NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
Dumbarton is to have its very own industrial necropolis on the Quay thanks to our basket case SNP council which has great difficulty getting anything right.
Necropolis is a fancy name for a cemetery and we already have two of those here at Garshake, one above the other so to speak on the road to the Long Crags.
When they are not bullying and harrasing or victimising people, the planning committee and its officials are supposed to come up with ideas to enhance and improve the old town for the people who live here.
Having missed the boat by allowing housing and a supermarket to be sited on the former distillery site in Castle Street, which was by far the best viewpoint available to look out to Dumbarton Rock, Levengrove Park and the confluence of the Leven and the Clyde, the gaulieters who sadly represent us here are on the cusp of approving a second rate plan for our interest and edification.
They have been in discussions (if they haven’t they should have been) with the Dunbritton Housing Association about installing various artworks, including two metal bench seats, four barrel seats, three metal geese sculptures, eight cast iron paving reliefs, eight acrylic resin wall plaques, and a view point sculpture on the Dumbarton Walkway behind the houses and a supermarket in Castle Street.
Lest we forget, as the Council did when it wanted to build a school at Posties Park, the River Leven floods frequently and makes the Quay inaccessible. Picture by Bill Heaney
Had they had some foresight and the staff in place for forward planning – remarkably more than 20 of the 25 staff employed in the planning department quit over the period of the pandemic – they could have used the £22 million they are now to receive from Boris Johnston’s “levelling up” programme to creat a new Town Square there.
However, our pompous, hubristic Nationalists – what are they going to do now that climate change is on the cards and no one, even Nicola Sturgeon, wants anything to do with Scotland’s Oil on which the SNP’s economic plans for independence were once founded – have been caught napping yet again.
That scenic viewpoint site in Castle Street has had a supermarket planked right in the middle of it. Did no one tell the SNP that we already had three supermarkets in Dumbarton, all within walking distance of the additional one that’s there now?
The view from Castle Street and Glasgow Road of Levengrove Park, the rivers, the castle and the Renfrewshire Hills, which would have attracted tourists by the coachload into Dumbarton from the A82, has been obscured by the supermarket and the Dunbritton red brick housing complex.
There will be no benefits to the local economy from that and nor will there be from the £16 million, not fit for purpose Burgh Hall, which wase supposed to increase footfall in the shops and save Dumbarton High Street, but only succeeded in decreasing it.
Things that we were told could only get better have got worse under the SNP.
The cack-handed council have had plans for years to reorganise the town centre traffic system but the rapidly disintegrating one way High Street is still jam packed with parked cars.
The artist’s impression of what the new Quay will look like has a bicycle going the wrong way down the street in the direction of Dumbarton Castle, which doesn’t instill confidence that things will go well at Glencairn House.
It also appears to claim there will be a splendid view of the Rock from the Quay, but you will have to complete some contortions with your neck and body shape to achieve that.
Anyway, back to the statues project which, not being disrespectful, conjures up visions of the new walkway being turned into a kind of Via Dolorosa from the Quay to the Castle.
The planning application document details the proposal for the installation of various artworks to be placed throughout a new residential development within Dumbarton town centre and along Dumbarton Waterfront.
It adds that the development is nearing completion. Many of the properties are already occupied, consisting of a mix of terraced house and flats which are owned and managed by Dunbritton Housing Association.
The artworks include the following:
• A viewpoint sculpture to be positioned adjacent to the new riverside walkway. The sculpture will consist of an oval ring of silver/grey Jesmonite (an acrylic resin cementitious compound) mounted on a cast concrete plinth with stainless steel resin anchors. It will bear the Dumbarton coat of armsand will measure approximately 3.25 metres high, 4.25 metres wide and 1 metre deep. The sculpture will frame the view of Dumbarton Rock and Dumbarton Castle.
• Two metal bench seats incorporating a cast iron elephant design on the legs will be positioned on an area of landscaping adjacent to the riverside walkway. Each bench will measure approximately 1.8 metres long, 0.8 metres high and 0.3 metres deep.
• Four recycled whisky barrel seats and three geese sculptures made from galvanised/painted steel wire, each measuring approximately 0.9 metre high and 0.7 metre wide. The barrel seats and geese sculptures will be grouped together and positioned on a raised area of landscaping adjacent to steps leading down to the riverside walkway.
• Eight cast iron carved roundels, diameter 450mm, set within a 720mm by 720mm white concrete paving slab will be placed throughout the development adjacent to entrances to the flatted blocks. Each roundel will have a relief of an image associated with Dumbarton’s industrial past including shipbuilding, distilling and glassworks.
• Eight acrylic resin wall plaques, diameter 250mm, with building number, street name and relief image to match the corresponding cast iron roundel at entrances to the flatted blocks.
There have been no consultations about this planning application, but there has already been one objection – “The objector supports most of the planned artwork but considers the proposed view point sculpture to be out of place with its surroundings and is concerned that it will become a target for graffiti.”
Policy GD1 – I am sure you all familiar with that – seeks to ensure that all new development is of a high quality of design and respects the character and amenity of the area.
In terms of residential amenity Policy H5 (again, if this is openess and transparency I am Santa Claus) is most relevant and seeks to protect, preserve and enhance the residential character and amenity of existing residential areas at all times.
There is stuff about the previously unadopted local plan being ignored in light of a government decision about Duntiglennan Park In Duntocher and a commitment to make new developments distinctive, welcoming, safe and pleasant, and puts the needs of people first.
In early 2021, Dunbritton Housing Association submitted an application for the installation of the view point sculpture only. The application received 11 representations, most of which objected to the proposed sculpture but only one of these now remains in place.
This is going to happen whether you like it or not, it seems. The proposal involves the installation of various structures, some of which are purely decorative while others are both functional and decorative, such
as the barrel seats and benches.
Each piece of artwork is said to have been designed to incorporate local history. The design of the view point sculpture is based on the shape of a torc, which was a symbol of power and wealth during the time of the early Britons, who first settled Dumbarton and established it as the ancient capital of Strathclyde.
The site of the proposed sculpture is a viewing area that has been formed as part of the wider development of Dumbarton Waterfront, which includes the adjacent walkway and residential development that is currently nearing completion.
The viewing area and walkway have been formed to allow the public access to the riverside so that they can enjoy views across the river towards Dumbarton Rock and its castle.
The sculpture will be positioned so that it frames Dumbarton Rock and draws attention to this important landmark in the town’s history.
Dumbarton Castle from Dumbarton Quay.
The promises continue: design and colour of the sculpture is relatively simple so as not to draw attention away from Dumbarton Rock, while the inclusion of the Dumbarton coat of arms within its design is a unique feature that ties the sculpture to the local area.
The Dumbarton coat of arms dates back to the 17th century and incorporates an elephant with a tower on its back, which is said to represent the Rock and its Castle. An objector has raised concerns that the view point sculpture will not fit with its surroundings and will become a target for graffiti.
Possibly the danger of this is understated since the only memorial of this kind in the Cunninghame Graham Memorial Park at Castlehill was so badly vandalised that it had to be dismantled and taken away to Gartmore in Stirlingshire.
The barrel seats and geese sculptures represent the whisky distilling industry in Dumbarton, which has now all but disappeared, while the benches incorporate an elephant design which is found in the Dumbarton coat of arms.
The paving reliefs and matching wall plaques will each depict an industry that has close connections to Dumbarton: Dennystoun (Dennystown?) Forge, Whisky distilling, Glassworks, Levenbank Foundry, Rope and Sailmaking, Sawmills, Shipbuilding and Aviation.
The sculptures will help to create a unique sense of place, providing a visual reminder of the area’s industrial past much in the same way as gravestones represent people from the past.
However, it is considered that the artworks will not affect the residential amenity of the development. The view point sculpture will be sufficiently distanced from the adjacent flats, which are also elevated above the proposed site, and therefore it is considered that they will not be affected by the sculpture, and while it may attract people to the site, the walkway and viewing area has already been designed with this in mind.
The cast iron paving reliefs will be laid adjacent to footpaths at the entrance to the flatted blocks and, it is claimed, will not present a trip-hazard for pedestrians due to their location. This is despite the fact that there have already been claims on social media that some of the paving presented a hazard for pedestrians on the walkway.
And the conclusion aarrived at by the authors of this document is that ” the proposed artworks will add to the distinctive local character of the development. The view point sculpture will draw attention to Dumbarton Rock and its castle, an important local landmark, while the other structures will help to create a unique sense of place that draws on the history of the local area and will attract people to the town centre and use of the walkway. The artworks will help to create an inviting and attractive place to live and visit and is therefore considered to be acceptable”.
We’ll see. One question for the council chief executive who is also the harbourmaster/mistress of Dumbarton Quay: When is the River Leven going to be cured of the unsightly wrecks which remain there to shame all when we bring visitors to see the park and the castle?
Picture above by Sean Davenport of Myre Media