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Helensburgh 200

Helensburgh celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2002, based on receipt of a royal charter as a burgh of barony on 28 July 1802. Commemoration of this is not our main purpose as we could just as easily celebrate the 225th anniversary this year of the advertisement of land for feuing in the Glasgow Journal of 11 January 1776 but, given the official site looks pretty awful at the moment, it's a good enough theme to work around. Now is also a good time to take stock of what Helensburgh was, is and may become. Sir James Colquhoun's original vision of a textile manufacturing town was never realised. The days of pleasure trippers are also gone and land reclamation has left the waterfront a less than impressive line of shops facing a mass of concrete. The last remaining focus here, the pier, has just been approved as the site of a supermarket. If it's not industry or tourism for the future, then what?

Argyll and Bute Council recently published a draft Structure Plan, savaged by the Plain English Campaign and most other organisations as unreadable, suggesting housing is the way forward. This sees Helensburgh's main purpose as a dormitory town for Glasgow with 700 new houses by 2020 and a near 10% population rise. This ignores the fact that councils closer to Glasgow already believe they will meet the needs of the city. It also ignores the lack of amenities in the town for those already here. The supermarket plan provides for a wholly inadequate sports centre and swimming pool as the sweetener for planning permission; the town's secondary school requires urgent replacement but nothing has been agreed; parking in the town does not support the current level of car use; litter bins are a rare sight because they cost too much to empty. There is no cinema and the other leisure opportunities available locally can probably be gauged by the level of vandalism on the waterfront and in the town's Hermitage Park. Where the council does speak clearly, for example in rejecting applications by the town's churches,(see featured story), who, contrary to the health recommendations of Scottish and UK parliaments, are trying to cash in by becoming antennae sites, it is ignored and is in danger of being seen as an irrelevance. If you want to contribute to the debate on the town's future send us your thoughts.

The main purpose of this site is a visual approach to local history using image maps and databases to look at changing townscapes and building use. Combining architectural and economic history with a high level of interactivity the project aims to interest everyone from schoolchildren through family historians and homesick expatriates to town planners and social historians. We hope Helensburgh will be the first of many such projects and, again, we would be happy to hear from you if you have photographs, documents or other information of relevance.

Latest News

Mammon and the Masts
Helensburgh councillors find themselves apparently powerless to stop developments by two unlikely "neighbours from hell". St Columba Church in Sinclair Street and the United Reformed Church have both decided that the most appropriate, and lucrative, symbols to adorn the tops of their buildings are mobile 'phone masts.