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Thanks – and stay safe.

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This week's crop of readers' letters to the Advertiser is dominated by your views on the closure of Helensburgh's Waitrose supermarket and the suspension of some of Argyll and Bute Council's day-to-day functions as the coronavirus crisis tightens its grip on daily life.

To have your say on any subject of local interest, all you need to do is email your thoughts to or get in touch with us via the Send Us Your News section of this website.

Please try and keep your contributions as brief and to-the-point as you can, and to provide us with your name and address.

We also require a daytime contact phone number in case we need to check any details at short notice, though this will not be published.

Happy writing!

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Many in Helensburgh were overjoyed when Waitrose opened for business.

For years residents had been crying out for a quality supermarket along with a second petrol station. With its architectural award-winning building on an attractive, well-laid out site we got both.

Helensburgh has a lot to offer Waitrose. As one of Scotland’s affluent towns spending money can’t be a problem. Neither is a lack of customers. Helensburgh is going through a housing boom. Over 150 new homes have been built in recent years. 350 are waiting to be built with 150 of these in the field opposite. And, there are/will be new homes round the Gareloch.

People I speak to enjoy Waitrose with its wide range of quality produce - fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and fish, fine wines, beers and spirits. And, it is not as expensive as you might think with great offers throughout the store.

Employees are always helpful, friendly and at hand. They know their stuff and seem to enjoy working there.

So where did it all go wrong? “We could not make the store commercially viable,” says Sharon White, chair of the John Lewis Partnership.

How right you are, Ms White. It is the fault of management - nobody else.

Was the decision to build in Helensburgh the right one? Is the store the optimum size? Were customer forecasts too optimistic?

We all have our own views on what has gone wrong. For me? The café has been a white elephant. Free to start with but when that stopped customer numbers collapsed and it lies largely empty.

Why is homeware right at the back of the store and not in the heart of it? Few shoppers appear to go there.

Why are magazines not sold alongside newspapers? And is anything being done to attract the many new home owners to the town to shop in Waitrose?

While I have lots of reasons for shopping at Waitrose, frankly, I find it a rather dull experience. The fun element isn’t there.

Where are the food and drink demos? Where are the supplier promotions? Why can’t local organisations and talent show off what they can do?

So, Sharon White: Waitrose has only itself to blame.

But with Helensburgh in lockdown for months ahead it’s time to step up to the plate and do the right thing: keep the store open until the coronavirus crisis is over.

Nigel Millar, George Street, Helensburgh

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Helensburgh Advertiser: March 26, 2020

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A MEMBER of staff at Waitrose told me weeks ago that the store’s lease had been sold to another supermarket.

All the people moaning now about the closure should have supported Waitrose when it opened, before it was too late.

There can be no U-turn, obviously. The Waitrose spokesperson made this clear in her statement to the Advertiser last week; the head of the John Lewis Partnership should have made this clear in her reply to Mr Hillis (Advertiser Comment, March 26).

At least he has a car; as a non driver I will need to take the bus to the retail park in Dumbarton.

Elizabeth Mueller, East Argyle Street, Helensburgh

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser letters page: March 19, 2020

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As reported in the Advertiser’s March 26 edition, Argyll and Bute Council has notified us that it cannot continue to collect recycling waste while the virus crisis is upon us.

Clearly they cannot send a team of workers out in the cab of a lorry to empty the bins and still comply with the overriding necessity for self distancing.

They will have to come up with more innovative solutions to complete even a diminished refuse collection that they promise to attempt.

I presume the green bin waste will go to landfill as it does now and that the recycling centres are closed.

We must be concerned that some people will take the easy option of bagging and dumping all that they cannot get into the green bin.

If that happens we will have an environmental disaster when the birds and animals tear them open with the contents scattered everywhere.

What are we to do? My bin is full and I suspect today’s previously scheduled collection will not happen.

If we were to carry on as we have in the past we would be drowning in the stuff within a month or so and the restrictions are probably going to last much longer than that.

I plan to extract the paper and cardboard, that makes up a large percentage of it, and find a way to incinerate it.

The rest is a problem that needs a solution.

Our bin motors have a compressing mechanism in them. As a stopgap measure, would it be sensible to station one in the front car park in Helensburgh and let people bag the waste that will not fit into the green bin, bring it to the bin motor and throw it in to be compressed and taken away to landfill?

The driver need only stand back, tell the people what to do and operate the mechanism.

Dougie Blackwood, Helensburgh

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Helensburgh Advertiser: March 12, 2020

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I HAVE been following the developments on the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland from my home in the USA, where I live and work.

My parents and siblings live on the Gareloch and I am concerned for their welfare and everyone else back home.

I don’t understand at all the comment, reported in the Advertiser last week, that the refuse trucks may not get to the residents on the assigned days due to the coronavirus impact.

Why? If anything the refuse should be less as the shutdown lessens the rubbish being collected in commercial areas in the towns.

If you allow it to build up in the residential areas by not lifting refuse as normal, then you will have more health and sanitation issues.

We are also restricted in our movements here in North Carolina, and I am currently working from home.

Our refuse was collected as normal today including our recyclables. Obviously the workers are wearing protective gloves and masks.

Please be sensible about taking decisions which may compound the health situation by not picking up refuse regularly, given none of us know exactly how long this will last.

Amanda Jordan, via email

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser letters page: March 5, 2020

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On April 1, 2019, the Gareloch Group of the RDA, based at Colgrain Equestrian Centre, started carriage driving sessions for the very first time.

So much study, training and time had been devoted to it by the coaches and their team of helpers, so much wonderful support in our fundraising efforts from so many local and national businesses, groups and individuals.

The success of carriage driving in offering outdoor therapy and pleasure for its drivers has been undeniable. Families and carers have been full of praise and appreciation.

The bonus is that the driving can cater for drivers who are wheelchair bound, who cannot be mounted on the back of a pony.

The driving also caters for existing riders who can no longer ride due to the progress of their illness or condition.

They are then able to continue with Gareloch RDA and enjoy the benefits of participation in an outdoor sport.

The coaches and volunteers have been rewarded time and again by seeing the delight on drivers’ faces.

Our star pony Bobbie has proved his worth at every session.

Hopes were high of our more able drivers competing in dressage and cones competition at the RDA Regional Qualifier to be held during the International Driving Trials at Hopetoun House in May 2020.

Carriage driving has proved so popular and beneficial that a second driving pony, Isaac, was purchased in the summer of 2019.

He is completing RDA training and a second specially adapted Fenix carriage is on order for Spring 2020. This will allow Gareloch RDA to double its capacity for carriage driving.

Imagine, then, our disappointment and despair at the announcements on the coronavirus pandemic.

Just as we approached the first anniversary of our carriage driving sessions, and planning celebrations to mark the occasion, all RDA activity was cancelled.

Like all other groups offering a community service, we wait to see how the rest of this year works out, hoping that normal service can be resumed, but when?

We are most grateful to all who have supported Gareloch RDA over the years. Currently we are especially indebted to the yard staff at Colgrain Equestrian Centre, who continue to care for our horses and ponies while volunteers and participants remain safe at home.

We hope and pray that everyone will come safely through this dreadful experience and we can be back out in the sunshine listening to the clip clop of hooves and the jingle of harness once again.

Elise Nash (Group secretary, Gareloch RDA)

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