Until mid-2011, the land at Cumberland Avenue was occupied by a larch woodland, planted many years ago by the previous owners, the Ministry of Defence. In 2004, the site was acquired by Osborne Interiors, a firm of local builders, who then applied for planning permission for six houses on the site, along with a felling licence to remove the trees, which were covered by a Tree Preservation Order.
These proposals, which generated substantial local opposition, were eventually considered at a public local inquiry, held over four days in September and October 2007. HCWG participated at the inquiry alongside Argyll and Bute Council, Helensburgh Community Council and others to mount a vigorous critique of the development proposals.
Subsequently, the Reporter appointed by the Scottish Government to conduct the inquiry and make an independent decision, firmly rejected the development proposals and refused a felling licence. You can download the planning decision here (349KB PDF) and the felling licence decision here (335KB PDF).
Nevertheless, in what can best be described as dubious circumstances, Osbornes Interiors felled the Cumberland Avenue woodland in May and June 2011, claiming that the larch trees had become dangerous. Although Argyll and Bute Council accepted that some trees needed to be felled on health and safety grounds, it has since undertaken lengthy investigations into whether other trees were felled unlawfully. Two enforcement reports were presented to the Council’s Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee in December 2012, and action is now awaited.
The Cumberland Avenue land, with its few remaining trees, is still covered by a Tree Preservation Order and designated as an Open Space Protection Area. HCWG firmly believes it should be replanted as a community woodland for the benefit of local people and the local environment. We want to be actively involved in realising this ambition, and have approached Osborne Interiors several times (so far without success) to see if we can discuss how best to turn what is now a wasteland back into a woodland. In the right circumstances, we would be prepared to purchase the land and implement a community woodland ourselves.
On the other side of Cumberland Avenue, there is a much smaller site, where Osborne Interiors are currently building three houses. This site was also previously covered by a Tree Preservation Order and designated as an Open Space Protection Area. Despite strong opposition from HCWG and Helensburgh Community Council, planning permission was eventually granted at the fourth attempt in October 2011. We have been assured by Argyll and Bute Council that this decision sets no precedent for the larger Cumberland Avenue site – indeed it makes the case for retaining open space in this part of Helensburgh even stronger.
Look at our photogallery.