THE owners of two patches of land in the west end of Helensburgh have claimed that a community vote in favour of a buy-out of both sites demonstrates a “general lack of support” for the initiative.

Thomas Paterson and Margery Osborne were reacting after the results were announced of a ballot organised for the Helensburgh Community Woodland Group (HCWG) to ascertain support for the group’s hopes to buy the Castle Wood, off Rhu Road Higher, and a site on Cumberland Avenue.

A total of 2,138 people, all of them registered voters living in the west end of the town, were sent voting papers, and 931 – or 43.5 per cent of those eligible – took part in the ballot.

Both results were overwhelmingly in favour of the buy-out, with 861 backing a buy-out of the Castle Wood and 840 supporting a similar move for the Cumberland Avenue site – 92.5 per cent and 90.2 per cent respectively of those who voted.

READ MORE: Public vote to be held on Helensburgh group's land buy-out plans

But Mr Paterson and Ms Osborne, who own both sites, say the turnout figure should persuade HCWG to concentrate on other sites. They said in a joint statement: “We are very pleased with the outcome of the secret ballot taken by HCWG. The result clearly indicates a general lack of support.

“We would suggest that perhaps now the HCWG should consider putting their members’ membership money to a more practical use by concentrating their effort on sites that are readily available within the Helensburgh district.”

But the woodland group’s chairman, Andrew Donald, says the response rate was “very creditable”, and the vote in favour will enable them to apply to Scottish ministers for the community acquisition of each site under legislation which allows communities to buy land deemed “abandoned, derelict or neglected”.

READ MORE: 'End game in sight' for Helensburgh woodlands' ownership battle

Mr Donald said: “We are delighted with the response and the result.

“It is very difficult to get the public to take part in any type of ballot or election and we think the response rate is very creditable.

"In both cases more than 90 per cent of respondents were 90 per cent in favour. That’s a resounding endorsement of what we are trying to achieve on behalf of the community.

“We still have many challenges to overcome, but the backing from the community has given us a massive boost and encouragement that we are doing the right things.

“Supported by the results of the ballot we will shortly submit applications for the community acquisition to Scottish ministers, making a separate application for each piece of land.

READ MORE: Talks break down over Helensburgh woodlands' future

“This process is very robust and is designed to ensure all interested parties have a fair say. It therefore takes a considerable amount of time. We would expect a decision around April 2020.”

“During this time we will also be working hard on getting funding support in place in anticipation of a positive outcome.

“We will also increase our focus on the planning aspects of delivering the projects.”

By comparison with the HCWG ballot response rate, at the last Argyll and Bute Council election in 2017, turnout in the Helensburgh Central ward – where the ballot exclusively took place – was 51.7 per cent.

The European Parliament elections earlier this year saw a turnout across Argyll and Bute of 46.8 per cent, while the constituency turnout at the last UK general election in 2017 was 71.5 per cent.

READ MORE: Check out the latest news from Helensburgh and Lomond here