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On the Square

This is Colquhoun Square Helensburgh


The square dates from the beginnings of Helensburgh in the late 18th century. The town was probably the first ‘planned town’ in that the streets were laid out in a grid. Colquhoun Square provides a civic centre, if not quite a geographical one, to this grid. It is a few hundred yards from the railway station. There are some impressive old buildings on and near the square including the post office, a Bank of Scotland and the beautiful St Andrews Kirk.

I rarely pass through the square without my spirits being lifted. I have lived a good portion of my life in the town, I was Christened in St Andrews Kirk and have great affection for the open space. As you can see, the square has four large grassed areas with flowerbeds, there is an almost perfect balance between pedestrian and road traffic with ample pavements and street furniture complimenting the nice wide roads, which allow a free flow of the lifeblood of any town i.e. vehicular transport.

The square is the kind of feature that would impress any visitor.

Enter Argyll and Bute Council.

As part of a £6.5 million ‘improvement’ to the town, here is what Colquhoun Square will look like soon:

option 3

After more than 200 years of free flowing traffic, road users other than pedestrians will no longer be able to go from north to south or vice versa. The east west route to will be traffic calmed. The grass areas will be reduced and the flowerbeds removed.

Although not quite as bad as the original plans, this plan will be a disaster for Helensburgh on several levels. Originally when the town was built, Colquhoun Square was to mark the East-West ‘split’ of the town. However when the main route north became Sinclair Street, Colquhoun Street and Square came to be situated in the west of the town.

Shops and businesses west of Colquhoun Square therefore are in a secondary area. Businesses there are already struggling in the current financial climate. So what does the cooncil do? Cut off their life blood that’s what. That and ruin a grid system which is the envy of many towns across the country.

It never ceases to amaze me that councillors seemingly fail to check the havoc wreaked in small/medium towns all over the country by token pedestrianisation.

The cooncil will no doubt point out that this proposal has been the subject of endless consultation and a referendum.

Like many such consultations and referendums in the past, there was no option just to leave the square as it is, which is I suspect how most locals would like to see it remain.

The town is dying on its arse like town centres everywhere. The frustrating thing is that if there is £6.5 million to be spent it could be done in such a way to  help the situation.

Not actually to make matters worse.


4 Responses

  1. No surprise, Rab, the council have proved before now that they are a right shower with no interest in the good of the town.

  2. Tsk! You expect cooncilors to care about the town or what people want….?

  3. As a burgh resident I have been racking my brains to think of an area in Helensburgh that doesn’t need “improvement” at all.
    There are dilapidated mempty shops, roads full of potholes and a beach that does a good impression of a shithole. The only area I can think of that is fine is Colquhoun Square.

  4. Another case of ‘if it ain’t busted, don’t fix it’. We see this all too often when city/town ‘planners’ change things and make them worse than what went before. One thing that the Victorians were good at was designing parks and gardens so we should leave as much of their legacy for future generations to enjoy.

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