THE first impressions of the general public's vision of, and vision for, Helensburgh have been revealed – and some of the results may surprise you.

The outcome of a survey carried out by Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) on the subject was reported at the group's most recent meeting – and, according to the HCC member who presented the results, the town has plenty of potential for improvement, but only if the survey's results are transformed into action.

The Vision for Helensburgh project surveyed residents and visitors to identify what the community would like the town to be in the future.

Among the questions posed by HCC's Norman McNally was this intriguing poser: if Helensburgh were a car, what sort of car would it be?

Mr McNally said: “Helensburgh is certainly not a Rolls Royce, that would be Bath or Chester.

"We’re a sort of 20-year-old Volvo; diesel; it’s still workmanlike; probably pollutes a lot; it’s high maintenance, and you’d probably like something a bit more up to date.

“Most people think it’s a splendid place, but one saying which comes to mind is it’s forward thinking but not forward doing.”

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Preserving the pier and enhancing seafront amenities stood out as priorities from the public poll conducted during the second half of 2019.

After collecting more than 800 responses, Mr McNally said the feedback proved there is potential for improvement in the area – but only if the results are acted upon.

“Visitors have a much more positive view of coming into Helensburgh than the people who live here,” he said.

“There is this feeling we are just being buffeted by the change in economic and political circumstances.

“Helensburgh is being pushed around by the waves and the wind.”

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Referring to a 19th century painting called Raft of the Medusa, depicting a French frigate which ran aground off the coast of Africa with over 150 sailors on board, Mr McNally added: “When they were rescued there were 16-and-a-half left, because they’d been eating one another.

“We don’t want that to be happening in Helensburgh, but sometimes it gets close to it.

“Drifting is not a direction of travel.

“We have got a beautiful town with an underwhelming seafront and we could easily do a lot more about it.”

In November, the Advertiser revealed that Michael Baker, who owns the former Helensburgh Heroes centre in Sinclair Street, plans to launch a new Helensburgh and Lomond Cultural Centre to “celebrate the past and current achievements of persons associated with the area and its attractions as a place to live and visit”.

Community council member Barbara Warren told the meeting at the Victoria Halls that such a proposal would be a welcome addition, and she believes the community council can play its part in making it a reality.

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She said: “There’s a place here for something long-term for Vision for Helensburgh.

“A lot of different groups are doing the same thing, there are over 260 groups in the town, and counting.

“We need a long-term project to link those groups so they can work together and get something much more cohesive which would be more effective in lots of ways.

“The biggest issue is communication. We need an information centre where we can share information and people can see what’s on.”

HCC convenor Norman Muir also noted the likely disruptive impact of the upcoming waterfront leisure complex development.

He added: “This town is going to be a building site for the next three years, starting in probably May next year, and we’ve got to do everything in our power to make sure that visitors get an experience here to make up for the building site, and the community as well.

“So, it’s really important that we pick up ideas like this, run with them and have this stuff around so that we can prepare for the summer.”

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