closure, including FODW [the Friends] and the landowner, Luss Estates.

“The woods appear to have been closed by the council following a tree survey which is said to have identified unsafe trees posing a risk to the general public.

READ MORE: No word – after two weeks – on Duchess Wood re-opening

“Despite our requests for a copy of the report, at the time of writing this letter, FODW has not been provided with one. If the report contained sensitive commercial information, an edited report could have been provided.

“The FODW wish to register their objection to the opaque management of this incident and request that FODW and the landowner are involved in future decision making.

“It seems illogical that when the council have indicated their intention to end their involvement in managing the Duchess Wood local nature reserve in 2020, they are, in 2019, taking important decisions about this vital community resource without any consultation.

“If no deadline has been set for completion of the work which may be needed to make trees safe, it is possible that it will not be completed before the council walks away from its commitment to help deliver the management plan.

“It is requested that a meeting of the DWLNRC is convened at the earliest opportunity, to decide on a course of action.”

READ MORE: Duchess Wood safety closure: full access 'could take some time' to restore

Mr Offord also claimed that the Friends first became aware of the closure when members were confronted by cordons and signs around the perimeter of the wood.

The council issued a press release on the day of the closure advising residents of developments, and has now added it to the constantly-updated list of road closures on its website.

Mr Offord added: “At the cordons, signs have been placed with a phone number to call for more information.

“FODW have called this number to find that the council employee answering the call knew nothing of the closure and, on consulting with colleagues, was unable to find out anything about it.

“FODW have noted that members of the public are regularly passing through the cordon to enter the wood.

READ MORE: Councillors vote to end Duchess Wood management role

“FODW does not condone entry during the closure of the woods but it is perhaps not a surprising response, considering the lack of effective communication with the local community.

“Duchess Wood is an area of natural beauty where many Helensburgh residents enjoy walks. It is a great shame to close the wood during the height of summer, when residents will wish to enjoy the area.”

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: “We informed the public on June 18 that Duchess Wood would be closed until further notice following a survey of the woodland.

“The council has overall responsibility for Duchess Wood and acted swiftly in the interests of public safety.

“We appreciate the importance of Duchess Wood to the local area, and will provide updates on work to be carried out.”