Dumbarton Town Centre (bottom left), the High Street and River Leven plus Kirktonhill, West Bridgend, Oxhill and Brucehill. Picture from the air by Bill Heaney

Notebook by Bill Heaney

I was pleased to see the positive comments about my idea for a state of the art health centre to be incorporated into the design for Dumbarton Town Centre.

As you know, the centre is being demolished and built anew from the “levelling up” legacy of £20 million left to us by the disgraced former Prime Minister Boris Johnston of seriously unhappy memory.

I know £20 million is nothing to Boris who has probably spent that much on a champagne party for his hooray Henry friends, the posh boys from the Bullingdon Club.

However, it’s a fortune to the booling club, blazer, badges and white bunnet brigade – plus the rest of of us, of course – who make up a considerable portion of the population of dirty old Dumbarton.

However, the new Labour-controlled West Dunbartonshire Council seem to have ditched the go slow modus operandum, which was adopted on an ongoing basis by their predecessors in the SNP, and moved quickly to get this exciting project off the ground.

Either that or their highly paid officials have pulled the wool over the Labour councillors’ eyes and set in motion already the SNP plan, which is to demolish the deserted Post Office building and yard at the foot of College Way and create a pathway from Dumbarton Central Station to Dumbarton Castle.

Well, here’s the news from the street. People don’t want a new walkway from the station to the castle. They want a new town centre where they can relax and do their shopping; a place where it’s handy to go to and get to and see their GP or optician and have a cake and a nice cup of tea or a coffee.

They don’t want to be landed, many of them for the second time in their lifetime, with a concrete monstrosity such as we have had to put up with for the past 50 years.

So, we would be grateful if the council would take their clammy paws off the £20 million, step aside and give us all some time to consider what we might create in the Town Centre.

The SNP were sleeping at the wheel when they missed out on the chance recently to take over what became the LIDL supermarket site in Castle Street.

What a town square that would have been with its excellent views of the two rivers, lovely Levengrove and the Castle itself.

The SNP impressed no one however by granting planning permission for a supermarket on the site of what was most probably the finest view in town, the old distillery mill building in Castle Street.

Anyway, two local politicians who are miles apart politically have written to The Democrat saying they think having a new Health Centre, like those that have been completed in Clydebank and Alexandria, would be a terrific idea for Dumbarton Town Centre.

If they take this idea forward – and I sincerely hope they do – I trust that the formerly basket case Health and Social Care Committee of the Council, which is bound to have a say, along with the local Health Board, give it their support.

The major concern I have is, and I have said this already, is what a new Dumbarton health centre would look like architecturally.

The ones we have in Clydebank and Alexandria are poorly designed to say the least, but now we have a king who has expressed his distaste for architectural “carbuncles” in the past, we might have the opportunity to create something more aesthetic here.

We could give the one in Dumbarton some space though by demolishing the old Rialto Cinema, and now that bowling clubs are no longer nearly so popular as they were in the old days, moving the Big Green (Dumbarton Bowling Club) to Kirktonhill.

I notice that the Dixon Bowling Club, which is situated in the old quarry there, has been scaled down to just one green, so there should be scope for a merger there.

Some people might die with their feet up at this suggestion, but so what? We are in a new era, a new century and it’s time for a change. It’s time to eradicate the old Spanish customs that beset bowling for most of last century from the game.

While we are talking about change, why don’t we let Dumbarton FC sell their stadium at the Castle and merge with Vale Juniors out at Millburn Park in Alexandria?

Sons, who celebrated their 150th anniversary this week, are back at the bottom of the soccer pile, playing against teams like Bonnyrigg Rose and Cumnock Juniors, which seems an even worse situation than they were in the Fifties when they were in C Division.

I noted the other day that Dumbarton are now describing themselves as “a semi professional club”. What a come down from the days of Brown, Whalen, Gallacher, Gibson and Heaney when Sons took on the best in the land and beat them.

This happening would bring about another merger which would see real change in West Dunbartonshire. So here’s my hat trick forecast for positive change in the 21st century:

Dumbarton FC and Vale of Leven Juniors  to merge and create a new ground at Millburn Park in Alexandria and the Dixon and Dumbarton bowling clubs to merge and create space for a new health centre on the site of the old Rialto Cinema in the town centre.

That would keep everyone happy, now would it not? Answers in an e mail please to

West Dunbartonshire has new health centres in Clydebank and Alexandria. A new Dumbarton Health Centre would breathe new life into the town centre.

This may look like an afterthought but it is something that has been on my mind for some time, ever since Jackie Baillie MSP agreed with the then Chief Constable of Strathclyde that Dumbarton Police Office at Crosslet was built in the wrong place.

The police chiefs and Ms Baillie said then that it was dangerous to have police vehicles with blue lights flashing and sirens screaming emerging from the Overtoun Lodge gate on to the A82 to answer emergency calls.

Of course, they were perfectly correct … but there was not another suitable local site at the time to house Scotland’s Finest.

There is now though. They could move the police into the about to be redeveloped town centre, which would mean a police presence there at all times. People could walk into the police office off the street.

It would also mean that the crazy situation we have now which is police cars in full emergency mode speeding down Round Riding Road and Bonhill Road to answer so-called emergencies at supermarkets and High Street shops.

Often these emergencies are no more than a scuffle between drunks at Dumbarton Cross or a bottle of whisky being shop-lifted from somewhere like Morrisons.

Someone should inform the guardians of the peace that there are a number of school crossings between Crosslet, traffic lights at Garshake, Bonhill Road, Strathleven Place and Church Street, and that vulnerable elderly people and school children make up  most of the people on the street in these places just before nine in the morning and three in the afternoon.

It’s high time the police were moved out of Crosslet, brought out of their vans and cars and put back on the beat and made a presence in the town centre where, where there used to be a Dr Who-type police box and where they would be a deterrent to the sick, lame and lazy folk who hang around there and get the place a bad name.

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