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Gareth Hoskins unveils vision for Helensburgh


Gareth Hoskins Architects has released images of its independent ‘vision document’ for Helensburgh in Scotland

The ambitious proposals include a leisure centre and supermarket on the coastal town’s pierhead and plans for a second Scottish housing expo on the site of the former Hermitage Academy.

The practice won the contest to design a pool on the waterfront in 2009, but has since been working with the local council on a ‘more coherent approach’ to developing key sites in Helensburgh, home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House, to ‘give one of Scotland’s finest planned towns a breath of new life’.

Hoskins’ strategic vision (see attached document - right) is a partial reworking of an official masterplan for the town drawn up by Austin:Smith-Lord (see AJ 16.12.10).

The architect’s view

Over the past few months Helensburgh has seen intense debate regarding the potential development of a number of key sites in and around the town, and the wider impact that this might have on its future. Much of this has focused on the demand for, and the location and impact of, a new supermarket, the provision of new public facilities and the Council’s role in facilitating and funding wider regeneration within the town.

Central to this debate have been proposals for the regeneration of the two main development sites within Helensburgh: the pierhead; and the former Hermitage Academy site with the food store (Waitrose supermarket designed by Cooper Cromar) proposals for a privately owned site outside the eastern edge of the town.

Despite the currently neglected state and unsightly appearance of the pierhead and former Academy sites, they present tremendous assets for the town, and are unquestionably prime opportunities for improving the community’s facilities. Together they offer the only real potential within the town to accommodate carefully considered and coherent development of real design quality, at the scale that would meet the pressing demand for the new residential, public, leisure and retail facilities required to safeguard the future viability and vitality of Helensburgh. Conversely, a decision to consent the Class 1 food store on the land south of the new Hermitage Academy would be potentially damaging, and motivated by an extremely short-term and narrow view of the likely impact on the town (see Waitrose consultation document, attached -right).

From my experience and knowledge of Helensburgh - personally, as a resident directly affected by these issues and as a consultant having worked with the Council on a number of projects within the town and in particular assessing the pierhead and Academy sites, and also from my wider experience as Chair of Design Review for the Scottish Government’s watchdog Architecture & Design Scotland responsible for assessing numerous developments across Scotland - we would like to put the following strategy to Argyll & Bute Council Members and Officers as an alternative coherent and viable long-term vision for a sustainable future for the town and the benefit of its inhabitants.



Readers' comments (3)

  • This is more elegant but looks oddly familiar. http://bit.ly/yJma14

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  • So what, we all borrow and this is much more convincing ....credit where it's due.

    Hoskins has taken on a difficult problem for an area that desperately needs it.

    Well done.

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  • It's certainly more convincing than any of the other proposals I've seen for the site. It seems to improve the pier without taking away its unique qualities as a very central, visible point of the town with connections to the water and views. It could be a real draw for both residents and visitors. It's a shame the waitrose application was approved today for, I can only assume, opposite the new Academy site, as it will only encourage people to use the town centre even less, meaning the pier scheme will now need to work even harder.

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