This week's crop of readers' letters to the Advertiser includes your views on the regeneration of Hermitage Park, the closure of the Duchess Wood, the UK's arms export industry and more.

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Please keep your contributions as brief and to-the-point as you can, and remember to include your name and address.

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Happy writing!

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For some years we had walked through the Hermitage Park with our dogs often noting that, despite its relative desertion, it was fairly well maintained.

We attributed this to the proximity of the adjacent council maintenance area on which we understand a private care home will now be erected.

Imagine our dismay, after £2-3 million of lottery funding, when we re-visited the park again recently and found it overgrown and in a worse state than we ever remembered it to be.

Why should this be the case? We know that the project has been plagued by vandalism and understand that funding is being sourced for CCTV facilities as a consequence but is this not a case of pouring good money after bad to sustain a failing project?

Who is accountable for the apparent mess that the park is in? It surely cannot be the Friends of Hermitage Park, who have been an exemplar of social community responsibility.

Why have the contactors changed? When will the park be finally completed and formally re-opened? Why has the proposed café pavilion received no interest at £25,000 per year rental and, importantly, does the council really have the ability to manage this project?

Answers on a postcard would be appreciated!

Funding comes from the Big Lottery which does not have an impressive track record when it comes to the long term sustainability of supported projects. Look at the athletics facilities in Dumbarton’s Levengrove Park as an example.

The Lottery tends to fund that which looks good rather than projects that are properly costed, sustainable, fully evaluated and subject to meeting pre-defined outcomes.

They have a social responsibility to ensure that the monies they dispense are of demonstrable and sustainable benefit to local communities.

Is the Hermitage Park project, under the stewardship of our local council, deliverable to the standard we all would wish?

Sadly, we feel not – though we support the honourable objectives of Friends of Hermitage Park.

We feel the need to open a constructive conversation about this disappointing state of affairs.

Ian and Isabel Bone, Suffolk Street, Helensburgh

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser letters: July 4, 2019

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The Friends of Duchess Wood (FODW) Committee would like to register our objection to the lack of transparency concerning the recent closure of the Duchess Wood Local Nature Reserve (LNR) by Argyll and Bute Council.

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 the council.

Not only was the DWLNRC not consulted but members of the DWLNRC were not informed of the closure, including FODW 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.

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 appropriate body for making decisions about the wood is the DWLNRC, as agreed in the Management Plan2 for the Duchess Wood LNR. Responsibility for management of this LNR has been delegated to the DWLNRC.

Had this committee been involved in the decision making, a different course of action might have followed. Assuming that the state of the trees was so severe that an immediate decision had to be made, an emergency DWLNRC meeting could have been rapidly convened to decide on an action plan.

FODW first became aware of the closure when members were confronted by cordons and signs around the perimeter of the wood.

We have now been told that the wood is closed until further notice, due to ‘dangerous trees.’ Since this communication, almost two weeks ago, we have asked for a copy of the survey report and details of any plans to reopen the woods.

FODW were informed that a meeting was due to take place with the surveyor at the end of the previous week (June 27/28) and that we would be informed of the results and decisions. To date, we have not been provided with any further information.

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. 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.

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 Argyll and Bute Council have indicated their intention to end their involvement in managing the Duchess Wood LNR 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.

Matt Offord (Chair, Friends of Duchess Wood)

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser letters: June 27, 2019

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The High Court has ruled that arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful, but the government says it plans to keep fighting the rule in the courts – and, in the meantime, it is still working to secure more arms sales.

In just two months’ time, the global arms trade will return to London to attend the world’s third largest arms fair, selling the latest in war technology, from sniper rifles to missiles.

Government support makes it all happen. From inviting buyers like Saudi Arabia to attend, to paying the wages of military staff demonstrating arms company products. If government were to withdraw its support, it would be a crushing blow to the arms industry.

The government has drastically cut support for vital public services, yet is always willing to support the arms trade through events like this, events that spark war, poverty and suffering for millions.

If you are concerned about this, I urge you to call on Liam Fox, the minister responsible for the Defence & Security Organisation, which organises the arms fair, to look beyond arms trade profits, to the devastating human impact of the equipment DSEI promotes, and withdraw all UK support now.

While he’s feeling the heat from fellow MPs and the public after the verdict on Saudi arms sales, let’s remind him we should be stopping arms sales, not promoting more.

It’s time to cease this primitive and barbaric mindset and spend money on living human beings – not methods to kill and maim them.

B. McKenna, Overtoun Avenue, Dumbarton

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser letters: June 20, 2019

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IN August 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, the slogan “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity” became the driving force behind the growth of Irish nationalism.

The 1916 Easter Rising opened the door to a bloody conflict that only ended with the Irish civil war and a partition of the country which continues to have repercussions to the present day.

Independence for Scotland must be achieved, in the immediate or long-term future, within the parameters of what is democratically possible in Britain. A Boris Johnson premiership may well be completely repugnant to many Scots but that does not mean they will take to the streets and man the barricades until autonomy is granted.

There is no better leader in Britain at present than Nicola Sturgeon. She remains committed to a civic nationalism, based on social democratic principles. Ms Sturgeon knows that some in the independence movement are becoming impatient and vocal, yet she steadfastly maintains that her stoical approach to independence is the correct one, protecting Scotland’s interests whenever she can and promoting Scotland on the international stage, regardless of funding or support from Westminster.

Owen Kelly, Stirling