COUNCIL workers hope to have the Duchess Wood in Helensburgh made safe and fully, and officially, re-opened to the public early in the new year.

The pledge was made at a meeting of the committee which manages the wood, held in Helensburgh this week.

The wood has been officially closed since June, when Argyll and Bute Council acted on a report by TD Trees which recommended closure of the wood on safety grounds.

Larry Malone, area supervisor with the council, which is responsible for the wood’s oversight, told the authority’s Duchess Wood Local Nature Reserve Committee he would hope to have some areas dealt with by the end of this year.

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

This would be followed by contractors coming to deal with the remaining issues, with a target date for completion of Friday, January 31.

Helensburgh Central councillor Lorna Douglas, chair of the committee, said that she was “speechless” about the latest developments – and said: “It’s just great that we can actually do something.”

A meeting of several parties involved in the wood’s management took place on Wednesday, September 25, and the results of that gathering were circulated at Tuesday’s meeting.

Mr Malone said: “I was in the wood last week with a health and safety officer. We found about five trees in the car park area. I will get them taken down and made safe, and also do the bridges as well.

“There are not many men who can do the tree work, but I will have them done hopefully by the end of next month.

READ MORE: Report revealed on Duchess Wood safety concerns after three month wait

“I have dealt with the Duchess Wood for 30-odd years, so I know it well, and when the wood was closed, I just did as I was told.”

The meeting was, however, told that road maintenance work in wintry weather was council staff’s priority and may delay any work on the wood.

Councillor Douglas said: “I am just so glad that at last there is movement. I know you are reduced in numbers and that if there are other priorities you need to move elsewhere, but this is all going well.

“There has been a breakdown in communication [over the closure of the wood] and it has taken four or five months to resolve it, but hopefully we will be down in the woods again.

“Just to check – you can say by the end of January, all the work should be done?”

READ MORE: Helensburgh councillor hits out at Duchess Wood communications 'fiasco'

Mr Malone replied: “I would hope that the [dangerous] trees will be down by Christmas, if we have the staff available and the weather is kind.”

The meeting also heard that Lomond School, which hosted Tuesday’s meeting, has been unable to teach forest skills or rugby during the current session due to the wood’s closure.

The school previously advised that its pupils needed to move through the wood’s car park to access their rugby pitches.

Keith Robertson, the school’s estates manager, said: “We haven’t been going near the wood while it has been closed. When it is reopened we will get cracking again, but you won’t see us there until then.”

Argyll and Bute Council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee voted last year not to renew their role in the management of the wood when the current agreement runs out next summer.

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