A BID to give Helensburgh a working pier to attract cruise ships, link to other ports and boost the local economy is beginning to take shape

Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) has teamed up with the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority to pitch the pier as a vital key for the area's future.

And Destination Helensburgh, the town's independent visitor information service, is speaking to cruise operators to attract visitors to the town and keep them in the area and spending cash.

At a HCC meeting last week, Provost Maurice Corry, who is an advisor to a sub-committee working on the pier's future, revealed plans to ditch the idea of focussing on the wooden section of the structure.

Instead the group intends to pursue the construction of a pontoon facility - something which has been successful in other west coast ports such as Oban.

Such a pontoon would be linked to the stone section of the pier - which is still in good condition - with the wooden section set to go altogether.

The group believes the pontoon approach would also require minimum dredging at the site.

Councillor Corry said he had been inspired by the community council's Vision for Helensburgh event last year - and the sub-committee has been working ever since on the pier project.

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He said: "The wood bit will go, because that's a lot of money to maintain. The stone part is in very good order.

"We intend to put on pontoons to allow us to bring in cruise ships of 200-300 people.

"The National Park see this as a pier for the park.

"The job for us is to put the business case together. We have had tremendous support - no, and I repeat no, negatives.

"This is your project. We are driving it and if we can win this, we will be doing well."

Councillor Corry said there could be future support from the armed forces, with a view to using the new facility to ferry staff to Faslane and take cars off the road.

The push for "connectivity" could provide water links to Greenock, Kilcreggan or even Erskine someday and the airport, he said.

"We need to present the case to the council about the wider benefit it will bring to the area," he continued.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Technical sketch of the layout of the pontoon off the stone pierTechnical sketch of the layout of the pontoon off the stone pier (Image: Helensburgh Community Council)

He said Orkney's economy gets £11-14 million a year from its cruise traffic.

"We cannot expand the economy in the town unless we get one of our prime assets moving," he added.

Anne Foy, of Destination Helensburgh, who is also part of the pier project group, said: "This is a great opportunity for the town as well as transport and sustainability."

She said the town was ideally placed for cruises, kayaking and rowing tours, sailing musters, triathelons and more events centred on the pier.

The Silversea cruise ship is arriving off Helensburgh on May 13 and will get people into the town - but there is no pier that it could moor at.

Tim Henderson, who is also on the same committee, and who has been doing some of the initial technical work, said there would be a 25-metre long bridge from the stone pier, and then a 140-metre floating pontoon extension.

This would allow berthing of small ships in a minimum water depth of 3.5 metres.

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An inner ponton of 40 metres long connected to the inner end of the main pontoon would allow berthing for small passenger ferries, MoD vessels, commercial vessels or leisure craft.

Kenny Auld, head of visitor services at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “Car-based travel dominates how people get to and around the National Park and long-term change is needed to make the Park more accessible for everyone and to help our visitors reduce the impacts of their visit.

“The National Park Authority is committed to working with both local and national partners to develop a viable and attractive alternative to car travel. In our Draft National Park Partnership Plan we set out our ambitions for an inclusive, integrated, low-emission rural transport system that encompasses rail, bus and water services, as well as active travel options.

“We can’t do that alone so collective action will be key and we look forward to working with partners, including local authorities in the National Park, to work towards that target.”

The pier has been closed to all marine traffic since October 2018 due to concern at the deteriorating condition of the wooden section at its seaward end.