A campaign to protect open spaces in Helensburgh will be stepped up after the AGM of a woodlands protection group.
Members of the Helensburgh Community Woodlands Group voted unanimously to step up the group’s attempts to protect open spaces at Castle Woods and Cumberland Avenue from development.
The group has seen a 40% increase in membership, to a total of 90, convenor David Adams told the meeting.
He thanked members for all their support, which he said had proved crucial to the continued retention of the Open Space Protection Areas.
On Cumberland Avenue, the meeting strongly backed the direct action recently taken by Argyll and Bute Council to enforce the Tree Replacement Notice, which the owners had refused to comply with.
Members expressed their determination to see the removal of the unauthorised building materials stored on the site as well as an unauthorised boundary fence.
The meeting resolved to ask the council to take action under Section 179 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 to require all logs, tree stumps etc and other remnants from the 2011 felling to be removed from the Cumberland Avenue site, and under Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to ensure that safe and unrestricted public access to the land is restored.
On Castle Woods, members heard that the group’s application to the Armed Forces Community Covenant in 2013 for £241,000 to purchase, enhance and manage the woods had been described by the grants award board as ‘excellent’, but it has been turned down because the landowners had refused to discuss a sale.
The area is protected by a Tree Preservation Order, designated as an Open Space Protection Area and identified as a Key Environmental Feature and the northern part is also designated in its own right as a Local Nature Conservation Site.
But the landowners still have a live planning application to cut the woods down and instead build a 72-unit housing estate.
Members heard that the board had invited the group to resubmit the funding application “once the issues of ownership of the land and the transfer to your community woods group is firm.”
As a result, the meeting voted, again unanimously, to call on the landowners to grant HCWG a 12 month option to purchase Castle Woods at open market value and invited local councillors, businesses and residents to support this request.
The meeting had begun with an illustrated talk from local archaeologist Fiona Baker about the history of Clan MacAulay and how Ardencaple Castle along with its surrounding clan lands in the Helensburgh area had evolved from the 13th century until the castle was finally demolished by MoD in the late 1950s.
Fiona explained just how important the wooded areas around the Castle had been to its setting and showed how many key features remain or can be discerned in the landscape even today.