TWO topics dominate this week's crop of readers' letters to the Advertiser – the decision of the Friends of Hermitage Park to disband over claims their efforts of help were being 'stonewalled' by Argyll and Bute Council, and the closing-off of the car park at St Mahew's Church in Cardross, as reported here earlier this week.

To have your say on these topics - or any subject of local interest - just email your views to, with your name and address (maximum 500 words please), or get in touch via the Send Us Your News section of this website.

Please include a daytime contact phone number in case we need to check any details at short notice, though this will not be published.

Happy writing!

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It was with some shock and sadness that I read in the Advertiser last week that the Friends of Hermitage Park have decided to discontinue.

It is even more sad that this seems to have occurred rather acrimoniously.

The group that was started 12 years ago was a group of highly motivated and competent individuals with professional experience in raising money, contracting and negotiating. In their retirement they decided to used these skills to benefit the community.

They took on the mammoth task of renovating Hermitage Park. The result is there for us all to see and partake of.

It was inevitable that once the project was completed the Friends’ involvement would diminish, but I had hoped that it would continue to be a background support group – one willing to step in if further assistance should be necessary, such as money raising for certain improvements or additions to the park if necessary.

I feel that here the local authority has neglected its duty in allowing this break-up to happen. Some attempt to arbitrate here should have been attempted.

It is the local authority’s duty to protect our interest as a community, and here they have badly let us down.

Helensburgh is in no small way held together by volunteers and registered charities. The Helensburgh Tree Conservation Trust, for example, finances and plans the replacement of the street trees to keep our town the way it was intended. Duchess Wood has been kept going by volunteers. Our ever-growing variety of footpaths are looked after by volunteers. The town’s lunch club and food bank are kept going by volunteers. There are too many to mention them all.

This valuable energy must not be ignored. Without it, Helensburgh would be a much poorer place.

May I plead with the volunteers that have spent many a backbreaking hour in Hermitage Park to not give up on it?

The park will still need volunteers. Without volunteers the beautiful round flower beds near the sundial would not be there. They are much too labour intensive for the local authority to be willing to contemplate.

I am also concerned for the educational kitchen garden, another labour-intensive project.

What the park management and the local authority should be aware of is that the educational kitchen garden was part of the conditions for granting the money. We cannot therefore go back on that now.

The park’s management shall have to acknowledge that to keep up with the conditions given when the money was raised, they shall have to gratefully accept volunteers.

This will have to be done in a spirit of cooperation and respect.

Berit Vogt, East Argyle Street, Helensburgh

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On behalf of the community at large, Helensburgh Community Council would like to acknowledge and thank the commitment and effort of the volunteer members of the Friends of Hermitage Park during their involvement in the park’s rebirth and subsequent development.

Without their active participation in volunteering and fund-raising activities it is doubtful that the Heritage Lottery Fund would have been convinced to fund the renovation of the park to the tune of almost £3million.

The Heritage Lottery Fund places great store on local community support for any project it commits financial support to, and for around 10 years the Friends have given this support willingly and without favour.

In addition, the general fund-raising abilities of the Friends continued during this period which represented a considerable financial uplift to the park.

There is no doubt that the dissolution of the Friends is a considerable loss, both to the community in general and Hermitage Park in particular.

Norman Muir (Convener, Helensburgh Community Council)

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I AM writing in connection with the article ‘Barrier at car park sparks unholy row’, published in the Helensburgh Advertiser on January 27.

In the article, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow gives a misleading impression of the usage of the church.

At present, the only services held regularly at St Mahew’s, apart from weddings and funerals, are on a Saturday evening. This is not the “daily use” that the spokesman mentions.

In light of this it seems uncharitable to permanently close access to the car park.

We recognise that it is a private facility, however it has been a welcome amenity for those wishing to enjoy the countryside around Cardross. This closure is damaging relations between the local community and the church.

To date there has been no attempt to discuss this issue with the local residents. Surely some compromise can be reached.

Janet K. Peattie. Napier Avenue, Cardross

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Further to your article on the car park at St Mahew’s Church last week and the follow up on your website, I wish to express my agreement with the concerns expressed.

The barrier was erected because there were, apparently, problems with non parishioners using the car park at the same time as the weekly Saturday evening service, although this has yet to be publicly confirmed.

As others have noted, there are no daily services at the church, as suggested by the Archdiocese spokesman, and there haven’t been daily services for a number of years.

It is perhaps also worth noting that the nearest “surrounding street” to the church is Mill Road, some 500 metres south from the church.

The truth of the matter is that, for many weeks in the year, the car park will now be used for approximately two hours on a Saturday evening and remain locked and unused for the rest of the time.

I always understood that churches, of all denominations, considered themselves to stand at the heart of the community and that they extended a warm welcome to everyone, members and non members alike.

The reality in this instance appears to be the exact opposite. The church has taken the decision, without any consultation with the wider community of Cardross, to erect a locked gate at their car park to specifically exclude access to anyone at any time, other than those attending services within the building.

I find this to be a very strange interpretation of Christian charity.

Gordon Hendry, Darleith Road, Cardross

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