PROSPECTS of a permanent base being set up for a Helensburgh Men’s Shed have hit another setback - but the group’s founder says he remains “optimistic rather than pessimistic” about its future.

Rhu resident Brian Mackay spoke to the Advertiser after it was revealed that efforts to secure the site of a former bowling club in the village have fallen through.

Brian launched the Helensburgh and District Men’s Shed in 2014 but has so far struggled to find a home for the project, which offers a range of activities to promote social interaction and reduce depression related illness in elderly men.

A deal with Argyll and Bute Council to use space within the refurbished Hermitage Park failed to materialise, and Brian previously told the Advertiser the group had “exhausted all options in Helensburgh”.

More than 12 months on it appears there has been no progress in the hunt, much to the frustration of members of Rhu and Shandon Community Council who gave an update at a virtual meeting at the end of September.

Convener Jim Duncan said: “Sadly it didn’t go the way I was hoping.

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“I have been working behind the scenes with the Helensburgh and District Men’s Shed Association since the community council’s initial approaches to the new owners of the [bowling club] site were in vain.

“Had they [the men’s shed group] been successful we had an agreement that, subject to planning permission, the site would’ve been converted into allotments and a community garden and a facility for the men’s shed organisation.

“Sadly the discussions seem to have broken down and it looks as though there’s little if any prospect of it coming to fruition.

“There has been a lot of work put into this behind the scenes and I’m personally quite disappointed that it’s come to that stage.”

Rhu Bowling Club disbanded in 2013 and the site, off Manse Brae and Inchgower Grove in the centre of the village, has lain vacant ever since.

Brian said the men’s shed project has “gone into hibernation” and is now “back to stage one”.

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He said: “We have now got to a situation where we are close to thinking ‘is this really going to work?’

“We do need support from people. Because of the pandemic our board is diminished from nine members to four, so we need people to support us in our effort.

“It isn’t dead, but we are in the departure lounge.

“It’s even more important now to have this facility with the number of people that are older and who have gone through this lockdown for two years, they’ve not been able to mix with people. We see the light at the end of the tunnel where they will be able to meet again.

“We are investigating a couple more options which may turn into something. We are optimistic rather than pessimistic, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that something will turn up.”

Mr Mackay warned the community council last year the group was “likely to fold” if it couldn’t find a home.

Two former trustees of the bowling club are understood to own the land, and community councillors aired doubts over whether they ever intended to sell the site to the men’s shed group.

Mr Duncan said: “I think we were all being played along, I think the men’s shed were being played along. That’s just a personal opinion.

“It would appear that the intention is more to develop the site with property or sell the site on.

“It still leaves the question open over what can we do, as a community, about a site in the heart of the village which still is an open space protected area, but the owners seem to have other views about what happens with it.”

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