A HELENSBURGH councillor who urged Argyll and Bute officials to "learn lessons" before the start of work on the town's near-£20 million waterfront regeneration scheme says he's been given a five-point plan for the running of a successful project.

Richard Trail warned that the local authority's record with the delivery of previous major capital works in the area is "not a great record" – and asked what confidence he, and other councillors, could have that the plan for a new waterfront leisure centre and swimming pool, along with parking, public realm works and improved flood defences, would be delivered on time and within budget.

At a meeting to discuss the award of the main works contract for the scheme last week, Cllr Trail was told his question would not be answered in public – but instead would be tackled during a part of the meeting held behind closed doors because of commercial confidentiality.

Cllr Trail now says he has been given a list of key points for the running of a successful project – though those points deal only in general terms, and don't specifically refer to the Helensburgh scheme.

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At a special meeting of the council's Helensburgh and Lomond area committee on June 24, Cllr Trail said: “I want to explore what confidence we can have that this project will be delivered on time and under budget.

“The council record with CHORD, the Civic Centre, Hermitage Park – it is not a great record.

“Can you say what lessons have been learned and what changes have been made in how the council is going to manage this project?”

After being given a general answer on the council's experience of delivering major projects, Cllr Trail repeated his question on whether lessons had been learned from previous projects – and was told he would be given an answer in private.

READ MORE: Council accused of keeping vital details hidden on Helensburgh waterfront project

The area committee's recommendation to approve the contract award was rubber-stamped 24 hours later by Argyll and Bute's temporary 'business continuity committee' (BCC).

However, due to a requirement in public tendering rules for a 'standstill' period, the successful contractor won't be identified, and the value of the contract revealed, until July 15.

At that BCC meeting, Oban councillor Kieron Green asked for more information on the project's finances to be put into the public domain.

But David Logan, the council’s head of legal and regulatory support, told him that would happen "at a later date".

Mr Logan stated: "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.”

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Helensburgh Community Council has repeatedly raised concerns over the financial transparency of the project, particularly after an Audit Scotland report said Argyll and Bute needed to "strengthen the processes for reviewing business cases for major capital projects", and warned it was “essential to have robust governance arrangements in place” for such schemes.

The Audit Scotland report was published after a string of delays to, and repeated pledges of additional cash for, the regeneration of Rothesay Pavilion on Bute – one of the few remaining elements of the local authority’s CHORD waterfront regeneration project, first unveiled in 2008 and covering major projects in Campbeltown, Helensburgh, Oban, Rothesay and Dunoon, that is still not complete.

Guarantees of annual revenue funding of £750,000 for 2020-21 and 2021-22 for the Rothesay Pavilion Charity, which will take over the building when it's complete, were agreed by the council in March – along with an award of £150,000 which had previously been approved by councillors.

That takes the total spend on the Rothesay Pavilion project to more than £15 million, for a project which was originally estimated to cost £8m, and which was meant to be complete last year.

READ MORE: Community council threatens to call in auditors over Helensburgh waterfront complex plans

The main contractor on the Rothesay project, Central Building Contractors, collapsed into administration in April.

Following last week's two meetings, Cllr Trail said that council officials had given him a list of key points for the running of a successful project.

He said: “One is to adopt a partnership approach with the contractor and establish a good working relationship.

“Two is regular monthly meetings of the council’s project team and the contractor to monitor progress against the schedule with daily supervision of the works by the clerk of works.

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“Three is to take early remedial action if the project starts to fall behind schedule.

“Four is to monitor the financial standing of the contractor throughout the contract, to have early warning of any potential issues.

“Lastly, the council have already engaged with the construction sector in respect of the Covid restrictions and understand some of the practical measures to be taken to mitigate the health risks.”

The target date for the new waterfront facility to open is August 2022, although the contractor will have a further year on site to rectify any defects.

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