COMMUNITY councillors in Helensburgh have threatened to refer Argyll and Bute Council to the national public spending watchdog over the controversial waterfront leisure complex plans.

The new swimming pool project, which has been beset by delays and disagreement since outline plans were agreed in 2016, is expected to cost almost £20 million.

A contractor has yet to be announced after the tendering process had to be restarted last year due to an “inadvertent technical breach”, and the centre is not now expected to open until May 2022, more than two years behind the original schedule.

Members of Helensburgh Community Council (HCC), who repeatedly raised concerns over the risk of flooding at the site while the scheme was awaiting planning permission, last week questioned the sustainability of the project.

READ MORE: Helensburgh's new pool 'won't open to the public until 2022'

Citing an article in the Advertiser on a report by Climate Central, which revealed that Helensburgh and other coastal areas are at much greater risk from flooding as a result of climate change than initially thought, John Tacchi, a former Argyll and Bute councillor, said: “Even if that report is indicative and not precise, then the implication is that the flood could engulf the building from all sides.

“We could end up with a swimming pool, which is sitting on a platform, which is isolated by a great big swimming pool around it.

“If they are going to build on the pier and it’s going to be at risk of inundation, they shouldn’t be spending public money on a project that is not likely to last 30 years.

“Is it not opportune, in view of this appearing in the Advertiser, that we raise the concern of the town about this report?”

Mr Tacchi asked members if they would support correspondence with Audit Scotland – the independent body which monitors local authority spending – to look at whether Argyll and Bute Council’s investment in the waterfront project, with the leisure centre and pool at the south end of the pierhead site, is justified.

Roger Clarke told the meeting: “To me this is purely a vanity project that is going to go ahead whether we like it or not.”

READ MORE: Climate emergency 'threatens Helensburgh's coastline', says new report

David Allan added: “Just looking at the pictures from the recent storms, are our councillors willing to stand up and say that is the best site for our pool?

“Would they be willing to stand up and put their name to underwrite any damage done to the pool in the first five years?”

Peter Brown, who submitted a detailed representation to the council on behalf of HCC when the waterfront plans were lodged, said the Climate Central report was a “nightmare scenario” and may not necessarily come true, but agreed that the current and proposed flood defences may still not be enough.

He said: “It won’t flood like it did during Storm Ciara and Dennis because it will be built up, but with sea level rises over the next 30 years it is likely the same situation will arise.”

Members of HCC will meet council representatives next month, at which point further questions will be asked about the project.

READ MORE: Council suggests solution to Helensburgh waterfront coach parking headache

However, HCC member Norman McNally warned the meeting: “If the council is teetering on whether they are going to build it or not, they will be looking for someone to blame and the community council would have stepped right into that focus.”

The next meeting of Argyll and Bute’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee, which is overseeing the project, is due to be held on March 19.

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: “We are committed to delivering a new leisure facility that will provide benefits for the whole community and visitors to the town.

“The most up to date climate change information was used to inform the flood defence measures and overall development.

“We are in a live procurement process to identify a construction partner at the moment, but will update the area committee at the earliest opportunity.”

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