PLANS for open-air markets to be held on a derelict site in the centre of Helensburgh are facing a public backlash over fears they may take custom away from other local businesses.

The proposals for the space at 15 West Princes Street were first revealed by the Advertiser in May, with applicant Harold Hood hoping to create a new retail offering, as well as office, workshop and storage spaces.

Argyll and Bute Council’s planning officers have yet to decide on the application, but the local authority has so far received seven objections, with concerns being raised by nearby businesses and residents.

The site is located down a lane, between Stirling and Gilmour solicitors and Card Factory, and has been used for the storage of skips in recent years.

One objector, commenting on behalf of Stirling and Gilmour LLP, which has an office at 13 West Princes Street, said: “The application provides no information as to the frequency of these events, whether they will be held on weekdays or at the weekend, nor as to the numbers of people who might be expected to enter [the] area.

“Opening it up to the public in this way clearly invites the opportunity for very considerable disturbance to those at numbers 9-21.

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“It is reasonably to be expected that the amenity of these properties will be adversely affected as a consequence.

“It is unclear how it will enhance the human and natural environment... it hasn’t been demonstrated that it will deliver sustainable economic growth as occasional open-air markets may be more likely to divert business away from existing retail outlets than they are to enhance the local economy.”

Another objector, who says he has worked in retail within Helensburgh for 40 years, commented: “I have seen little evidence that the farmers’ market [in Colquhoun Square] is of any benefit to the town and its existing businesses. There are now all sorts of traders coming from all parts of the country on the busiest trading day of the week - a Saturday.

“It would be interesting to see how many market traders would show up on a Wednesday.

“These market traders have a completely unfair advantage over our existing town centre retailers, who have to bear the cost of employing full-time and part-time staff, business rates, rent, factor’s fees etc.

“In my opinion, this market has a direct impact on the takings of our local businesses on the days that it is allowed to operate and [it] should only be allowed to trade one weekend a month, if at all. There is absolutely no need for another open-air market.

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“Our local shops support our community, not just one day in the week but every day and [they] should be protected by our planning department, so that they are not exposed to unfair competition.”

While the council’s roads department did not raise any objections to the plans, several residents of Colquhoun Square, where the current Market in the Square is held every fortnight, complained about the possible impact of more open-air market days on the surrounding environment.

One said: “We already have the open-air market every second Saturday of the month,. Every Friday evening we endure unnecessary noise levels banging metal from approx. 6/8pm until sometimes midnight as the stalls are erected.

“Then the same unnecessary noise begins after the market has finished and this can take up to six hours sometimes for the market stalls to be dismantled and taken away.”

“Thus the front balcony of our flat, which looks onto Mr Hood’s site, is our safe haven and provides us with some peace and quiet, which is most needed for our mental health. We do not need any more anxiety put on us as residents.

“[We] strongly oppose the application as we feel it would impose on our privacy and increase the noise level and we really feel, especially at this Covid time, that the existing shops in the area need local support to pay their taxes and shop rates.”

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And another said: “I would have no problems with the erection of buildings to replace old buildings that have been demolished - anything would be better than the wilderness I have viewed for many years.

“However, I would object to open-air markets as this would create noise and I think the town doesn’t need any more than is already in the Square and existing local shops don’t need any more competition.”

But a social media post shared by Rossdhu Refills, which has a store at 11 West Princes Street, asked followers for their thoughts, with a number of respondents showing support.

One wrote: “I think it’s a great idea. It will use a space which is currently run down and rather than detracting from local businesses I think it would help them as it would attract more people to the town.”

The plans are available to view at by searching for the reference code 21/00788/PP.