PRESS RELEASE: Scottish MSPs call for halt to potential Ayr Station Hotel demolition
Letter signed by six MSPs sent to South Ayrshire Council calling on authority to publish strategy for ensuring fire-damaged listed building is made safe and preserved for the benefit of the town
28th November 2023
The letter - sent to CEO of South Ayrshire Council Mike Newall on Friday 24th November 2023 – outlines the concerns of MSPs from across the South West of Scotland regarding the future safety and preservation of Ayr Station Hotel. The letter begins by stating that all parties are: “unified in wishing to see the listed Station Hotel made safe” and that all options for retaining the landmark should be “openly and carefully considered”.
The statement acknowledges the recent advice of leading building conservation engineer Ed Morton who earlier this month prepared a strategy for stabilising the structure without the need for substantial demolition, a view supported by 20 Scottish architects and conservationists in a recent letter to the Times in October.
MSPs state that: “We support these aspirations and agree that the possible loss of Ayr Station Hotel would be a huge blow for Ayr’s and Scotland’s heritage. We resolved to seek Government intervention to assist the Council with achieving an outcome which benefits the people of Ayr and the heritage of the town.” The key message is now: “the need for proactive and transparent action that considers all outcomes for the Station Hotel while securing public safety” and “avoiding hasty decisions on demolition.”
The letter follows a roundtable meeting last week at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh where MSPs met with local groups to discuss the future of the threatened landmark. SAVE Britain’s Heritage attended the meeting alongside local campaign groups and well as five MSPs from the wider region and representatives from national bodies including the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland. The Council declined to attend the meeting.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “SAVE welcomes this intervention by MSPs who have made it clear to South Ayrshire Council that they wish to see Ayr Station Hotel made safe and all options for the rescue and reuse of this landmark building openly and thoroughly discussed before any hasty decisions about total demolition."
"Their letter coincides with encouraging news that Ayr is set to benefit from £20 million of Levelling Up funding and reports that a hotel operator interested in taking on the building. The Council has the opportunity to transform the fortunes of this fantastic building and to use its revitalisation to spearhead the regeneration of the town. They must use it."
Image: The roundtable held at the Scottish Parliament on 15h November 2023 [Credit: Office of Carol Mochan MSP]
The future of the fire-ravaged landmark could yet be secured after it emerged at the meeting that a hotelier is interested in taking on the former hotel and has contacted the Council. The Letter from MSPs sets out their request for “details of this initiative and the Council’s response”.
It was also reported this week that South Ayrshire Council is set to benefit from £20 million of Levelling up grant money. With some of the funds likely destined for works to improve the town’s famous Burns Statue Square, questions now arise over whether these funds can be used partly to secure a sustainable future for the adjacent Station Hotel.
Image: The Scotsman reported on the potential hotel operator interest on 18th November [Credit: The Scotsman]
Earlier this month – 6 weeks on from a major fire on 25th September – SAVE put forward an alternative strategy for saving Ayr Station Hotel, using the existing scaffolding to facilitate stabilisation works. The report – submitted to South Ayrshire Council leaders on 9th November - was prepared by Conservation Engineer Ed Morton, managing director of the Morton Partnership, and outlines an alternative means of securing public safety around the building. The key objective is to allow the adjoining road and railway station to be reopened as quickly and safely as possible.
This alternative approach is also intended to respect the listed status of the building, focusing on the minimum intervention necessary, and securing time for all parties to take stock of the issues and consider the right approach for saving the building. Avoiding decisions being made in haste is now key if the building is to be saved.
Calling on his extensive experience of severely fire-damaged listed buildings, Mr Morton’s report sets out a three-step strategy for securing the hotel and its environs, avoiding the need for irreversible and costly demolition, as is currently being considered by the council.
See here for full details on Mr Morton’s strategy and the campaign so far.
Notes to Editors:
1. For more information contact Elizabeth Hopkirk – firstname.lastname@example.org/ 020 7253 3500.
2. See our latest press release on Mr Morton’s strategy for saving the station hotel on 10th November 2023.
3. 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.