PRESS RELEASE: Breakthrough survey of Ayr Station Hotel transforms the debate on its future
Game changing report published on eve of special Full Council meeting shows that repair and reuse options are perfectly practical and should remain on the table
14th September 2023
Ayr Station Hotel is in much better condition than previously known, according to a major expert survey and cost appraisal published today.
The Report shows that the North and South Ranges of the building can be saved for £9.2 million, as opposed to demolition of the South Range only for £6.6 million, under plans tabled almost a year ago.
To date there has been no assessment of how the Station Hotel building could be retained and adapted for new station facilities and a transport interchange. The retention and refurbishment option remains untested.
Demolition as currently proposed would see the cleared site remain in the ownership of absentee owner Mr Ung, causing further delay and costs to the Council.
The reuse and refurbishment option has the potential to open up multiple external sources of funding.
SAVE calls on South Ayrshire Council to urgently include the findings of this report and associated costings, in all discussions on the future of the hotel and its emerging Ayr Town Centre Plan due in 2024.
The first expert inspection of the Station Hotel’s condition in four years – commissioned by SAVE Britain’s Heritage – constitutes a game-changing moment for the 150-year-old landmark, one of the most important buildings in the town. The report comes on the eve of a special Full Council meeting on the future of Ayr Station Hotel.
The report on both North and South Ranges by leading UK buildings conservation engineer Ed Morton of The Morton Partnership, states: “it is perfectly practical to repair and bring the building back into long-term sustainable use. Whilst repairs are clearly required, the types of work required are not unusual for historic buildings and perfectly practical.”
The 113-page report also identifies that – contrary to previous reports that the building was in imminent danger of collapse – the encapsulation around the building is in fact wholly supported by the solid sandstone structure. Mr Morton concludes that the scaffolding: “has done its job stopping major water ingress, halting the progression of existing fabric damage and significantly reducing new and potentially critical deterioration occurring.”
Crucially, the existing scaffolding could now be re-purposed, allowing necessary repairs to begin immediately, thus reducing the costs and time needed to carry out the overall building refurbishment programme.
SAVE calls on South Ayrshire Council to reconsider its decision of 2022 to pursue demolition. We urge the Council to use this game-changing report to open up fresh thinking and discussions with Transport Scotland and other stakeholders to conserve and regenerate the station hotel along with ‘fit for purpose’ railway facilities.
Accompanying the report is a full repair costings report commissioned from professional quantity surveyors Thornton-Firkin which finds that that the entire building could be returned to a structurally sound, wind- and weathertight condition, with interiors ready for refitting, for £9.2 million.
This compares to the Council’s previous estimated £6.6 million cost for demolishing just the South Range, based on pre-inflation 2022 prices which Thornton-Firkin estimate would now equate to approximately £6.9 million at today’s prices.
Taking forward a restoration option, which would not have to cost much more than a complex and disruptive demolition, would mean the town of Ayr would be left with an asset, not just an empty site that would quickly become an eyesore in itself.
While demolition costs would have to be met fully from Council reserves, there would be scope to deliver the restoration work in partnership with other interested organisations which would potentially open up multiple external sources of funding from both Scottish and UK Government to help ensure the Council and local Council tax payers are not left paying the bill all by itself.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “This report opens up new options for a town centre renaissance. All the options for the future of Ayr Station Hotel considered by the authorities up to now have assumed the building is beyond repair, but this game-changing report shows that this is not the case. With a repair and re-use plan the people of Ayr get to keep a much-cherished landmark, while the space created at ground-floor level can be used to re-house much-needed station facilities – currently housed in shabby portacabins.”
Ed Morton, managing director of The Morton Partnership, said: “In more than 30 years’ experience working on saving and adapting historic buildings to bring them into new use, I have seen many buildings in much poorer condition than Ayr Station Hotel, which have been retained and given vibrant new life. I sincerely hope that this extremely fine Victorian structure can be saved as a new gateway landmark for Ayr, allowing for station improvements and new uses.”
Mr Morton’s report also identifies just how strong the building is: “being built of solid stone in a modular design, the fundamental structure of the building is immensely solid. The use of concrete jack arches and iron beam floors has enhanced the lateral stability to the structure and are good at resisting sound and fire. This form of construction is what has probably helped limit the impact of the recent fire.”
Another crucial argument for saving the Station Hotel is that the carbon savings of repairing and reusing the building compared with demolition and starting from scratch are considerable. A supplementary Embodied Carbon Assessment, provided as part of the Condition Report by Mann Williams, concludes (on a conservative basis) that: “when compared against an equivalent refurbishment and reuse scheme, a new-build scheme would emit 50% more total greenhouse gas emissions over its design and serviceable life.”
On this basis: “it would take until 2090 for the theoretically improved energy efficiency of the brand-new building to compensate for the combined carbon cost of demolition.”
See SAVE’s alternative vision published in 2022 which sets out a strategy for the re-use of the station hotel.
SAVE has been campaigning to rescue and bring life back to the hotel since 2016. In August 2022, we published a major report setting out a fundable and sustainable two-stage model to repair and transform this listed building. Our report includes a phased roadmap for repairing the historic structure and converting it for new use.
Working with local architect Alistair Scott of Smith Scott Mullan Associates, the report sets out five possible options for reuse, ranging from a boutique hotel and events venue to flexible office space and new station facilities. All options include costings prepared a professional quantity surveyor and reflect just some of the possible ways of reusing the four-storey structure.
The historic category B-listed hotel, situated at the entrance to Ayr Station, was bought in 2014 by a now absentee owner who has failed to maintain the building or respond to enforcement action. As a result, the building has fallen into a state of disrepair and is the focus of regeneration plans for the town centre. It has been enshrouded in scaffolding to keep rainwater out since October 2018.
In December 2022, South Ayrshire Council published a report outlining a series of recommendations for dealing with the hotel. The option selected at that stage was for the demolition of the historic South Range of the hotel, which is both the most recognisable section of the complex, andcontains the most historic interiors.
Notes to Editors:
1. The Condition Report is supported by a grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund
2. For more information contact Ben Dewfield-Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain’s Heritage – firstname.lastname@example.org/ 020 7253 3500
3. Link to watch the live webcast of the upcoming special Full Council meeting at 11.00am, Friday 15th September 2023
4. Read SAVE's May 2022 options report, Ayr Station Hotel: Proposals for alternative use, HERE
5. The full report by The Morton Partnership can be accessed HERE
6. The accompanying Repair Cost Summary by Thornton-Firkin can be viewed HERE
7. See our latest campaign update from June 2023 HERE
8. Press Release from South Ayrshire Council, 23rd August 2023
9. SAVE Britain’s Heritage is an independent voice in conservation that fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.