PRESS RELEASE: SAVE calls for urgent building survey following fire at Ayr Station Hotel
26th September 2023
SAVE Britain's Heritage is shocked and saddened that a major fire took hold of Ayr Station hotel yesterday, the second fire to hit the historic building in just four months. SAVE calls for urgent survey of the building to understand structural condition post fire.
The landmark building, which is under the care of South Ayrshire Council, was empty and had been encapsulated in scaffolding for almost five years due to safety fears. The Category B listed building stands as the gateway to the historic town of Ayr in west Scotland, and is one of the country's grandest railway hotel buildings. The extent of the damage is not clear, although firefighters fought through the night to save the building, and early reports suggest it is extensive.
SAVE published a new report just 10 days ago by expert buildings engineer Ed Morton of the Morton Partnership which showed that the building was in much better condition than previously thought. We called on elected Councillors to re-think their controversial demolition plans and to fully consider a refurbishment option which could include much needed station facilities with a range of uses on the upper floors, from modern office suites to studio space. Not only would a refurbishment approach bring this listed building back to life, restoring one of the region's great landmarks, but it would act as a signal of civic pride and a catalyst for regeneration in the town.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain's Heritage, said: "This is a tragic day for Ayr and for historic buildings in Scotland. It is shocking that this listed building could be hit by another fire - this time much more serious it seems. It is one of the most fiercely debated and scrutinised buildings in the town. We urgently need a survey of the building now to understand its structural condition following the fire and how much of the station hotel can be saved. The causes of the fire must be fully investigated, and those found responsible held accountable."
Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive Officer at The Architectural Heritage Fund, said: "It is extremely tragic to see this, so soon after the report produced by SAVE and funded by the Architectural Heritage Fund demonstrated that the reuse of Ayr Station Hotel was indeed possible. Too many historic buildings are lost forever like this, we can only hope that something of the hotel can be salvaged and put back into use."
Jocelyn Cunliffe, Vice-Chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), said: “The AHSS was dismayed to learn of another serious fire in the former Ayr Station Hotel. We hope that this will prove to be a catalyst towards a change of heart for the future preservation of this building and to the recognition that the built heritage is of vital importance to the future of this key historic town.”
Ed Morton, managing director of The Morton Partnership, said: "I was deeply saddened to hear the news of the further fire at The Station Hotel, which I visited only a short time ago and which was found to be in a condition where repairs and re-use of the building was perfectly possible. Whilst the fire has clearly affected the structure, I would imagine the walls and solid floors have survived and can be hopefully re-used."
Ayr Station Hotel is a grand station building designed by Scottish engineer Andrew Galloway. It was built in 1885 and opened with 75 luxurious rooms, designed for affluent visitors who holidayed in Ayrshire and visited the fashionable races. Constructed in robust red sandstone, it is built in the grand French Renaissance chateau style with turrets, a clock tower. Inside it has many original features like marble fireplaces and staircases.
In December 2022 South Ayrshire Councillors voted to pursue a demolition strategy for the South Wing of the hotel at a cost of £6.6 million. However a game changing report, based on surveys commissioned by SAVE and published on 14th September 2023 - found that the building was in much better condition than previously known and that repair and reuse options were perfectly practical. It was the first time the building had been surveyed since 2019.
The historic category B-listed hotel 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.
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.
Notes to editors:
1. For more information contact Ben Dewfield-Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain’s Heritage – firstname.lastname@example.org/ 020 7253 3500
2. The full report by The Morton Partnership can be accessed HERE
3. The accompanying Repair Cost Summary by Thornton-Firkin can be viewed HERE
4. Read SAVE's May 2022 options report, Ayr Station Hotel: Proposals for alternative use, HERE
5. 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.