COMMUNITY councillors in Helensburgh want to know what the town’s residents think the answer should be to a simple question: should the town’s pier be repaired and preserved, or should it be demolished and removed?

Members of Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) have thrown their weight behind the preservation of the wooden structure at the front of the pier – but not before hearing warnings that some serious thought needs to be given to whether the pier really has a sustainable future use.

HCC has also heard outline details of a new stream of National Lottery funding which might just present it with a brighter future – but they want to know what the Helensburgh public thinks about the pier before any steps are taken to investigate those potential opportunities.

The pier’s prospects have been shrouded in doubt ever since it was closed to all marine traffic in October 2018, with its owners, Argyll and Bute Council, repeatedly declining to invest major sums in the structure because of the almost total absence of revenue it brings in for the authority.

READ MORE: Councillors rule out major investment in 'pier that doesn't bring in any money at all'

The wooden section of Helensburghs pier is rapidly deteriorating

The wooden section of Helensburgh's pier is rapidly deteriorating

Hopes of saving it suffered a further setback last year when trustees of the Helensburgh Seafront Development Project, a group formed to investigate potential future uses for the pier and the wider West Bay, announced their organisation was being wound up.

HCC members were asked at a meeting last week to indicate whether they supported, in principle, the repair and preservation of the pier, or the complete removal of the wooden part of the structure, where the poor state of the timbers led council bosses to order its closure almost two and a half years ago.

By a majority, on a “show of hands” vote at the Zoom gathering, HCC members backed the pier’s repair rather than its removal.

They did so after hearing details from Fiona Baker, a director of the town's new Destination Helensburgh tourism marketing organisation and chair of the Friends of Hermitage Park, about the Heritage Enterprise Fund (HEF), which, in its own words, “is for projects that seek to achieve economic growth by investing in heritage”.

READ MORE: Saving Helensburgh pier branded "a hopeless cause" as restoration group disbands

Hundres of people took part in a Wave to the Waverley rally in the spring of 2019 to raise awareness of efforts to preserve Helensburgh pier, which has been closed to marine traffic on safety grounds since October 2018

Hundres of people took part in a 'Wave to the Waverley' rally in the spring of 2019 to raise awareness of efforts to preserve Helensburgh pier, which has been closed to marine traffic on safety grounds since October 2018

The guidance notes for the fund, which was only launched last month, state: “It is aimed at enterprising community organisations and commercial organisations working in partnership with community organisations to help them rescue neglected historic buildings and sites and return them to a viable productive use.

“[It] is designed to bridge the funding gap that prevents a historic asset in need of repair from being returned to a beneficial and commercial use.

“The case for grant funding will depend on there being a conservation deficit. This is where the existing value of a heritage asset plus the cost of bringing it back into use is greater than the value of the asset after development has been completed.”

No firm discussions have yet been held on the prospect of an application to the fund for Helensburgh pier, but the Advertiser understands that informal initial talks on whether the pier might be a suitable project for the HEF are likely to take place in the coming weeks.

READ MORE: Hundreds of people turn out for rally to 'save Helensburgh pier'

The pier has been closed to all marine traffic since October 2018

The pier has been closed to all marine traffic since October 2018

Community councillor Norman McNally told last week’s meeting that “there might be a much better way of improving facilities in Helensburgh than putting all our efforts into the front of the pier”.

And his colleague Nigel Millar warned: “The pier was put there for a purpose a long time ago. That purpose has disappeared, and I think we’re now scratching around to find a use for something that has no use at all.

“But the pier is such an iconic feature of the town that I think the public, with the arguments before them, should have the right to have a say in the final decision.”

On the Heritage Enterprise Fund, Ms Baker told last week’s meeting: “When I saw this fund was being launched, I thought to myself that it’s the best chance the pier has – and when I read the guidance, I thought ‘this could almost have been written for Helensburgh pier’.

“Once you have tapped into a tranche of heritage funding, finding other sources of funding becomes much easier.”

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