Helensburgh development options discussed

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Published Date: 

22 Nov 2011 - 16:06

The future options for Helensburgh’s two highest-profile development sites are being discussed by a focus group in the town tomorrow.

The outcome of the session – which will involve representatives of key local community, sporting and trade groups – will feed into the development of options regarding the Pier Head and the former Academy sites as part of the development of the updated Master Plan.  Members will consider these options on 15 December at the Council’s Executive before launching the fuller public consultation process which will allow the community to have its say as part of the development of the updated Pier Head master plan. 

The options which the council is seeking views on are:

  • Do nothing
  • Develop a leisure facility with a swimming pool (as per the Stage C design specifications) and a food retail/supermarket outlet on the Pier Head, with very limited residential and outdoor public space. Create a residential housing development, with an affordable housing element, on the former Hermitage site. Possibly market these jointly.
  • Develop a food retail outlet/supermarket on the Pier Head, with shop frontage retail and some residential and outdoor public realm space. Build a leisure facility with a swimming pool (as per the Stage C design specifications) on the former Hermitage site, with further private residential housing, including affordable housing. Possibly market these jointly.

Councillor Vivien Dance, chair of the Helensburgh and Lomond area committee, said it was vital that the views of local stakeholders fed into the development process.

“Making the right decision regarding the future of these two sites is critical to ensuring that Helensburgh can fulfil its significant economic development potential both in the short and longer term,” she added.

“Until relatively recently, the former Hermitage site was not an option in terms of a potential site for a new leisure facility because it was sold to a housing developer. It was only when that sale fell through that the site could be assessed for other uses.

“Helensburgh has already declared itself open for business with its £6.6million CHORD programme, and several developers and large retailers have approached us expressing an interest in getting a foothold in the town.  The council is not, however, currently engaged or working with any particular retailer or developer in regard to the development of its options.

“We now have two very high quality development sites available in Helensburgh. It is our responsibility to make sure that whatever route we choose to go down is not only financially the best option, but is also the one which best meets the hopes and aspirations of the local community.”

Before discussing the options themselves, the individuals involved in the focus group will first have a briefing on the context of current projects in Helensburgh and the council’s desired outcomes.

Among the projects included in that briefing will be the town’s economic regeneration, the planning policy and existing Pier Head masterplan, the CHORD project and the redevelopment of the former Clyde Street school.

In terms of the council’s desired outcomes, issues such as the requirement for a new leisure facility with a swimming pool, a new supermarket, new housing (including affordable housing) and the deliverability and affordability of possible development opportunities will all be spelled out.

The focus group members will then consider each option in terms of which one:

  • Best delivers a new leisure facility in the right location for Helensburgh
  • Provides the best opportunity for economic development, regeneration and retail choice
  • Maximises the opportunities already presented by the CHORD programme
  • Would best deliver affordable housing in Helensburgh
  • Is likely to be the most effective

The group will also discuss possible benefits and risks of each option, whether there are any additional factors which have not so far been taken into account and whether there are any issues which, in their opinion, are non-negotiable for the local community.

“It is vital that the options for the Pier Head and Hermitage sites are considered in the light of the CHORD investment,” Councillor Dance said.

“Our aim is to ensure that we have a clear understanding of which options will deliver not only the proposed new leisure facility, but also the chance to lever in the maximum possible return on our CHORD investment in terms of town centre regeneration and increased sustainable economic activity.

“One of the key focuses throughout this process will be on deliverability. Whatever option is finally agreed must be not only affordable in today’s economic climate but also deliverable in terms of being attractive to the development sector.

“This is a very exciting time for Helensburgh, and the potential of these two major sites in terms of contributing to its economic development are potentially huge. “

The Scottish Government has already announced that some £2million is available for Dunbritton Housing Association’s proposal to build about 50 affordable homes on part of the former Hermitage Academy site.

Earlier this month, councillors agreed that the masterplan be reviewed and updated in relation to the pier head and former Hermitage Academy sites.

As part of this review, the council will pro-actively seek the views of all those who live and work in Helensburgh and the surrounding area. The public consultation period will begin in the middle of next month, and will include interactive sessions open to all members of the community with views on the masterplan proposals in January as well as various other opportunities to get involved online, by post or in person.

It is intended that the draft revised masterplan be discussed by councillors on 2 February 2012.