PLANS for a 64-bedroom care home in upper Helensburgh have been given the green light after a public hearing in the town.

Nine members of Argyll and Bute Council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee were involved in the event on Wednesday, October 16, which saw Simply UK’s proposals for the facility given the go-ahead by the narrowest of margins.

Helensburgh and Lomond South councillor David Kinniburgh, the committee’s chair, moved that the plans should be approved, as recommended by officials, and Lomond North Councillor George Freeman seconded.

Also in favour were Councillors Alastair Redman, Robin Currie and Donald MacMillan.

Another Helensburgh and Lomond South councillor, Richard Trail, moved an amendment that the plans should be refused.

Helensburgh Central councillor Lorna Douglas seconded, with Councillors Jean Moffat and Sandy Taylor also voting that way.

READ MORE: Revised plans unveiled for new Helensburgh care home

The approval will see the facility, which is planned to include bars and a beauty salon, built at the Hermitage Park depot site on Sinclair Street.

A total of 57 public objections had been received by the council to the plans, which were submitted in July after previous proposals were withdrawn.

A number of them had centred on the visual impact on the Grade A listed war memorial in Hermitage Park, as well as on neighbouring Prince Albert Terrace and Birch Cottages.

Councillor Kinniburgh said during the decisive debate part of the hearing: “A lot has been said about the war memorial, but I just can’t comprehend some of it.

“I don’t think the building will be visible from these parts of the park. The War Memorial can be seen from all over the park. I just don’t think you will be able to see vast areas of the care home.

“People have their opinions on what should not be on the site. I fully appreciate the work Helensburgh Community Council have done in reaching their conclusions.

“I do have concerns about the size of the building, but I don’t think the rooms are that big. I was in a hotel recently and the room was of a size of 30 square metres. That, to me, is an average hotel room.

“If you have 64 bedrooms of that size, you are way over the size of this building [the Victoria Halls, where the hearing took place].”

READ MORE: Bars and beauty salon feature in Helensburgh care home plans

It had been indicated by some objectors, including the Community Council, that reducing the two buildings of the care home by a storey each would be acceptable.

But representatives of Simply UK said that the building would not be financially viable with less accommodation.

Councillor Kinniburgh added: “I don’t see that taking a floor off would make much difference to the building itself.

“My conclusion, and I have found it very difficult to weigh it up, is that this proposal should go ahead.

“I recognise the concerns of residents and recognise the issues, but even if the building is smaller you will still have those issues.

“I have come down on the side of believing that this is the right proposal.”

Helensburgh MSP Jackie Baillie had previously sought the refusal of the plans, and was present at the hearing.

She had previously warned in her submission to the council that there were grounds for a referral to Scottish ministers if the plans were given the go-ahead.

READ MORE: Helensburgh's MSP says care home plans should be refused due to 'conflict of interests'

At the hearing, she said: “The height of the building is the dominating factor.

“If the developer was minded to reduce the height of the building, it would remove many of the problems, and I don’t see why a care home, in this location, would not make a positive contribution to Helensburgh.”

Councillor Moffat, who was the first of the committee to voice opposition to the plans, said: “I really support having care homes, and I really hope one can be built there, but not this one.

“My opinion is that it would not enhance the area.

“I cannot, in any way, support it. It is the most inappropriate thing.”

But Cllr Kinniburgh's motion won the day by five votes to four.

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