About Us

What do we do?

The HGBG concentrate on endeavouring to enhance and protect the countryside around Helensburgh, and we co-operate with other organisations who deal with specific aspects (see Working With Others for more info). The foreshore is also most important to Helensburgh, but we do not have the resources to include this within our remit and others have taken appropriate action when necessary.

Enhancing the countryside

Encouraging the enhancement of countryside around Helensburgh is a main concern of HGBG. That countryside is part of our heritage to pass on to future generations. It is to the credit of past citizens and to present landowners and local councils that we have such a local heritage. Yet there are actions which can be taken today to improve the quality of the countryside and to enable people to have responsible access to it.

Protecting the countryside

Within current planning legislation there is a presumption against development in Green Belts, except for agricultural, forestry and other reasons specified by the Scottish Government. There have to be good planning reasons to breach them. There are commercial and other forces which may pose a threat to local countryside. They fall into five broad categories:

  • Bids to build housing estates.
  • Business and industry sites.
  • Proposed out-of-town supermarkets (recently condemned by a government report).
  • Land being left derelict, degraded and unsightly, perhaps in the hope of getting planning permission to build.
  • Damage done by visitors (sometimes with dogs)

We see the Green Belt as in some senses the 21st century counterpart to Victorian parks and there are implications for recreation and good health of local residents as well as tourism. If growth is genuinely needed, we consider that building development should initially concentrate on brownfield and under-used sites in town and consideration of village expansions where villages are losing facilities which depend on population size (village shop, primary school, etc) if villagers themselves want such expansion.

In the meanwhile we contest unnecessary building in the Green Belt. It may be noted that ample vacant commercial sites are available in Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven and that our “Housing Market Area” includes Dumbarton.

Functional principles

Besides the broad philosophy of enhancement and protection described above, we keep in mind the following additional principles.

  1. Countryside, not town issues. As volunteers with limited time and resources at our disposal, we focus our efforts on countryside issues. This means that we do not concern ourselves with in-town matters unless they have a bearing on the countryside. However, Green Belts are for towns. They :-
    1. only exist where there are towns;
    2. “protect and enhance the quality, character, landscape setting and identity of towns” (Scottish Planning Policy, 2010, sec. 159);
    3. “direct planned growth to the most appropriate locations and support regeneration” (Scottish Planning Policy, 2010, sec. 159);
    4. “protect and give access to open space within and around towns” (Scottish Planning Policy, 2010, sec. 159).
  2. What countryside? The Green Belt stretches to the edge of and around Glasgow, but our bit is a very narrow strip north of Helensburgh. For practical reasons we limit our activities to the countryside near Helensburgh whether Green Belt or not.
  3. Other groups. People from other settlements have approached us, asking us to assist with their countryside problems; our response has been to offer to help them to set up groups similar to ours. We have made contact with similar groups elsewhere in Scotland.
  4. No membership fee. We do not impose fees which would deter or limit involvement of citizens in our work. The funding we need comes from advertisements in our newsletter Greenery, voluntary donations and grants.
  5. Democratic communication. See our ‘Communication’ page
  6. Wildlife. Concern for animal wildlife, trees, plant life and landscape.
  7. Education. Quality countryside is as much for future generations as for ourselves. We assist school and university students in educational projects.

These are crucial times

This has been and is a very demanding time for the HGBG as, in addition to the usual range of matters with which we have to deal, we have made a submission to Argyll and Bute Council on its “Main Issues Report” which is the first step towards the next Local Development Plan and on the draft Local Development Plan itself which should be finalised by 2014/15. HGBG has also made representations regarding Scottish Government consultations, the most recent being its consultative draft Scottish Planning Policy.