April 2015: Widespread political and public support for campaign to “Clear out that Mess!!”

HCWG’s campaign to clear out the large mounds of logs and debris from the former woodland at Cumberland Avenue has received strong support across the political spectrum. Jackie Baillie MSP (Labour) has told HCWG that she “is happy to support the campaign and will write to Angus Gilmour (the Council’s Head of Planning)”. Mr Gilmour’s department has also received strong representations from Councillor James Robb (SNP), while Councillor Gary Mulvaney (Conservative) has advised HCWG that he “agrees with the desire to get things tidied up” and that he also would be taking up the matter with council officials. Councillor Aileen Morton (Liberal Democrat) and Councillor Maurice Corry (Conservative) have added their voices to the call for action, writing to Mr Gilmour and sending strong messages of support to HCWG. As Councillor Morton says: “This is a substantial green space in what is a fairly densely built-up area; residents deserve better than its current condition.”

Over the last three weeks, HCWG members have also been calling house to house and gathering signatures from friends and family on a petition requesting the Council to take action under Section 179 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 to require the debris and logs to be removed from Cumberland Avenue. The petition with a total of 308 signatures was handed over personally to Councillor David Kinniburgh, Chair of the Council’s Planning, Protective Services and Licensing (PPSL) Committee on 14 April.

In all, 190 of the 308 signatures (62%) came from the immediate area around Cumberland Avenue, with the remainder mostly drawn from elsewhere in Helensburgh. The 190 signatures gathered around Cumberland Avenue represent 60% of the properties in the area. At a further 32% of properties, no-one was at home when HCWG called, leaving only 8% of properties (18 people in total) where residents refused to sign the petition.

With such strong political and public support for action, we now await the meeting of the Council’s PPSL Committee on 22 April, at which the matter is to be decided.

March 2015: Time to “Clear out that Mess!”

piled debris in March 2015Almost four years after woodland at Cumberland Avenue, Helensburgh, was unlawfully felled by its owners in May and June 2011, HCWG says it is high time that the mounds of debris and logs still remaining on the site were cleared out. That’s why we’ve initiated a new campaign to persuade Argyll and Bute Council to take action under Section 179 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 to require the removal of leftover debris and logs.

There are four reasons why this needs to be done as early as possible

  1. What’s left behind is essentially waste material from an industrial felling operation that has no place in a designated Open Space Protection Area within a residential area. The sooner it’s removed, the sooner natural regeneration can take place.
  2. The debris and logs pose a real danger, especially to children. If there’s ever a serious accident, then the landowners, and by implication the Council if it decides not to act, will bear a very heavy responsibility.
  3. The Council must finish the job it began last year, when it took direct action to replant 28 trees, and served enforcement notices that secured the removal of the building materials unlawfully stored on site and the lowering of the perimeter fence. The full benefits of these earlier actions will be evident only when the mounds of debris and logs are removed.
  4. There is a very strong determination among local residents to see the land at Cumberland Avenue cleared and restored and this has been backed by public visits by the MP, MSP and local councillors from across the political spectrum. Taking action now will demonstrate the Council’s commitment to its local communities.

HCWG has written to Councillor David Kinniburgh, Chair of Argyll & Bute’s Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee, making the formal request for action to be taken. You can read that letter here, along with the leaflet we are distributing in the neighbourhood around Cumberland Avenue. We will then be collecting signatures on a petition to be presented to the Councillor Kinniburgh and the Leader of the Council before the April meeting of the PPSL.

If you can help delivering leaflets or collecting signatures on the petition, please get in touch with Gordon Greig at gordon_greig@talk21.com

For more information, see:
For Argyll: 4 years after developers’ unlawful felling, Helensburgh Community Woodland Group calls time on the debris
Lochside Press: Clean-up called for at Cumberland Avenue

July 2014

July 2014HCWG welcomed the decision of Argyll and Bute Council to refuse retrospective planning permission on 18 July 2014 for a 1.8 metre high wooden fence on to Cumberland Avenue. The Council’s refusal notice described the fence as “an alien and formal boundary treatment which undermines the previously attractive context of the street merging with the open space (and which) also undermines the Council’s objectives to seek to restore the amenity value of the site.”

HCWG had consistently sought the removal of this fence ever since it was erected by Margery Osborne and Thomas Paterson without any permission in October 2012. Some 17 months later, the owners were finally persuaded to apply for retrospective planning permission by the threat of Council enforcement action. Within days of the planning refusal in July 2014, the landowners reduced the height of the fence to 1 metre to comply with permitted development rights. This re-opens the Cumberland Avenue site to public view from the street and makes it even more important to remove the remnants of logs and debris from the 2011 felling.

For more information, see the report at:
Lochside Press: Fence at Cumberland Avenue should go, say planners

June 2014

June 2014 - site with building materials in August 2013
HCWG had long campaigned against the unlawful storage of building materials on the land at Cumberland Avenue and thus much welcomed Argyll and Bute Council’s decision in March 2014 to serve an enforcement notice on landowners Margery Osborne and Thomas Paterson requiring the removal of the materials.

Nevertheless, as the landowners appealed to Scottish Government against the enforcement notice, the building materials were not finally removed until 2 June 2014, when a Scottish Government Reporter visited the site. The Reporter subsequently dismissed the landowners’ appeal as well as their claim for expenses against Argyll and Bute Council.

You can download details of the appeal decisions on the Scottish Government website here.

Well attended and successful AGM

April 2014 - direct action replanting
At a well-attended Annual General Meeting held on Monday 28 April, HCWG members voted unanimously to step up the Group’s campaign to save Castle Woods and ensure the land at Cumberland Avenue is fully restored and re-opened to public access

The meeting began with a fascinating and wonderfully 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 thirteenth century until the Castle was finally demolished by the Navy 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.

After a short break, David Adams, HCWG’s Convenor, reported that the membership of the Group had increased by 40% in 2013 to a total of 90 and that income for the year had more than doubled. On Cumberland Avenue, the meeting strongly backed the direct action taken by Argyll and Bute Council to enforce the Tree Replacement Notice. Members expressed their determination to see the removal of the unauthorised building materials stored on the site as well as the unauthorised boundary fence on to Cumberland Avenue. They also called on Argyll and Bute 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 site.

The meeting further called on Mrs Osborne and Mr Paterson, owners of Castle Woods, to grant HCWG a 12 month option to purchase the land at Open Market Value and invited local councillors, businesses and residents to support this request.

For more information, see the reports at:
For Argyll: With membership up by 40% in 2013 Helensburgh Community Woodland Group ups the ante and invokes Section 179
Lochside Press: Woodlands group calls for further legal action

Direct action taken by Council to replant trees

police van  replanting on 24 April

On 15 April 2014, following the continued failure of Margery Osborne and Thomas Paterson, the owners of the land at Cumberland Avenue to comply with the official Tree Replacement Notice, Council contractors moved on to the site land at around 8.30 a.m., escorted by police, to implement the notice directly. The contractors concentrated initially on clearing logs and debris from the areas identified for replanting. The following week they returned and planted the 28 trees specified in the Tree Replacement Notice.

For further information, see the reports at:
For Argyll: Cumberland Avenue Helensburgh 8.30am this morning – in go council contractors under police escort
Lochside Press
Council takes action at Cumberland Avenue
Tree planting complete at Cumberland Avenue

December 2013

December 2013On 18 December 2013, in the absence of appropriate action by landowners, Margery Osborne and Thomas Paterson, Argyll and Bute Council’s Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee gave authorisation for the replanting of 28 trees at Cumberland Avenue to be undertaken directly by the Council, with the cost to be subsequently recovered from the landowners. HCWG welcomed this clear determination by the planning authority to ensure full compliance with the official Tree Replacement Notice.

November 2013

November 2013No trees had been replanted at Cumberland Avenue by the required deadline of 15 November 2013 specified in the official Tree Replacement Notice. HCWG therefore wrote to Councillor Dick Walsh, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, and Councillor David Kinniburgh, Chair of the Planning, Protective Services and Licensing, requesting that the Council take all necessary steps to ensure that there was no further delay in compliance with the Tree Replacement Notice. Swift initial replies were received from both councillors confirming that planning officers would investigate the landowners’ failure to observe the Tree Replacement Notice and report to the appropriate Council committee.

For more information, see the reports at:
For Argyll: Helensburgh group calls for Argyll and Bute Council to take action against defiant developers
Lochside Press: Call for action over felled trees – 30 months on

July 2013

Castle Woods -morning and evening lightHCWG learnt with much disappointment that its funding application for £241,000 submitted to the Armed Forces Community Covenant Fund in April had been turned down, even though the application was described as “excellent” by the Board. It became apparent that unwillingness of landowners even to discuss the transfer of the land to HCWG was the principal reason why this important source of Government funding had not been secured for Helensburgh. However, in communicating its decision to HCWG, the Board wrote that “once the issues of ownership of the land and the transfer thereto to your Community Woods Group is firm in this respect, they would be happy to accept a resubmission of your application.”

April 2013 (2)

On 26 April 2013, it was announced that J Allan Osborne (Preservations) Ltd had been placed into voluntary liquidation. This was one of four related companies for which Margery Osborne and Thomas Paterson were listed as directors. The other three companies, which were unaffected by the liquidation of J Allan Osborne (Preservations) Ltd, were Osborne (Builders) Ltd, Parkhaven Ltd and Osborne Interiors Ltd. These three companies still remain in active business as evident from on the Companies House register, which can be searched here:

The Companies House register also reveals that, earlier in April 2013, the registered name of Osborne Interiors Ltd had been changed to Parkhaven (Property) Ltd and that of J Allan Osborne (Preservations) Ltd to Parkwood (Glasgow) Ltd. At the same time, the registered offices of the companies were transferred from Helensburgh to a firm of accountants in Glasgow.

Importantly, Castle Woods and the land at Cumberland Avenue is owned by Margery Osborne and Thomas Paterson as individuals and not by their companies. These sites were thus not directly affected by the liquidation of J Allan Osborne (Preservations) Ltd.

April 2013

A £241,000 funding application to purchase, regenerate and manage Castle Woods as a national demonstration project of how community ownership, empowerment and management can be achieved when local people partner Service communities to deliver practical action on the ground was submitted by HCWG to the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme.

This detailed and fully costed application was accompanied by letters of support from Clyde Nursery Faslane, Friends of Duchess Wood, Helensburgh and District Access Trust, Helensburgh Community Council, the Naval Families Federation and Rhu Primary School.