An increasing number of individuals and organisations in the Helensburgh area are mobilising themselves in support of the £6.6million CHORD improvement plans for the town.
The latest group to throw its weight behind the scheme is ‘Love Loch Lomond’, a new tourism group which so far boasts an impressive membership of some 100 local businesses.
The group urged people to support the plans, saying they would “provide a most welcome boost for many local businesses as well as enhancing civic pride in our town, which should be the jewel in the crown of the Clyde Estuary”.
The chair of the Helensburgh CHORD board, Councillor Gary Mulvaney, said he was delighted that so many people were speaking out in favour of the plans.
“There have been a couple of rumours kicking around recently, generated by people who seemed determined to scaremonger despite lacking a basic knowledge of the details of the project,” he added.
“Ironically, this seems to have had the opposite effect from what was presumably intended. People are angry that misinformation is being put round about plans in which they had a significant input, and they are determined that their views are heard.
“The plans on the table are the result of an extensive community consultation exercise. Those who took one or more of the opportunities offered to them to consider the pros and cons of all the options before giving their informed opinion are well aware that the consultation process had a significant influence on the final design.
“The result is that while this may have started out as a council CHORD project, it now very much belongs to the local community. I am delighted that so many individuals and organisations are now proudly acknowledging their ownership of it.”
Councillor Mulvaney highlighted a number of specific examples of where public consultation influenced the final plans. Among them are that the plans were changed to:
- Include the refurbishment of public conveniences, which will be among the first jobs carried out
- Increase on-street parking from 30 minutes to one hour
- Improve disability access by ensuring step-free access to the esplanade at junctions and additional dropped kerbs throughout the project area
- Include a curved road in Colquhoun Square, which emerged as the preferred option as a hybrid of a ‘T’ junction and full road diversion options for the square
- Increase number of seats in the square
- Increase number of trees and areas of shrub planting in the square compared to current provision
- Respond to advice on the selection of street tree species
- Retain the monuments in their existing positions
- Reposition the bus stops to just round the corner from their current location, following consultation with bus operators
- Redesign the north access road of Colquhoun Square to allow vehicles to pass each other
- Install a new pedestrian controlled crossing at West King Street (outside Waverley Court), which has been requested by the elderly population for a number of years
- Retain two way traffic throughout the town centre
- Provide parking and servicing arrangements required by businesses following consultation with them
Plans are now afoot to put presentation boards in Colquhoun Square, with updated images of how Helensburgh town centre will look once the project has been completed. These will include how Colquhoun Square might accommodate future events such as farmers’ markets, an ice rink and other events.
Some local residents and businesses are already displaying images in their windows in support of the scheme.
Councillor Mulvaney said the rumours circulating recently were based on misinformation, and urged anyone who is not familiar with the proposals to visit the project’s website at http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/project/491 to see the details.
A video fly-through of the scheme is also available to view on the same site.
“I’ve heard that we’ll be removing taxi ranks, which is rubbish. The ranks will be staying in the same position, as agreed last year with taxi operators,” Councillor Mulvaney said.
“I’ve also heard that the Square will be closed during the works, which is also wrong. Access to all premises will be maintained during all CHORD works.
“These false rumours, being put about by a handful of people, will not de-rail Helensburgh’s CHORD programme.
“This is the most exciting project in the town in several generations – a genuine once in a lifetime opportunity. I would encourage anyone out there who is not up to speed on the plans to find out exactly what is going to be happening.
“We are not alone in being excited about this. We have had correspondence from individuals, business owners, major retailers, developers and other organisations spelling out their wholehearted support for the CHORD scheme. Their view is that this has the potential to transform Helensburgh and the town’s fortunes over the next few years.”
He added that among those who would notice the changes most – apart from local residents - would be visitors to the town, who tend to arrive either at the station or at the car park on the pier.
“These people will have a completely new visual experience of Helensburgh. The esplanade and West Clyde Street areas will themselves be transformed, and people will be drawn up into Colquhoun Square and the town’s main shopping area,” Councillor Mulvaney said.
“We are committed to moving on with what the community has told us it wants, and we’re delighted by the support we have received from all quarters in this respect. I look forward to continuing to work with Helensburgh’s residents and businesses to deliver their aspirations.”