HELENSBURGH’S seafront Clock Tower is set to become a coffee shop  – despite objections from some neighbours.

Plans for the conversion of the building, on the corner Sinclair Street and East Clyde Street, were initially unveiled by the owners of the town’s Tower Digital Arts Centre in June 2020.

But they were withdrawn and a revised application submitted after Helensburgh Community Council, while supportive of the idea in principle, said more detail was needed.

The new application was approved by Argyll and Bute Council planning officers on Wednesday, February 17 despite five objections, all of them from residents of Tower Place.

Concerns included the potential for litter, misuse of the private Tower Place car park and fumes from the takeaway hatch, but the authority’s officers had no concerns.

The tower has lain empty since 2016, when Visit Scotland moved out, having used it as a tourist information centre.

It’s the only remaining part of what was once Helensburgh Old Parish Church, which was last used as a place of worship in 1958.

The rest of the church building was demolished in 1982, having lain derelict for 14 years after its use as a hostel for Royal Navy personnel came to an end.

Planning permission was granted for the flats now known as Tower Place to be built on the site, on the condition that the tower was retained.

A council planning officer said in a handling report on the application: “The proposed alterations comprise of the installation of a flue through a slate roof, reconfiguration of existing kitchen to allow for the installation of a servery counter and installation of new external servery hatch.

“The proposed external servery hatch, which is to replace the kitchen door, is a traditional timber design and maintains the character of the existing listed building.

“The proposed flue which is located on the seaward pitched roof is discrete and raises no concerns. Internally the only alteration is to the kitchen layout which again raises no concerns.

“Therefore the proposals comply with policies of the Local Development Plan and are considered to be acceptable and thereby preserve the character and appearance of the listed building.

“Neighbouring residents have raised concerns over the potential for noise, smells and or vibrations that could be generated from the coffee roaster.

“While it is understandable that there will be concerns with smell and increased level of activity, this is a town centre location where this is to be expected.

“Given the proposed location is within the town centre and the area environmental health manager is satisfied with the proposals in principle, it is considered that the development accords with this policy.”

The officer added: “Concerns have also been raised about parking requirement and possible misuse of the existing private car park.

“The application comes under the remit of town centre, therefore no off-street parking or communal parking is required to be provided. Moreover, there is an existing public car park in front the premises.

“Given the above, the proposed development is regarded to be in compliance with the Development Plan supplementary guidance and there were no material considerations that outweigh policy in this instance.”

A supporting statement by architects Honeyman, Jack and Robertson had initially said of the coffee shop plans: “If the Clock Tower has any prospect of surviving it is essential that it is used in some purposeful way.

“Bringing the building back into use is a vital first step.”