HELENSBURGH’S old Clock Tower could be converted into a coffee shop – if the owners of another famous Tower in the town have their way.

The former tourist information centre at the corner of Sinclair Street and East Clyde Street is the subject of a planning application for the change of use from retail to food and drink.

The plans have been lodged by The Tower Digital Arts Centre, which is based on Sinclair Street, represented by Glasgow-based architects Honeyman, Jack and Robertson.

Argyll and Bute Council is expected to make a decision on the proposals for the Clock Tower, which was vacated by VisitScotland in 2016, by mid to late August.

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A supporting statement by the architects also warns that demolition of the clock tower “might ultimately be inevitable” if the building remains unoccupied.

Sheet lead was blown from the building’s high level roof in January 2020, requiring emergency intervention by Argyll and Bute Council’s building control officers to make the roof safe.

The supporting document says: “The Clock Tower is all that remains of Helensburgh Old Parish Church. The body of the building was demolished in the 1970s to make way for a housing development.

“Conservation is necessary. Replacement of slate and sheet lead roofing together with re-pointing of masonry could keep the building serviceable for many years to come.

“If the building remains unoccupied and is not maintained, demolition might ultimately be inevitable.

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“The building is owned by the Tower Digital Arts Centre who also own the former St Columba Church at 81 Sinclair Street which is now a community cinema, arts centre and Scottish Submarine Museum with a submarine displayed in the former church hall.”

The submarine centre was formally opened by Princess Anne in July 2019.

The statement adds: “An increasing number of church buildings are sadly becoming surplus to requirements.

“They are generally of aesthetic merit, created in an age when building construction was effortlessly beautiful.

“This is in direct contrast to contemporary buildings which are routinely dull with anything of distinction being extraordinary.

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“Historic buildings are a wonderful cultural asset. If neglected they can rapidly deteriorate with repair costs quickly escalating beyond viable levels.

“With imagination and ambition, historic buildings can also become a financial asset. If the Clock Tower has any prospect of surviving it is essential that it is used in some purposeful way.

“The only alternative is for the local authority to accept responsibility for upkeep which seems very unlikely. Bringing the building back into use is a vital first step.”

The plans can be viewed through the council’s online planning portal, using the numbers 20/01094/LIB and 20/01048/PP.

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