A PUBLIC hearing is to be held to decide controversial plans to alter and extend a house in a Helensburgh conservation area - but it won't take place until the new year.

Twenty-nine objections were lodged with Argyll and Bute Council into applicant Gail Crawford's plans to carry out work at Redholm, on West Lennox Drive.

Despite the objections - many of which focussed on the impact of the work on the Hill House Conservation Area, where the property is located - local authority officials recommended that the plans be approved.

But the conservation area concerns were raised again at a meeting on Wednesday - which eventually led to councillors voting in favour of holding a hearing.

A report on the application, with the recommendation to approve, was brought before the council's planning, protective services and licensing committee (PPSL) on October 18.

And a roll call vote of councillors resulted in a pre-determination hearing being agreed, although a council officer then said that the meeting was unlikely to take place until March.

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Lomond North independent councillor Mark Irvine said: “We have a conservation area. It is there for a reason, and the number of objections and representations we have all represent different views on what a conservation area should be.

“I do not profess to being an expert, but we as a committee are representatives of our constituents. This committee meeting is there for us to raise their concerns, unless we reach the threshold for a hearing.

“I am uncomfortable with this application – not in terms of the application extending their property, which I wish them well with – but I have concerns this does not fit with a conservation area.

“I would be minded to ask this to go to a hearing, where the public can get the opportunity to put their views forward.”

Councillor Liz McCabe (Independent, Isle of Bute) countered: “I do not think we need a hearing. I am quite happy with what we have in front of us.”

Councillor Paul Kennedy (Liberal Democrat, Helensburgh and Lomond South) initially said he did not believe a hearing was needed, but later changed his mind.

He said: “I do not think we need a hearing either.

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“It [the report] is very concise, but why are the applicant and objectors not getting a right to be present and put their views across?”

Councillor Kieron Green (Independent, Oban North and Lorn), the committee’s chair, advised that such an opportunity would be available at a hearing.

Councillor Kennedy said: “In that case, I support Councillor Irvine. There are so many objections and possible questions to the application themselves that should be put forward.”

His Liberal Democrat colleague, Helensburgh Central councillor Graham Hardie, in whose ward the property is located, said: “There are a number of objections, including one from Helensburgh Community Council, and a representation from [fellow Helensburgh Central councillor] Gary Mulvaney.

"In my opinion, there is enough material to warrant a hearing and site visit.”

Councillor Gordon Blair (SNP, Cowal) then said: “When you get a full report from officers, you have to take cognisance of it.

"I think it is a bad precedent if, every time a planning application comes up in front of us, we have to go to the local area for something that is normal process.

“This report is adequate for us to make a decision on something that Helensburgh Community Council has objected to. We cannot always be doing this; this is why we have professional planners.

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“If we are knocking back the recommendation at every opportunity, it does not give them a lot of support.

“We are elected to make the decisions we make. On this occasion I am happy to go to a meeting and if we can do it as soon as possible that would be great.”

Councillor McCabe added: “I agree with Councillor Blair; we are here to make a decision and cannot always go to a hearing if we have all the information in front of us.”

However, Councillor Blair was one of eight councillors who voted in favour of a hearing, with a motion moved by Councillor Irvine and seconded by Councillor Kennedy.

Councillor McCabe put forward an amendment to determine the application on the day, seconded by another Isle of Bute councillor, the Conservatives' Peter Wallace.

Councillor Amanda Hampsey (Conservative, Oban South and the Isles) was the only other councillor to vote that way.

The motion was also backed by councillors John Armour, Jan Brown, Audrey Forrest and Luna Martin, as well as Cllr Blair.

Councillor Green registered no vote.

After the decision was made, clerk Stuart McLean advised that the hearing was unlikely to take place until March.