THIS week's Advertiser letters page is dominated by more of your views on controversial plans to build 12 houses in Portincaple – though the landslide troubles of the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful also get a look in, and there's an appeal from Helensburgh for people to donate to relief efforts following the devastating Beirut explosion.

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Happy writing!

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I WRITE in response to the letter from Watson Robinson, convener of Garelochhead Community Council, in the ongoing debate on the Portincaple planning application (Advertiser Comment, August 6).

Like your previous correspondent on this matter, it is notable that Mr Robinson falls back on obfuscating invention to support his argument.

His assertion that no one can see into the future is vacuous. Forecasting what is going to happen in the future is of course part and parcel of everyday life – whether it be the Met Office making its now extremely accurate weather forecasts, or a planning officer predicting what will happen if you build some houses.

There is no evidence that a development of the size proposed would have any detrimental impact on the existing settlement or its community or on the oak trees on the site. If Mr Robinson has any, he should publish it.

Here are the material facts once again.

First, Portincaple has an unusually large settlement envelope which can easily absorb the 12 energy efficient houses which are being proposed.

Second, the developer is offering a range of planning gains, including improved road access to the Feolins area, a woodland management programme incorporating tree planting and control of invasive rhododendron, the provision of a public jetty, and the re-establishment of public access to Portincaple’s foreshore.

He has also offered to examine the potential for improving Portincaple’s connections to the wider footpath network including the Three Lochs Way.

Third, the application is not in material breach of planning policy.

Mr Robinson again introduces the red herring of Garelochhead’s connection to The Three Lochs Way (TLW), creating the impression that the village is not linked to the route and that I am somehow to blame for that.

In fact he TLW ‘Great Trail’ route is already linked to Garelochhead, as it has always been, ever since Helensburgh and District Access Trust (HADAT) first publicised it back in 2011. You can check this yourself on their website –

I should know, because it was me who led on the enabling negotiations with Argyll and Bute Council and other bodies such as the (as it was then) Forestry Commission, Defence Estates and Luss Estates.

At the time HADAT did well to achieve the SUSTRANS funded path from Station Road up to the roundabout at the intersection of the A817 and A814, although all it could do beyond that was to waymark a rough ‘trod’ up to the ‘Yankee Road’.

The Trust is still keen to find a way forward on improving the rough trod, and I have personally spent many fruitless hours negotiating with Defence Estates representatives on that matter.

The issue which has really stymied progress is Defence Estates’ refusal to negotiate a path agreement with a non-statutory body like HADAT.

I explained these complexities to Mr Robinson when he approached me a couple of years ago about re-routing the TLW so that it passed by the north gate of the naval base.

My response to him then was that such a re-routing would be out of keeping with the ethos of the Scotland’s Great Trails network.

Ironically, as a statutory body, Garelochhead Community Council is in a better position to achieve progress on the matter than HADAT.

Following his approach to me, Mr Robinson undertook to take forward negotiations with Defence Estates as he felt his local group had better connections with the military. I am still waiting to hear from him about what progress he has made.

The double irony is that the best way of bringing more walkers to Garelochhead is to re-explore the installation of a link between there and Portincaple, with the original line of the Three Lochs Way being re-joined behind Finnart, north of the firing ranges.

That solution would absolutely meet the Great Trails criteria and would be greatly facilitated by Mr Olive’s offer!

I should perhaps emphasise that HADAT has not taken any position on the Portincaple planning application; I write this letter in a private capacity and not as convener of HADAT.

John Urquhart, Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Advertiser: August 6, 2020

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With reference to the continuing debate on the Portincaple planning application, and recent letters on the subject from John Urquhart and Alistair McIntyre, I would make the following points.

There are now more than 1,000 objections to Mr Olive’s proposed aberration in Portincaple. These come from our local MP and some professionals among many, many others.

The area which is proposed for development is not a ‘site’. It is part of an area which is recorded on the Scottish Government’s Inventory of Ancient Scottish Woodlands, of which only one per cent remains.

Is it right that removing some invasive rhododendrons from a woodland then gives justification to replace them with houses, roads and more infrastructure? I can’t see that will improve the environment much – nor the lifespan of the associated wildlife.

And what about us, the people, the community who chose to look for somewhere different to live, somewhere that didn’t have heavy traffic, huge infrastructure, noise, pollution and smaller population density?

There is public access to the foreshore, but what is proposed would change it from the current arrangement of responsible access to a Luss-type scenario.

We all know what the residents of Luss have to bear at busy times, and I’m sure they wouldn’t wish that on anyone else.

None of the supposed ‘planning gains’ are actually that. They are, in this location, the absolute opposite: the wrong plan in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I think as do many, many others, saving Portincaple from proposals which will be to the detriment of many is worth every single ounce of effort.

Debbie Carr, Braeside Cottage, Portincaple

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READ MORE: Helensburgh Advertiser letters page: July 30, 2020

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AS a young civil engineer in the mid-1960s I worked on road design in the vicinity of the Rest and be Thankful.

We knew then that the hillsides were what we called “oversteep”, but we were told to ignore it and get on with the job.

Around the same time, I recall driving up the old road in darkness because the main road was closed. Water, mud and stones poured down from above.

As a now well retired civil engineer, I look back and shake my head, wondering what has happened in the intervening period. Little has changed.

The whole affair is an affront to civil engineering, which could solve the problem easily with well-tried methods.

Every time I go skiing in the Alps I look at the structures with a wall on the hill side of the road; a roof over the road and open to the other side.

Avalanches and landslips slide harmlessly over the top. They have been there for decades and work perfectly.

It is an embarrassment to see today a helicopter washing down the Rest and be Thankful hillside with water to dislodge a boulder. Our continental friends would laugh at our amateur antics.

The solution is not a technical problem, but simply one of money. The controllers of the purse strings in Edinburgh seem to know nothing of the geography of the west.

In the east of Scotland a road closure is a minor inconvenience, whereas in the west, with few alternative routes, it leads to delays with serious consequences.

The diversion inconvenience is one thing, but what is going to happen when a car is swept over the side and the occupants killed?

Given the present frequency of landslips this scenario is not a question of if, but when. It is inevitable.

Surely somebody, somewhere is going to end this problem before lives are lost.

John Carmichael, via email

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Advertiser: July 23, 2020

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The explosion in Beirut on August 4 shocked and devastated not only the Lebanese community but people throughout the world.

In a disaster like this children are killed, injured, shocked and separated from their parents. Save the Children has a Beirut office which was damaged but fortunately none of the staff were injured.

The charity’s child protection teams based in the country are doing their utmost to ensure that children and their families get access to the services they urgently need, including medical care and physical and emotional protection.

The incident could not have occurred at a worse time and has hit communities who were already suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and the country’s economic deterioration.

Beirut’s main port, now completely damaged, is vital for much of the food, grains and fuel that Lebanon imports, and families will immediately feel the shortage in basic needs as a result of this tragedy.

To respond to this, we are asking for support to our Children’s Emergency Fund. This allows us to respond to emergencies like this one in Lebanon and other humanitarian disasters around the world.

We can respond within hours of a disaster striking, fighting to help children survive and recover, before it’s too late.

If you would like to donate to the Save the Children’s Emergency Fund please get in touch with myself on 01436 675767.

Diana Macintosh (Chair, Helensburgh and District Save the Children Committee)

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