THE team leading efforts to bring Helensburgh's only cinema into community ownership has passed the first hurdle in its funding campaign.

The 'Save the Tower' steering group was set up earlier this year in a bid to secure a long-term future for the Tower Digital Arts Centre in Sinclair Street.

The group has announced that it has been successful in its Stage 1 application to the Scottish Land Fund.

The grant, approved after the submission of a bid in May, will mean that the team can carry out due diligence on the viability of their plan to bring the cinema into community ownership for the benefit of people in Helensburgh and the surrounding area.

They say the current owner, Brian Keating, is "contemplating a transition to retirement due to circumstances beyond his control".

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Donna Hicks from the Save the Tower Steering Group told the Advertiser: "We are absolutely delighted with the news.

"It will give us the funds to get a business expert look at business planning for us.

"Even thoughthe centre it is not for profit, it still needs to cover its costs. We won't have an endless pot of money that will continue to back up the project. It needs to be able to fund itself.

"There was no guarantee at all that we were going to get it. We weren't taking anything for granted. As a team and a group we had to work on it as positively as we could and carry on as if we were successful.

"Representatives from Scottish Land came on a site visit around six weeks ago and they said they were impressed with the scope of what we could do with the venue and the enthusiasm from the committee members.

"We are one of the few that had received the money. We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be able to do this."

In the meantime, another community engagement is being planned, some time between the end of August and the middle of September, to update the public on what's been achieved so far, but they are needing the Helensburgh community to get behind them.

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"We really need the community behind us on this project," Donna added.

"We are planning to hold two sessions on the day so that as many people as possible come along and hear what is happening. 

"Ultimately what we are looking for is money to purchase the building. There will be an element of us having to fundraise to plug the gap. We really need the community to step up and help us.

"We will also be speaking to local businesses for their help to secure the future of the tower for Helensburgh.

"We would like to thank our supporters who believed in the project from day one. There has been so much love for the Tower, and that has really encouraged us at points when it was looking a bit bleak.

"We are also making an appeal to the community who haven't yet got involved, because it is more than just a cinema. We want everyone to be able to benefit from that. This is a project that belongs to Helensburgh.

"And we also want to thank the current owner for being so patient with us as we look to secure the future of The Tower."