Helensburgh’s Duchess Wood could be open by the end of the year – if funds are secured to carry out vital safety work.

That’s the prediction made by the Helensburgh councillor who chairs the wood’s management committee.

But Lorna Douglas says she remains mystified at why a report on ‘at risk’ trees in the wood was not made public until three months after its contents were used to justify the nature reserve’s official closure.

The report, by TD Trees, was finally made available to members of the Duchess Wood Local Nature Reserve Committee in mid-September – after Argyll and Bute Council announced in June that members of the public were no longer allowed access to the wood on safety grounds.

The TD Trees report revealed that 97 trees in the wood presented a safety risk to the public.

READ MORE: Helensburgh's Duchess Wood is closed by council over 'safety issues'

Despite the official closure, there are no signs to indicate that access to the wood is not permitted, meaning many members of the public are continuing to use the area to walk and to exercise their pets.

Councillor Douglas told Helensburgh Community Council (HCC): “Nothing in the report is inflammatory or commercially sensitive. I still don’t know why the report wasn’t given to the committee in the first place.

“The whole thing has been a bit of a communications fiasco.”

The council is currently awaiting the outcome of a funding application to the Woodlands In and Around Towns (WIAT) scheme to enable the work to go ahead.

“We need confirmation of funding availability before putting the work out to tender,” Cllr Douglas continued.

“We would hope to have news of funding, and therefore whether we can advertise a works contract, in the middle of October.

“A lot of the work that’s needed is on crowns of trees, and the council can’t do that work itself.

READ MORE: Report revealed – at last – on Duchess Wood safety concerns

“The work will last for a few weeks and will also include bat surveys.

“I would hope that by the end of the year the work can be carried out and the wood can be officially opened.”

Cllr Douglas also echoed criticisms made in the last few weeks by the Friends of Duchess Wood after TD Trees’ report identified a long-standing lack of maintenance work in the wood to make, and keep, the trees safe.

“It’s the scale of the work that’s the problem,” she said.

“The report says there has been no substantive work done to make, and keep, these trees safe for years, and that is what has led to this.

“Parts of trees have fallen and the council has taken them away, but there’s been no major maintenance work done.

“But four or five people are killed in the UK every year by fallen trees, and the council couldn’t argue with the recommendation for immediate closure on safety grounds.”

The council’s responsibility for managing the wood ends in July 2020 after Helensburgh and Lomond councillors voted last year not to renew their existing management agreement with the wood’s owners, Luss Estates.

READ MORE: Councillors vote to walk away from Duchess Wood management role

Cllr Douglas told HCC members there was no prospect of the wood being sold for housing as long as it remains a local nature reserve.

“It’s protected because of its official status as a local nature reserve, and because it’s in the green belt,” she said.

“It’s also an ancient woodland. In terms of its long term future, it’s pretty safe, as long as it’s a local nature reserve.”

READ MORE: Check out all the Advertiser's Duchess Wood coverage here