ARGYLL and Bute Council has put forward a solution to concerns over a lack of coach parking in Helensburgh's town centre during the construction of the town's new swimming pool.

Long-standing concerns over facilities for visiting coaches during the building work were aired at a meeting of the Helensburgh and Lomond community planning group (CPG) last week.

Coaches currently use a section of the free waterfront car park in front of the present swimming pool – but that parking area will not be available once building work on the leisure centre starts.

Vivien Dance, chair of Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce, told a meeting of the CPG in Arrochar last week that a failure to provide proper coach parking close to the centre of the town would put some businesses' futures at risk.

But the council now says it plans to set aside a parking bay on East Princes Street, next to an existing car park, for coaches to use during the work.

READ MORE: Helensburgh businesses voice fears over coach parking during waterfront work

According to the most recent report to go before the council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee, in September 2019, the construction phase is expected to start in May.

The new leisure centre is then projected to open in May 2022, after which the current facility will be demolished.

Mrs Dance told the CPG: “Since Noah was a boy, we have been doing surveys of what people think, and traffic and parking is either first or second concern for people in Helensburgh and Lomond.

“We are extremely concerned about decisions that have been made with regards to the construction phase at the seafront, particularly on tourism parking.

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“We feel that it is the most challenging issue to affect the local economy. We have three years of very difficult times coming up.

“If it is not right, it could literally finish some of our businesses.”

She then said: “All coach parking will be removed from the town centre car park during the construction phase.

“We sometimes have eight to 10 coaches visiting Helensburgh at one time and the local economy is dependent on it through the summer, and to a lesser extent during the winter.

“But to have no coach parking available on the seafront would be devastating.

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“We have been involved in conversations at all levels for over a year and don’t seem to be getting anywhere.”

The original waterfront development proposals suggested that coaches visiting Helensburgh during the buiding works could park on Rhu Road Higher, near Helensburgh Rugby Club or at Station Road, close to Craigendoran railway station, though neither option found favour with local business chiefs.

Sephton MacQuire, of Dunbritton Housing Association, told the meeting: “The original plan was for two coach spaces, and drivers have said no way.

“They [the developers of the waterfront] want to see something looking nice, not practical, and that is the biggest problem.”

The new leisure centre was granted planning permission in January 2019, with a decision having been deferred twice since a public hearing two months earlier.

READ MORE: 'Sensible' delay to waterfront decision hailed by Helensburgh business chiefs

Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: “We met with the community council and have listened to concerns.

“The parking bay on East Princes Street [at the rear of the Grant Street car park] will have the traffic order amended to coach parking only.

“It is fully accessible, close to the town centre and away from the windy seafront, which should help when disembarking from coaches.

“There will be a full public consultation, including the tour companies, prior to the amendment of the traffic order. 

“While the building works are progressing, we will monitor the coach parking.”

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