REPAIRS to Helensburgh’s pier to allow the Waverley to return to the town could cost up to £250,000 a year – and the pier’s owners have admitted they’ve no idea where the cash will come from.

The £250,000 figure comes from a report considered by the Argyll and Bute harbour board at a meeting last week – and leaves a new question mark hanging over the pier’s long term future.

Argyll and Bute Council has already ruled out major work to the timber pier on cost grounds, having been told that work was likely to cost around £850,000 – while the price of a new berthing structure has been estimated at £580,000.

Helensburgh’s pier has been closed to all marine traffic since last October on safety grounds, and the Waverley’s operators announced in April that she would not call at the pier this year – though that decision soon proved academic, as it was followed within weeks by news that the ship itself would be ruled out of service completely for the year because of the need for major boiler repairs.

The report to last week’s harbour board meeting also states that the option of using the west side of Helensburgh pier as a berth for the Waverley – identified as a less expensive option than major repairs to the whole structure – is an option viewed as “not ideal” by both Waverley Excursions Ltd (WEL) and the Helensburgh Seafront Development Project (HSDP), the community group which hopes to promote greater use of the pier in future.

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The council announced in July that it was to re-run the contract for the main work on Helensburgh’s waterfront, next to the pier, due to a “technical glitch” – but that the relaunched exercise would include the option for bidders to bring materials in by sea, potentially using the pier to do so.

WORKS to help the Waverley berth at the west side of Helensburgh’s pier have been estimated to cost £250,000 – and the cost may be needed annually.

Argyll and Bute Council has admitted that it is presently unknown where funding will come from to implement any measures to bring the iconic paddle steamer back to the town.

It has, however, allocated £85,000 of town centre funding to ensure the pier is made safe for pedestrians, and only an estimated £60,000 of the money is thought to be needed.

The £250,000 figure was laid bare in a late report submitted for a meeting of Argyll and Bute Harbour Board on Thursday, September 12.

The document also states that the option of berthing the vessel to the west side, which would involve dredging work, was labelled “not ideal” in meetings with Helensburgh Seafront Development Project and Waverley Excursions Ltd.

The Waverley was ruled out of coming to Helensburgh in 2019 in April due to the condition of the pier, resulting in a public protest at the pier later that month.

It proved academic, though, as the ship was later taken out of service for the year altogether due to required boiler repairs.

READ MORE: Council 'will not pursue' high cost Helensburgh pier options

The report, by executive director with responsibility for roads and infrastructure Pippa Milne, said: “The option to dredge and berth the Waverley to the west side of the pier was discussed at some length with Waverley Trust.

“From discussions, it was clear that although this option was workable, it was not considered as ideal; as such, this option of berthing on the west side of the pier was likely to be much more weather dependent than the existing approach to the east side.

“Calculations have now been completed, and related work is likely to cost in the region of £250,000.

“In addition, it is likely that regular maintenance dredging would be required with this option. So, commitment of revenue funding would be ongoing in future years.

Pippa Milne, the council’s executive director for roads and infrastructure, said in the report: “It should be noted that funding has not been identified for any of the options referred to in this report other than making the pier safe for pedestrian use at £85,000.

“Design work will be carried out in-house with a view to issuing a tender for appropriate works later this year.”

Other options for work on the pier were previously presented to Helensburgh and Lomond Area Committee in June.

Major repairs to the timber pier, reinstating all damage sections, are thought to cost around £850,000 while the price of a new berthing structure is estimated at £580,000.

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Stewart Clark, marine operations manager for the council, said: “The work to make the pier safe for pedestrians would involve lifting boards and some timber supports would be replaced.

“A removable barrier would be put in place. We will liaise with the support group to ensure this does not affect any future plans for the pier. We also have an extra £25,000 for further works which are unidentified as yet.”

Councillor Ellen Morton, chairing the meeting, said: “We are doing the waterfront work with the car park and the two things are adjacent to each other. When we are doing the car park there will be appearance improvements in the wider area. I have taken this report as urgent because we need a bit more flesh around the bones.” he had previously said during earlier debate on the pier: “This is a difficult situation for Helensburgh and Lomond members, but they and the community have accepted that we cannot spend almost £1 million on a pier that does not generate any income.”

“The Waverley is not operating at the moment, although we know they are fund-raising well.

“The leader [Councillor Aileen Morton] and depute leader [Councillor Gary Mulvaney] were able to identify a scheme that could identify some funding that the Scottish Government gave us, but the time frame is incredibly tight.

“We have to keep moving on the next bit of work, using the funding of £85,000.”