The approval of plans to turn Helensburgh’s cherished Clock Tower into a takeaway coffee shop can only be good for the town.

Not that you’d know it from a brief browse of the Advertiser’s own little corner of social media, either. When we revealed the Clock Tower application’s approval on our website, and shared it on Facebook a short time later, pretty much every reader who commented said something along the lines of “we don’t need another coffee shop”.

Presumably, then, those who hold that view would rather allow one of the most recognisable structures in Helensburgh to continue to lie empty, crumbling away, to the eventual point where demolition is the only option.

READ MORE: Clock Tower's Coffee Shop conversion gets green light from planning bosses

That’s what happened to the rest of what used to be Helensburgh Old Parish Church, which lay empty for almost 15 years before it had to be pulled down in the early 1980s – though the planning officials of the day insisted that that could only happen if the tower was retained.

Last July we interviewed Brian Keating, founder of the Tower Digital Arts Centre, which bought the Clock Tower from Visit Scotland in 2017. At the time of that interview he was candid enough to admit that saving the Clock Tower would not be easy – and I’m sure it’s no easier a prospect now than it was then.

But the Tower Digital Arts Centre itself provides evidence of how old buildings can be given a new lease of life – indeed it is probably one of the most notable success stories of its kind in the west of Scotland.

I don’t have any way of measuring whether those Facebook naysayers represent wider opinion in Helensburgh. I and suspect, they don’t.

READ MORE: Saving Clock Tower 'will be very challenging', says Helensburgh charity's founder

And I suspect, too, that even those who enjoy a wee grumble on social media would, if given the choice between a takeaway coffee outlet in the Clock Tower and the building being left to moulder, choose the former option.

Perhaps their concern is for the viability of the other places in Helensburgh that already sell quality coffee at good prices. That, certainly, would be a more valid argument, although it’s not a planning one: whether a cafe, takeaway, restaurant or whatever succeeds or fails is for the market to decide, not a council official.

Bringing the Clock Tower back to life is certainly a challenge. But Brian Keating and his team at the Tower have proved, with their imaginative conversion of the old St Columba’s Church, that it can be done. Good luck to them.

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