In this week's letters, one local resident notes the differences between the pier and Hermitage Park and another blasts the council as the number of highly paid officials in Argyll and Bute increases again.


As a member of the Hermitage Park Users Group I was recently taken on a tour of the soon to be reopened park. It was an impressive experience.

What you get is a space which has many useful amenities for the community, a well-designed ‘Passiv Haus’ eco friendly pavilion, a great play park, large hard- and soft-surfaced areas for a multitude of public activities, an extensive exhibition garden, and lots of green space in which to sit and contemplate the views.

Hermitage Park is also flexible in its design to afford change as our community changes into the future. It shows eloquently what can be done with less than £3 million, a healthy engagement with the community and its wishes, an active group of “friends” and volunteers and the power of a passionate and socially engaged manager.

One would say that its creation is for the community and by the community.

What it made me think about was another Helensburgh development – the pier head. Here there is £18m being spent, and on the evidence so far, what you get is the community being ignored by dictatorial councillors with no sense of meaningful social engagement, a poorly designed building in clearly the wrong place which is unlikely to meet the basic needs of an aspiring community, an undefined and unnecessary “retail opportunity” which has nothing to do with social and community amenity and diminished parking. And not even a consideration of the pier itself.

One would say that its creation is not for the community, and certainly not by the community.

By obvious contrast to Hermitage Park, the pierhead proposal is poor value for our money and shows both how we would do significantly better by redesigning it, and why we must.

Ian Grout

Upper Glenfinlas Street, Helensburgh

I SEE a report that the number of highly paid officials within Argyll and Bute Council has increased again.

Argyll and Bute is a disgrace. The only thing they are good at is recruiting senior managers and giving themselves pay rises.

This council, along with many others, should be split up into really local units of council management. The number of officials should be at a minimum, with what used to be known as the town clerk running the show.

Councillors should make decisions rather than, as now, being told what is to happen by a small clique of decider councillors and their officials.

Ask any councillor to get something – anything – done and you will get a parroted answer provided by the officials.

“We have no money”, or “we will look at this when we can”, or “we have looked at this and it cannot be justified” – all of them meaning “go away and forget it”.

I have made numerous suggestions for real improvements in safety around the area and all have received the same treatment. I fully expect that many others have done the same. Here are just four examples from my own experience.

Before the work was done to change the King Street/Sinclair Street junction to single lanes, I told more than one councillor that it was a mistake and would cause hold ups and congestion. Shoulders were shrugged.

I also suggested that the road between the two roundabouts at Balloch and Arden on the A82 be made “no right turn” to cut down the number of accidents with drivers trying to dart in, or more likely out, across traffic at the Duck Bay or Cameron House junctions. I still occasionally have to jam on the anchors there.

Third, the fact that Churchill’s Winston Road is a bus route, and has no effective pavements, and has cars parked on a corner, making it blind, since the estate was built in the 1960s, is a disgrace. I spoke and wrote to both councillors and officials a couple of years ago. Nothing has been done.

Last, walk along the west prom and there are two sets of steps with concrete seats in the middle. From the prom to the level of the top seat is equal to two steps, and there is nothing to highlight the danger of mistaking the seats for a step and having a nasty fall. I wrote to and spoke to a councillor but the council decided they could do nothing to make it safer.

Dougie Blackwood


Councillor Iain S. Paterson should enroll in anger management classes, calm down, put his mind in gear and not reach for the easy political solution to a complex problem (‘Fatal crashes spark new A82 safety pleas’, Helensburgh Advertiser, July 12).

Average speed cameras are not the solution.

I spent ten years from 1965 to 1975 learning how to go fast as a professional motor cycle rider and car driver. I achieved a moderate level of competence.

In a race in southern California in October 1971, billed as “the richest race in history”, I finished two places behind Barry Sheene. He went on to fame and fortune, while I got on with my day job of teaching medical students.

I have survived more than 10,000 miles on race tracks and more than a million miles on public roads, on two wheels and four.

Politicians have the notion that setting a speed limit will eliminate accidents. Not so. There is no set safe speed. A safe speed depends on the competence of the driver, the vehicle, the weather conditions and the volume of traffic.

When I learned to drive there were no speed limits on British rural roads. A temporary speed limit of 70 miles per hour on motorways and 60 on rural roads was introduced in 1966. The numbers were picked from thin air.

Read the Hansard report of the debate on the issue in the House of Lords and you find comments on the unintended consequences of the speed limit. On motorways, traffic became bunched up, making accidents more likely. Drivers had taken to occupying the fast lane, ignoring their mirrors, causing frustration in those behind.

The temporary limits were made permanent in 1967 by Barbara Castle, the Transport Minister, despite the negative comments.

Fifty years later you still see the same behaviour on British motorways.

Use your mirrors. In Britain, we drive on the left and pass on the right.

You have temporary custody of the piece of road your vehicle occupies. You do not own the roadway in front of your vehicle. Don’t assert rights you don’t have.

Arbitary speed limits and police enforcement lead to a preoccupation with the speedometer. Every glance removes focus from the road and the challenges ahead.

Competent drivers adjust their speed according to the view ahead. This requires constant attention and evaluation of the risks. If in doubt, slow down.

To give an extreme example, if you encounter black ice, you can be travelling well below the speed limit but still be in mortal danger.

There was a serious accident on the A82 between Dumbarton and Balloch in August 2005. A lorry driver, travelling at the legal speed limit, drove into a tailback of cars due to construction work on the Stoneymollan Roundabout. Three were killed, others taken to hospital.

The problems are particularly acute on two wheels. A motorcyclist can move through traffic but is vulnerable in the event of an accident.

With experience, you learn to read the body language of traffic. You sense which drivers are aware and paying attention, and which are preoccupied with other matters. To survive, you must treat every other driver as an idiot.

We need better driver education. Simulators are used to train airline pilots and are now routine in Formula One. The technology should be developed for the average driver.

Government legislation cannot keep us safe on the road. Road safety is the responsibility of each road user.

John Black

6 Woodhollow House, Helensburgh

As a proud ambassador for SSAFA, the armed forces charity, and a veteran myself, I’d like to tell you about a fund I’ve set up with the charity to ensure that veterans in Scotland get the support they need.

I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges our servicemen and women can face when they leave the military. I thought my transition from the forces was going to be easy, but I quickly found myself in a bad place.

The Ant Middleton Fund is a call to action. I want change, so we can stop reading stories of veterans unable to get the support they need. I’m hopeful that together we can put an end to unnecessary suffering of those who risked their lives for our safety and get local veterans back on their feet.

The money raised will help SSAFA provide a lifeline for veterans and their families as they adjust to civilian life, through its transition services.

To donate, please visit

Ant Middleton

SSAFA ambassador and Special Forces veteran