This week's Advertiser letters page includes a response to criticism of Hermitage Park's regeneration, more views on the controversial housing plans for Portincaple near Loch Long, and an attempt to clear up confusion regarding blue and green bin collections in Helensburgh.

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Happy writing!

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Two damning letters on Hermitage Park have been published in the last two weeks, from Ian and Isabel Bone (July 2) and Elizabeth Mueller (July 9), the latter seeking a response from the Friends of Hermitage Park.

The Friends declined to respond to Mr and Mrs Bone’s letter, taking the view that Argyll and Bute Council can defend itself, and they ask perfectly valid questions.

We did feel that the description of the park as ‘dystopian’ was a little extreme – and disheartening, considering five volunteers had just put in more than 50 hours of work weeding and digging the sundial flower beds in the previous two weeks since we had been permitted to return to work in the park.

Comparing Hermitage with Levengrove is not an entirely fair comparison. The key difference in the projects is that the restoration of Hermitage Park was instigated by a Friends group that took the proposal to the council.

Levengrove was instigated by West Dunbartonshire Council who had to encourage the creation of a Friends group in order to qualify for the grant. The budget and project delivery of both schemes is managed entirely by the councils.

Levengrove has a large staff and pre-existing facilities. Hermitage has one man and no decent facilities. The Friends have successfully applied for a grant to improve matters, but nothing has been done during lockdown.

The park supervisor was furloughed until mid-June and all the horticultural work we had done for spring planting was overgrown with weeds and must be done again.

Do the Friends think the park supervisor could have worked safely in the locked memorial garden during lockdown? Yes.

Do we think more gardeners are needed? Yes.

Do we agree the park manager could have been interviewed and have started by now? Yes.

The interviews will have taken place by the time this letter is published, so we hope the new manager will be in place by late August. Someone is sorely needed.

The pavilion café is let, but with the pandemic, opening a community room, toilets and a café is not exactly simple at the moment.

The pavilion is the single main cause of the delays in the delivery of the restoration programme. It was a year late in delivery and only received its signed-off building warrant a couple of weeks ago.

Electricity and water are controlled from the pavilion and the landscaping works around it could not be completed until the builders had left the site.

It is a marvellous state-of-the-art Passivhaus building, but its slow delivery and the knock-on effect it has had on everything else has been painful to say the least.

The Friends have planned and cancelled five park opening days now and be assured that for all the criticism that might be levelled at the park, no one is more frustrated and, at times, despondent about it, than the Trustees.

However, airing all the problems and setbacks in public does not do anyone or the park any good, so we just have to keep going and we will get there in the end.

We think people may have forgotten just what a sorry state the park was in before the restoration work started (physically in February 2017) and that paths ran like rivers in ravines through dark overgrown spaces.

A lot of the HLF money has been spent under our feet sorting out the drainage and creating decent paths.

As for the money the Friends have raised by coffee mornings and selling homemade jams and bags etc, this has been spent on, for example, tools for the park, gloves for children, theatre seating at the mill, the dipping pond platform and contaminated land assessments.

We continue to raise money for CCTV cameras and have also contributed tens of thousands of pounds worth of volunteer hours to meet the Lottery requirements.

On a positive note, it is great to see the park so busy being used and enjoyed by the community. We hope that during lockdown people have really appreciated what a valuable and special resource the park is as a place to go and enjoy accessible greenspace.

We hope that local people who have rediscovered the park might help us by volunteering for the final push to prepare and plant the flowerbeds and kitchen gardens.

Indeed, for everyone who moans about the state of the park, the answer is simple – come and help!

Fiona Baker (Chair, Friends of Hermitage Park)

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Advertiser: July 9, 2020

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It is important that there is a response to Mr Urquhart’s letter (Advertiser, July 9) regarding the proposed development in Portincaple.

It is disappointing that he resorts to cheap jibes and insults to belittle and dismiss those who are making legitimate objections. In doing so he manages to miss the substantive point entirely.

More than 900 objections make clear the ways in which this proposal directly and comprehensively contravenes not only national guidelines but the local development plan. So much so that the application should never have progressed to this stage.

Should this proposal be approved it would demonstrate quite clearly that national guidance and the local development plan mean nothing when planning applications are considered.

Everyone in Argyll and Bute, including Mr Urquhart, should be very concerned about that.

Chris Smith, Portincaple

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser readers' letters: July 2, 2020

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I NOTE a further letter from Mr Urquhart in support of the proposal in Portincaple in last week’s Advertiser.

The first thing that springs to mind is that old journalistic adage, attributed to Mark Twain, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

That, incidentally, also applies to some of the alleged benefits that will accrue to the residents of Portincaple, quoted by the developer in support of his application.

Mr Urquhart claims to have undertaken a careful analysis of the objections and then concludes, selectively, that because some of them are copies of what seems like a standard text, they can, in his view, be summarily dismissed.

Is there a hint of political bias showing here in that most of these were submitted by Green Party supporters?

The photograph attached to the letter suggests that the developer has cleared all the rhododendron from the plot that he owns, but in fact it is generally only the prospective construction areas that have been cleared, either for the new access road or the proposed dwellings, presumably to make survey work easier and also not to outlay too much money.

Planning gain and public access were then invoked as themes missed.

It is obvious that if, as he claims, he has carefully analysed all the 936 submissions currently noted, he would be aware that these aspects have also been disputed, along with many other topics. Public access has never been lost to our beautiful foreshore.

The next item mentioned is the re-establishment of a public jetty.

As far as I am aware, there was no public jetty as such, because passengers were ferried to shore by the local residents.

Anyway, that was in the days before Finnart, with 150,000 ton tankers, accompanied by usually two tugs minimum, plus the impending arrival of our new aircraft carriers, with attendant support craft.

To that can now be added marine traffic associated with the re-development of the Glen Mallan jetty. Scottish Natural Heritage in their study entitled “Firth of Clyde Seascape Assessment” Section 5 Loch Long, have warned about “the potential for visual clutter if additional development onshore or offshore is sited near to the existing Coulport or Finnart oil terminal developments”.

The implication of this as I see it, is that the eastern shore of Loch Long, which is quite rightly given the status of an Area of Panoramic Quality (APQ), by the council would be diminished in some way.

Nowhere has Mr Urquhart compared the application with the guidelines quite clearly spelled out in the Local Development Plan or its associated Supplementary Guidance notes, about the right development being in the right place, the town centre first policy or the fact that Portincaple is a minor settlement, and therefore applications should be limited to a maximum of five dwellings at any one time.

Maybe these facts do not fit with his stance that he can and does clearly promote as a non-resident, and who will not suffer the adverse effects should this be granted approval.

All we request from the council is that they impartially assess this proposal on the basis of their written policies, Scottish Planning Policy and NPF3 objectives, and the various Planning Advice Notes to which their policies conform.

Ron Fletcher, Bridgend, Portincaple

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Advertiser: June 25, 2020

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Some concerns have been raised regarding the handling of waste and recycling bins in the town, now that bin collections have reverted back to three-weekly for green (general waste) bins and two-weekly for blue (recycling).

Of particular concern was that it has been observed by some that green and blue bins were being emptied into the same truck without the normal separation.

This practice had been a short-term measure to take account of the lockdown period coincidental with a shortage of staff due to sickness and the enforced closure of recycling centres.

This has now been resolved and waste and recycling disposal is now back to normal in accordance with the official Argyll and Bute waste collection schedule as published on their website.

Having contacted the council I am informed that in order to create a fresh start the initial collections involving both green and blue bins continued to be combined as residents were continuing to use blue bins for general waste.

It has taken a bit of time for residents to separate their rubbish, and there was a short period where waste and recycling continued to be mixed up in householders’ bins.

This no longer applies and we now need to make the effort to make recycling work by using the correct bins.

If the blue bin has been used for general waste at any time over the past few weeks, residents are requested to wash it out before starting to use it again purely for recycling materials. Materials cannot be accepted for recycling if they are in any way contaminated.

As normal services are phased in, kerbside glass recycling resumed in Helensburgh and Lomond from July 6.

Food recycling collections in Helensburgh and Lomond will resume at a future date when resources allow due to staff absences relating to Covid-19.

Please help our hard pressed council employees who have continued to provide waste removal throughout the lockdown period as they strive to achieve their normal standards of service by getting back into the habit of separating and recycling waste.

Roger Ferdinand (Helensburgh Community Council member), via email

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