ATTEMPTS to shed more light on the finances of Helensburgh’s multi million pound waterfront project have been turned down by officials.

Argyll and Bute Council’s business continuity committee (BCC) approved the awarding of a multi-million pound main works contract for the building of a new leisure centre and swimming pool – which, according to the last financial report on the project, has a budget of £19.5 million – at a meeting on Thursday.

But part of the meeting was held in private session, with the press and public excluded due to commercial confidentiality.

And regulations on a ‘standstill’ period mean that the name of the winning contractor, and the value of the contract, won’t be revealed until July 15.

In the public part of the BCC meeting, Councillor Kieron Green asked for an overview of the finances – without details of the tendering bids – to be made public.

READ MORE: New completion date revealed for Helensburgh's waterfront – and contract 'won't end until 2024'

But David Logan, the council’s head of legal and regulatory support, said an opportunity for that would be available at a later date.

As well as the leisure facility, the scope of the project also includes car parking, public realm works and improvements to the flood defences on the site.

It is anticipated that the new leisure centre will be open in summer 2022. After a year’s grace to repair any defects, the contract will then end in early 2024.

Councillor Green said: “I am mindful of the scale of this project. The individual details of the tenders are clearly commercially sensitive, and I would not ask for those to be made publicly available.

“But could there be a more broad overview of the finances of this project, given the scale of it and the challenges facing the council?

“I just wonder whether there is scope for a bit more information to be placed into the public domain.”

READ MORE: Audit Scotland report sparks new plea over future of Helensburgh's near-£20m waterfront project

Mr Logan replied: “The path we are following is a well-trodden path. This is a normal way of business.

“Once we move through this part, there is an opportunity for more information to be made more widely known, when the position is settled and there is less risk of challenge.”

Councillor Green then responded: “I suppose there is a chicken and egg thing. By the time we get to the point of the contracts being signed it will already have been agreed what level of resources are available.

“It is the discussion of allocation of resources I am more concerned about.”

Thursday’s approval of the contract award was in line with a recommendation by the council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee, which had discussed the waterfront plans less than 24 hours earlier.

READ MORE: Helensburgh business chiefs urge rethink over waterfront coach parking plans

Ross McLaughlin, the council’s head of commercial services, told the area committee: “What is being proposed is a six-lane, 25-metre pool, a training pool, a gym, a number of functional spaces, a changing facility and a café.

“We are not looking to go over the planning process again – this is very much about the mandate to go forward with the award of a construction contract.

“A contractor procurement on this scale takes a two-stage process, and three potential contractors submitted detailed bids.

“The team have assessed the bids on a technical and commercial basis.

“Based on the assessment process, a single contractor has been identified as having the most economically advantageous tender, as outlined in the reports.”

Mr McLaughlin added: “The programme outlines August 2022 as the completion date for the leisure building, and at that point there will be a migration from the old facility to the new one.

READ MORE: Building work on Helensburgh's new swimming pool 'could start this summer'

“It has been picked up that there was an elongated timescale to the end of 2023, but we predict that the new facility will be operational in the summer of 2022.

“The other parts are around defects and demolition works. Physical works are scheduled to end in 2022.

“The final thing I would say is that since the tenders were submitted, Covid-19 has become a known impact.

“However, I am pleased to say that Construction Scotland plan, during phase three of coming out of lockdown, to resume work on outdoor sites.”

At Wednesday’s area committee meeting, Helensburgh SNP councillor Richard Trail asked whether the authority had “learned any lessons from recent history” of major capital projects which could be applied to the waterfront project; he was told that question might be better answered in private.

READ MORE: Council officials reveal Helensburgh's new leisure centre won't open to the public until 2022

Hailing the decision of the BCC after Thursday’s meeting, Helensburgh councillor Gary Mulvaney, the authority’s depute leader and its policy lead for strategic finance and major projects, said: “The council is investing millions of pounds in creating a successful future for Helensburgh.

"The waterfront development is a key part of that.

“This project will deliver benefits for Helensburgh as soon as work begins on site – the construction period will bring opportunities for jobs and support services at a time when local economies are crying out for help in moving on from the impact of COVID-19.

“Longer term, it will give residents a fantastic facility to enjoy and it will be another reason for the people we need to attract to the area to choose Helensburgh to live, work and visit.

“Today’s decision takes us a huge step forward in turning ambition into reality for Helensburgh.”

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