IT’S been good to read about the latest flurry of activity on Helensburgh pier in the Advertiser recently.

Coincidentally, I had been trying to do my bit behind the scenes, so with an election approaching I thought I would try an approach to a few key politicians.

Here are some of the questions I was asked, and my own thoughts in response.

What is the purpose of the pier?

The pier is a key piece of Helensburgh’s heritage, so there is a strong argument for its preservation on that basis alone.

Right now its sorry state continues to add to an existing number of negative “townscape elements” which are detrimental to the town’s “personality”, ethos and reputation – all of which damages commerce.

This will soon be compounded by the direct juxtaposition of the rotting pier structure with the shiny new swimming pool and leisure centre building, which will look directly on to the pier at its south-west corner. What will people think? The pier is also still a key recreational and transport asset.

READ MORE: Public asked: should Helensburgh's pier be saved or demolished?

What new ferries or river transport will use it?

If it was well marketed to the cruise companies they would undoubtedly use it. Helensburgh and its immediate hinterland is a fantastic day destination for this market – the cruise passengers are short of time and need attractions on the doorstep.

Again it would need serious marketing, with Visit Scotland working with Argyll and Bute Council, Destination Helensburgh and Destination Loch Lomond.

A strong case could also be made for re-establishing the ferry service to Kilcreggan, Greenock (Ocean Terminal), Gourock, Dunoon, Blairmore and perhaps even Carrick Castle, but this would have to be worked at and would need initial government assistance. The previous operations were half hearted, poorly timetabled and never properly marketed.

Will the Waverley (or similar excursion boats) return or use it?

Of course Waverley would use it and there are other cruise operations developing on the Firth who would be interested.

READ MORE: Letters - 'We must not ignore our pier's cries for help'

Are there any genuine opportunities from cruise ships docked at Greenock for day trips across to Helensburgh in their itinerary?

Of course there are. The town itself is a completely underestimated gem – wonderful architecture, the Hill House, great independent shops, excellent food and drink, the Submarine Museum, Glenarn and Geilston Gardens, Loch Lomond and its “Shores attractions”, Luss, Tarbet and Arrochar and the Clyde Sea Lochs Trail – all within a short drive, easily contained within the tight time constraints required by the cruise companies.

Will an improved pier draw folk to Helensburgh as opposed to take then away?

Of course it will attract people! People love walking along a pier – and it’s where you get the best view of Helensburgh and its wonderful setting.

Do we need something like pontoons?

Absolutely. This would be a key part of the business case. Yachtsmen would jump at the opportunity to tie up there to shop, dine, visit attractions and access public transport links to Glasgow and its airport and change crew.

The design of the replacement would need to take that into account. It should be a steel and concrete structure extending to water deep enough (without dredging) for PS Waverley, and the “hammerhead” should extend far enough east to provide shelter for the pontoons.

John Urquhart

Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh

READ MORE: Letters to the Advertiser: March 4, 2021

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THANKS are due to all those who are involved in developing proposals for improved signs at the entrances to the town.

I do, however, agree with others who think the existing signs are quite capable of being professionally refurbished and would continue to match the support posts (something which the proposed new signs, as featured in last week’s Advertiser, clearly do not).

Having confirmed, by way of whatever welcoming signage exists, that they have arrived safely in Helensburgh, visitors, delivery drivers and locals would also reasonably expect to be able to tell which street they were in. Alas, with many of the street signs having faded to become blank white boards, this is often very difficult.

I drew this issue to the attention of a senior Argyll and Bute Council official some months ago and asked who it was in the council that had ordered signage that was clearly not fit for purpose and what sort of lifespan guarantee had been obtained.

I did not receive an answer to these specific points but was advised that council officers were being asked to look for a budget to replace the signs. I have heard nothing more and the situation drags on with more of the signs fading to nothing.

Street signs are a basic part of any town’s infrastructure. Hopefully someone will be able to advise via these pages when we can expect ours to return.

N. Macpherson

Kennedy Drive (I think), Helensburgh

READ MORE: New ‘Welcome to Helensburgh' road signs are approved

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LAST week’s Advertiser reported that maintenance of flower beds has been spared in Argyll and Bute Council’s annual review of its spending and council tax rates.

However it was not reported that the council’s lovely garden at Ardencraig on Bute, the source of the great majority of the bedding plants produced and planted by the council throughout Argyll and Bute, is to be closed – together with the authority’s second plant nursery at Lochgilphead.

Ardencraig has proved a valuable tourist attraction and a peaceful oasis for local people for the last 60 years. It has contributed a great deal to the Glorious Gardens of Argyll and Bute, and has helped a great deal to raise the profile of Argyll and Bute across Scotland, particularly at Gardening Scotland.

The loss of any of the Glorious Gardens of Argyll and Bute is a tragedy and diminishes those that are left. On Bute there are the contrasting gardens of Mount Stuart, Ascog Hall Fernery and Ardencraig, the last providing a more accessible space for many visitors.

Outsourcing plant production may save a little money in the short term, but the closing of Ardencraig – at the very moment when Covid-19 has demonstrated the value of gardens and open space to us all – seems to make little sense, financially, socially and in terms of health.

I would urge councillors to review this decision.

Sue Thornley (secretary, Glorious Gardens of Argyll and Bute)

Glenarn, Rhu

READ MORE: Argyll and Bute council tax frozen as £500,000 spending cuts voted through

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I WAS alarmed and upset to learn recently that elderly friends from my area were unable to receive treatment at our local hospital in the Vale of Leven – 10 minutes away by car – but had to travel to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley in the late afternoon.

This entailed them driving for an hour and three quarters in heavy traffic.

There has been great play on preserving our older citizens’ lives from Covid but willingness to have them venture miles from home to seek treatment.

When people of mature years have been locked down for almost a year and are faced with driving a considerable distance in heavy traffic to seek emergency treatment it is not a laughing matter.

At the RAH the assumption was made that the driver could return home and await a phone call to collect the patient later.

Being distressed by the journey there, he was unwilling to do this, suspecting that he would probably have to turn round fairly quickly to face the same stress again.

READ MORE: Helensburgh and Lomond South by-election: candidate profiles

The staff were understanding and allowed him to remain in the waiting room – as it happens until 3.30am when his wife was discharged. They had no complaints about the level of service received on arrival.

The results of the test would be sent to the Vale of Leven, and follow-up appointments would be there, but the patient in the bed next to my friend, who lived in Johnstone, was also told his follow-up appointment would be at the Vale – meaning a considerable journey for him, a congested trip of 20-plus minutes by car or two hours by train.

Why is the health service so disjointed that patients who are suffering are sent from pillar to post instead of receiving attention closer to home? This is unacceptable, especially for the elderly and those who do not have the means to personal transport.

The equipment used to assess my friend’s condition is available at the Vale of Leven Hospital, so why not be seen there?

My concern is that the current Scottish Government’s obsession with so-called centralisation of services ends up becoming a farce, not serving the needs of the local population but instead a “one size fits all” debacle that makes the accountants happy but no-one else.

Henry Boswell

(Liberal Democrat candidate, Helensburgh and Lomond South)

Darleith House, Cardross

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