ARGYLL and Bute Council has admitted that the actual value of the work to be carried out by Heron Brothers on Helensburgh’s new waterfront leisure centre is £19 million – not £22m as was announced last week.

The authority announced on July 16 that “a £22m contract” had been awarded to the Northern Irish firm to build the town’s new leisure centre and swimming pool, along with improved flood defences, revised car parking arrangements, the demolition of the existing pool, and ‘public realm’ works.

However, after the Advertiser sought clarification on the value of the contract against the total cost of the project, the council now says the "£22m contract" reference was not correct.

It says that while the total expected cost of the project is £22m – up from an initial budget of £17m a rise of almost 30 per cent – the work to be carried out by Heron Brothers has a value £3m less than that.

READ MORE: Northern Ireland firm chosen to build Helensburgh's new waterfront leisure centre

Papers from a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee held in May 2019 state that approval was sought to ‘draw down’ £235,000 from the total project budget for planning, design and survey work – in addition to a £1m chunk used for similar purposes in August 2016.

Asked by the Advertiser to clarify whether that meant the total expected cost of the project had actually increased to more than £23m, a council spokesperson said: “The final anticipated cost of the project is £22 million.

“This includes the addition of the land purchase and enhanced public spaces along West Clyde Street, to the original scope of the project for a new leisure centre, enhanced flood defences, improved car parking and landscaping, and all associated works.

“We can confirm that the work to be delivered by Heron Brothers has a value of £19 million.”

READ MORE: The reasons why Helensburgh's waterfront cost jumped from £17m to £22m

The "£22m contract" reference has now been removed from the news story on the contract award published on the council's website.

Work on site is scheduled to begin in mid-August.

Meanwhile, the authority has also said that the northernmost section of the current pierhead site remains part of overall plans for the future of the town’s seafront ­– whether or not it ends up as home to a new retail development.

The section of the current waterfront site nearest to West Clyde Street – covered partly by the existing swimming pool, and partly by a section of the council’s pay-and-display car park – has always been designated for ‘retail units’ on plan views of the site.

But that area is not covered by the leisure centre development project on which Heron Brothers will start work next month.

READ MORE: Advertiser View: A big week, and big questions, for Helensburgh's waterfront

A 2018 survey by Helensburgh Community Council, seeking the views of members of the public on Argyll and Bute’s overall proposals for the site, found that 62 per cent of respondents did not approve of the area nearest West Clyde Street being designated for retail development, with most saying it should be used for leisure purposes instead.

Asked to clarify the current intentions for that part of the site, the council’s spokesperson said: “The waterfront investment includes plans to safeguard the area at the north of the site for future development as part of the Helensburgh Pierhead Masterplan.

“Although this is not part of the current project, the Masterplan supports development including retail, landscaping, play area or open space proposals.

“Any future plans would be the subject of a separate project and will require its own statutory approvals including planning permission.”

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