The leader of Argyll and Bute council has stepped in to quash rumours allegedly circulating in Helensburgh regarding the town’s pier head site.
Councillor Dick Walsh was speaking after the council was accused of ‘witholding’ information regarding the ownership of a small site on the edge of the pier head, and of somehow acting secretly and in partnership with supermarket giant Sainsbury’s over the pier head’s future.
“This is complete rubbish on both counts, and I am angry that these rumours are grabbing the headlines at such a critical time for the town’s future economic development,” Councillor Walsh said.
“We are now nearing the end of a public consultation on the pier head masterplan, with the people of Helensburgh and the surrounding area being asked for their views on the options for the site’s future development to inform the proposed masterplan.
“This is a critical time for the town and for what is arguably its most important potential development site. It is doing a great disservice not just to the council but to the local community for a handful of people to try to deflect attention to some completely unfounded and, as far as I am concerned, irrelevant issue over land ownership.”
It is expressly stated in the draft masterplan document that the council does not own a small site at the edge of the pier head, which was formerly the Mariner’s pub but was sold following a serious fire. As well as being explained in the text, the site is clearly identified in yellow outline on the accompanying map.
Despite this, the accusation has been made that the council has somehow withheld that information. In addition, it is claimed that the new owner allegedly acts as an agent for Sainsbury’s – and the council should have made this clear in its documents.
“Whether the new owner of this site is or is not an agent for Sainsbury’s is not a matter for the council, and has absolutely no bearing on the draft pier head masterplan or the public consultation surrounding it,” Councillor Walsh said.
“Anyone with a particular interest can of course find out who owns the site through the Land Register for Scotland. As far as the council is concerned, it is not a relevant consideration when dealing with the draft pier head masterplan.
“As clearly stated in the consultation documents and the information issued to the public during the recent open days, the former Mariner’s site is not required to deliver the options currently being considered for the pier head.
“We have also made it clear on numerous occasions – including in the frequently asked questions section of the masterplan web page – that no deal of any sort has been entered into with any retailer or supermarket chain, including Sainsbury’s, regarding any development site in Helensburgh.
“I don’t know how I can make that any clearer. I would therefore urge the people of Helensburgh and Lomond to ignore these attempts to destabilise the consultation process, and to concentrate on making their voices heard regarding the various options on the table.”
Councillor Walsh added: “We are being completely open and transparent in every aspect of this exercise. We want to ensure that we provide Helensburgh’s residents, visitors and businesses with all relevant information on which to base their responses.
“This is a very exciting time for Helensburgh, and the outcome of this consultation will play a significant role in shaping the town’s future. The draft masterplans for both the pier head and the former Hermitage Academy site are intended to provide an important part of the framework within which some of the biggest developments the town has seen for decades can be taken forward, and I very much look forward to seeing how the public’s comments have shaped the final drafts when they are submitted to the Executive next month.”
The consultation, which started on Friday, December 16, finishes at 5pm this Wednesday (January 18). Anyone who has not yet responded will find the dedicated consultation page on the council’s website at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/helmasterplans, where there are copies of the draft masterplans along with the consultation response form.