Further letter about Ayr Station Hotel, following the fire

Read the main text of the letter below

Download the letter in PDF format here


Cllr Martin Dowey
South Ayrshire Council
Country Buildings
Wellington Square
Ayr KA7 1DR

30 May 2023

Dear Councillor Dowey,

Ayr Station Hotel

It was with considerable concern that the AHSS noted the fire in Ayr Station Hotel on Sunday 28 May. My colleague, Martin Robertson, wrote to Eileen Howat about the parlous state of this iconic building on 5 April 2021 and reflected the views of many of our members. A copy is enclosed.

We recognised the difficulties the Council has found itself in and the need for a long-term, financially sustainable solution. We suggested that making the building safe, wind and waterproof, as has been applied in similar circumstances elsewhere, will remove the need for the scaffolding and shrouding, as well as the substantial financial burden. Considerable internal work may be needed, as timber will have deteriorated over the period of its shrouding.

However, accessibility to the building would allow the opportunity for investors to assess potential uses and to make the necessary contributions to further renovation costs. This approach was also set out in the SAVE report given to you last year and widely circulated to interested bodies in Scotland.

With good will and co-operation between all relevant parties, a solution encompassing a new compliant railway station and permitting the retention of the former hotel building to be renovated and reused is feasible. This would retain the important backdrop to Burns Statue Square. Demolition of the building would leave a gaping hole in a key urban setting, resulting in a poor long-lasting legacy. The embodied carbon in this building, well-constructed using Ballochmyle red sandstone, is considerable. Consequently, any demolition and the carbon load of a new construction is contrary to current thinking and Policy 7(b) of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

A full independent survey to ascertain the condition of the building is an essential first step and we understand that this is due to be carried out very soon. Hopefully, the damage caused by the recent fire is minimal but, nevertheless, it is a wakeup call to the dangers that exist with an abandoned building.

While we appreciate that the current Council administration has inherited the present difficulties, it is inevitable that decisions made now will define the legacy. We and others, with the requisite background and knowledge, remain prepared to assist.

Yours sincerely,

Text, letter

Description automatically generated

Jocelyn Cunliffe RIBA FRIAS FRSA

Chair of AHSS National Conservation Committee

Cc:       Eileen Howat, Chief Executive, South Ayrshire Council

            Henrietta Billings, Director, Save Britain’s Heritage

            Mary Miers, President of the AHSS



Historic Environment Policy for Scotland Two Years On – Have Your Say

Invitation to participate in Historic Environment Scotland’s online survey on your experience and use of HEPS

Two years on from the introduction of the Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS), Historic Environment Scotland is looking for your comments on how the policy is performing.

This survey is for everyone. Whether you have never heard of HEPS before, use it everyday, or are somewhere in between, your feedback is really valuable.

The survey will take around 10 minutes to complete and will be open until 30 August.

Follow this link to take part in the survey


The AHSS Objects to the Planning Applications for the out-of-scale Proposed Tower at 520 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

AHSS Strathclyde Cases Panel has submitted our objection to the planning applications REF: 21/020068/LBA & 21/02069/FUL
for the erection of a new residential development within Glasgow’s Conservation Area.

Plans submitted to Glasgow City Council on behalf of Consensus Capital Group Ltd propose the creation of a new development of 87 units with a ground floor commercial unit between 520 Sauchiehall Street and 341 Renfrew Street, within the Glasgow Central Conservation Area.

The AHSS strongly objects to the applications for the proposed erection of a 14-storey high tower (including the ground floor and mezzanine) which will dominate the adjoining Listed Buildings and the skyline of the Conservation Area. Read our letter of objection here

To view the full applications, please visit the Glasgow City Council planning portal:




The deadline for comments is Tuesday 10 August 2021.

Image: 21_02069_FUL-PROPOSED_STREET_ELEVATIONS-4964598 uploaded on Glasgow City Planning Portal


POSTPONED – The Hill House and Hermitage Park, Helensburgh RESCHEDULED TO SEPT 2022

Join Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage (SGLH) for a visit to The Hill House!

When: rescheduled to Sept 2022 – details will be posted here
Where: The Hill House and Hermitage Park
Cost: £18.00 – SGLH Members / £25.00 – Non-members

An opportunity to visit The Hill House in the morning and walk the Hill House Box gantries, with lunch provided at The Hill House on the roof-top cafe comprising soup, sandwich, tea, coffee and a sweet treat. After lunch, there is a guided tour of the town’s recently restored Hermitage Park led by project landscape architect Jon Simmons, CMLI between 1.30-2.30pm. Mackintosh’s Hill House is a half-mile walk uphill from the mainline Helensburgh train station. A taxi rank is located at the railway station. Hermitage Park is a half-mile walk down the hill. Meet at the park Pavilion from 1pm onwards. The guided walk, or walks depending on numbers, will begin at 1.30pm.

Entry to The Hill House is free for National Trust for Scotland and National Trust members.  Non National Trust for Scotland and National Trust members will need to pay to enter the site.




Former Royal High School site now being marketed by the City of Edinburgh Council


In January 2021, the Finance and Resources Committee of Edinburgh City Council agreed that the Calton Hill building would be remarketed, ushering in ‘a new chapter for the property at the heart of Edinburgh’s original World Heritage Site’.

The City of Edinburgh Council has now put the former Royal High School on the open market, inviting interested parties to submit development plans in exchange for a long lease.

Any proposals must guarantee the Royal High School’s long-term viability, be of the highest architectural quality, and take into consideration the conclusions reached by the Scottish Ministers following the public inquiry.

Read the tender document here


Save Egyptian Halls: New charitable body established to lead calls to restore Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s A-listed warehouse in Glasgow

Led by the Scottish Civic Trust

Glasgow’s A-listed Egyptian Halls are a work of artistic genius by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, one of Scotland’s greatest architects. However, the future of the building is uncertain – Egyptian Halls has been lying empty for decades and was recently shortlisted as one of Europe’s ‘fourteen most endangered buildings’ by Europa Nostra, a pan-European heritage organisation.

Scottish Civic Trust are setting up a new charitable body composed of developers, architects and conservation experts to investigate buying and refurbishing the building.

Read the press release here

Sign up on the new website SAVE EGYPTIAN HALLS to receive updates on the progress.



AHSS responds to the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy and Skills consultations

Closed 30/04/2021


The AHSS has recently submitted responses to the Scottish Government’s Consultations on:

  • Draft Heat in buildings strategy – achieving net zero emissions consultation.

Read our response here

View the consultation paper here 


  • Draft Scottish skills requirements for energy efficiency, zero emissions and low carbon heating systems, microgeneration and heat networks for homes.

Read our response here

View the consultation paper here





REPORT: Martin Robertson on ‘Preserving the Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’ G20 Culture and Climate Change webinar

Climate Heritage Network Webinar 12 April 2021
‘Preserving the Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’ 
Part of the G20 meeting in Italy.

by Martin Robertson, Chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland

On behalf of the AHSS I attended this webinar to see how far it would concentrate on the built heritage and the possible mitigations which might enable historic buildings to adjust successfully to the future levels of energy efficiency that governments might demand of them. I quickly discovered that the programme was aimed not at the already converted but was an attempt to convince the G20 countries that heritage could be made a part of the solution. The Italian Government, the current President of the G20 countries, had decided that culture was to be the main theme of their Presidency, and this webinar was a small part of their exploration of this.

It was quickly evident that Italy’s main concern will be seismic events, extreme weather, rising sea levels, flooding and tourism overload, so much of the webinar was looking at reacting to these events rather than making sites and buildings more sustainable in themselves. They saw regular monitoring through IT, satellites and drones as the way to prevent the worst effects of these events before they happen.

Tourism is the fastest growing source of global carbon emissions, already at an estimated 8% of the total. One third of all tourism is to the Mediterranean countries, so the Italians have put themselves forward as natural leaders for a new approach to this. The Italians clearly think that the cultural heritage = what tourists want to come and see i.e. it is cultural heritage because tourists want to come and see it rather than for the sense of place and educational and emotional value that we might like to think that we place upon it in Britain and Scotland. This attitude does often appear here as well since it provides an easy way of giving a calculable value to sites, but does, of course, tend to exaggerate the honey pot nature of tourism as more and more people visit the must-see sites while neglecting the other sites which give a completely necessary setting without which the honey pots become little more than theme parks.

Key messages which did come out of the webinar –

  • Successful mitigation of the effects of climate change will require a complete change in the lifestyles of the developed world.
  • Close monitoring of sites using IT, satellites and drones will give warnings and help with future planning.
  • Heritage must become more climate literate and much better at climate risk assessments.
  • Indigenous knowledge can contribute enormously to cultural management strategies.
  • A level of loss must be accepted i.e. We can expect that each site can only be preserved for so long. We are not going to be able to save everything so how far do you go to protect any one thing.
  • It is almost always possible to retrofit historic buildings to an acceptable standard of energy efficiency without lasting damage to their character.
  • Culture and heritage can be key drivers towards net zero and will be a key piece in the puzzle as we “build the better normal together”.

All in all, it was a programme of bite-sized chunks intended to persuade the G20 that this approach was both possible and vitally important. All very well-intentioned, but will they sign up to it?

Here is the link to the day’s programme.



Letter to the Chief Executive of South Ayrshire Council about the future of Ayr Station Hotel

Read the main text of the letter below

Download the letter in PDF format here


Eileen Howat
Chief Executive
South Ayrshire Council
County Buildings
Wellington Square
Ayr, KA7 1DR

By post and email: eileen.howat@south-ayrshire.gov.uk
Copy to Donald Gillies, Director – Place, email: donald.gillies@south-ayrshire.gov.uk


5 April 2021


Dear Ms Howat

Ayr Station Hotel

A representative of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS) attended the meeting held on 29 August 2018 in Ayr Town Hall, to discuss the future of Ayr Station Hotel.  Following that meeting I wrote to Councillor Brian McGinley to offer the Society’s assistance in saving this important building, a landmark building in the town centre, one of the fine group of hotels built by the Glasgow and South Western Railway.

We recognise that the identification of a long-term, financially sustainable solution whilst balancing the special architectural interest is a challenge. We would like to suggest that rather than concentrating on assessing options which show a financial shortfall which might meet the statutory test for demolition you consider an alternative approach, similar to one adopted a number of years ago in the Scottish Borders. There Scottish Enterprise Borders (and their predecessor bodies) made Ettrick Mill, Selkirk, wind and watertight and structurally secure and, after a time interval, and when economic circumstances changed, carried out phased work to bring the building back into use.  Scottish Borders Council took a similar approach at Tower Mill in Hawick, securing the shell ahead of agreeing the brief and appointing a design team for the internal work.  A similar approach should be considered at Ayr Station Hotel.  Once the shell is secure work should be carried out to bring the railway station back into use and then the phases of re-occupation can be considered.

As part of the Climate Emergency existing buildings should be retained and re-purposed and we are confident that a mixed use solution, including the railway station with small retail units, business incubation/office use, possibly a reduced hotel with café and function suite, perhaps some apartments, could be the way forward. The first step is a professional appraisal with costings to make the shell wind and watertight and structurally secure.  Ayr has lost too many distinctive building and has become a place of ‘holes’. We urge the Council to view the situation holistically and recognise that Ayr Station Hotel could and should be an asset to the town.

This building is one of the largest and most stylish listed buildings in the key town of Ayr and the AHSS is anxious to help it achieve a worthwhile future. If we can help at all in this process then please do let us know.


Yours sincerely

Martin Robertson



Campaigns to stop the demolition of Ayr’s Station Hotel:

SAVE Britain’s Heritage – read the press release here

Ayr Station Hotel Community Group



Former Royal High School Appeal Dismissed!

Scottish Ministers have dismissed the planning and listed building consent appeals and have refused planning permission and listed building consent for the proposed development of the former Royal High School, Edinburgh into a luxury hotel.

The AHSS welcomes the decision by Scottish Ministers to reject the appeals by Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group against the refusals of planning and listed building consent by Edinburgh City Council.

The AHSS has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the former Royal High School from the hotel proposals which were simply too much development and in the wrong place. There would have been very real adverse impacts on not just the former Royal High School but also on Edinburgh’s iconic Calton Hill, the New Town, the Old Town and the World Heritage Site.

The AHSS would like to thank all who have campaigned with the Society and contributed to the costs of our representation at the public inquiry. We hope that with this decision by Ministers, the developers will draw back and allow the Royal High School Preservation Trust to move forward with the consented and funded proposal for the music school.


Follow this link to view copies of the decision letters and the reports to Scottish Ministers.



AHSS responds to consultation on Ayr Riverside

Ayr Riverside consultation

The AHSS has taken part in the third public consultation on the Ayr Riverside redevelopment, in relation to Austin-Smith:Lord Ltd’s proposals for the site.


Explore the Design Proposals here:







CANCELLED: 30 April 2020: ‘Conservation Areas – Now and Tomorrow’ at the Engine Shed

The AHSS is delighted to be partnering with Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) on this free event about conservation area policy and management.
*Please note that due to the coronavirus outbreak this event is now postponed until further notice.
Register your interest now to receive a notification about the revised date by emailing managingchange@hes.scot

Venue : The Engine Shed, Forthside Way, Stirling, FK8 1QZ
Time : 9:45 – 16:15
Cost : Free / Register your interest at managingchange@hes.scot

A free one-day seminar at the Engine Shed in Stirling to discuss conservation area policy and management. The event is primarily geared to heritage sector practitioners.

The seminar will be an opportunity for local authorities, advocacy groups, policy makers and decision makers to get together and talk about what is most important to them for good place making. We will be looking at what is working and not working, current best practice, what local resources are available, and the expectations of communities and stakeholders.
We will also be sharing initial plans for new conservation areas policy and guidance and seeking feedback and further participation.

The day will be divided into three sections:

  • Reality and Resources
  • Placemaking
  • Policy Roadmapping.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Mark Douglas (Scottish Borders Council)
  • Christina Sinclair (Scottish Borders Council)
  • Rachel Haworth (Heritage Consultant)
  • Nick Haynes (Heritage Consultant)
  • Sonya Linskaill (Conservation Architect)
  • Martin Robertson (AHSS Chair)
  • Dawn McDowell (HES)
  • Simon Montgomery (HES)

This is a partnership event with The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

For more information and to register your interest please contact managingchange@hes.scot


The AHSS Joins the Climate Heritage Network

The AHSS is pleased to have endorsed the Memorandum of Understanding
proposed by the Climate Heritage Network.

The AHSS believes that we must make maximum use of our entire existing building stock, maintaining, repairing, re-purposing and improving as necessary. All existing buildings contain embodied energy and the materials and construction skills of their builders.  It is important that existing buildings are maintained and kept wind and watertight even before further measures in relation to energy performance are considered. We support the objective that conservation will no longer be a niche activity but be mainstream, such that climate change will supersede heritage as the principal driver of environmental and building conservation. We support the principle that we must recycle all useful materials and ensure that as little as possible goes for landfill. The Society recognises that the historic environment is vulnerable and needs safeguarding with a careful balance between protection and managing change in a sustainable way. For example, many town centres are especially vulnerable to loss of quality buildings through neglect.  These can often be renovated to form new homes. The Society works in partnership with other organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), Heritage Trust Network Scotland and local building preservation trusts. The AHSS was an early supporter of the building preservation trust movement in Scotland.  We regularly oppose the demolition of listed buildings in Scotland and work to seek new uses for buildings at risk.


‘The Climate Heritage Network is a voluntary, mutual support network of local and city, state/provincial and regional, indigenous peoples’, and national arts, culture and heritage governmental and quasi-governmental boards, offices, ministries and site management agencies as well as NGOs, universities, businesses and other organizations committed to aiding their communities in tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The focus of the network is providing support to organizations from jurisdictions that have made concrete climate action pledges such as those in the Under 2 Coalition and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

The Network was conceived in 2018 at the Climate Heritage Mobilization at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit and was launched in Edinburgh in October 2019 at the Climate Heritage Network Global Launch.

Interested agencies, organizations and businesses can join by signing or endorsing the Climate Heritage Network MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). The MOU will not introduce new legal constraints on participants but will demonstrate clear commitment to support mobilization of the cultural heritage sector for climate action.’







National Study Tour 2020: ANGUS OR FORFARSHIRE – POSTPONED TO 2021


Due to the worsening virus epidemic and the forecast that the virus spread may reach its UK peak at the time of our tour, the AHSS co-organisers have come to the difficult decision that we must postpone the study tour.
We intend to offer the same tour over the equivalent weekend next year: Friday 30th April to Monday 3rd May 2021.

The AHSS 2020 Spring Study Tour will be to Angus in north east Scotland, exploring the built heritage of the wider area. We will be based in the adjacent City of Dundee, starting with a coach pick-up at its new railway terminus, adjacent to the award winning new V&A Museum of Design. We will be accommodated in a recently converted Building at Risk, the category A-listed Bell Mill of 1866, designed by Baxter Bros company engineer Peter Carmichael, its bell tower modelled on that of the church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, now along with adjacent North Mill (1935), Dens Street Mill (1865) and St Roques Mill (c.1830s) forming the Lower Dens part of the world’s largest linen sailcloth and canvas manufacturers. It is now the Hotel Indigo, Daisy Tasker restaurant and adjacent Staybridge Apartments. Our city centre location (NE side) will allow us to make walking forays into Dundee.

This year, our National Study Tour will be led by Simon Green and Adam Swan and administered by Caroline McFarlane.

To note your interest, please return a completed form to the National Office, along with a deposit of £100 per person payable to AHSS by 30 November 2019. If you are applying for a single place but prefer to share a room please indicate this (and if possible with whom*) on the form below.

Download your booking form here


Brechin, by Gershom Cumming, Dundee, 1848


RIAS Convention & Doolan Award 2019: Climate of Opinion


Date: 4 – 5 October 2019
Venue: EICC, The Exchange, 150 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8EE
Price:  Convention – £99 RIAS members / £125 non-members / £50 concession – limited number
Combined (Convention & Dinner) – £147.60 (RIAS Member) £171 non-member
Dinner – £69 (single ticket) £600 – table of ten
(all prices + VAT and booking fee)

This year’s event combines the conference and Doolan Award for Best Building in Scotland. Climate of opinion takes place in Edinburgh with a full day of discussion, debate and celebration around designing for climate resilience, diversity and northern Europe. The Friday evening dinner will involve presentation of the Best Building in Scotland Award (presented by Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell) as well as a chance to relax with fellow delegates and convention speakers in the stunning surroundings of the National Museum of Scotland. The event will be rounded off on the Saturday morning with building visits and a city tour exploring some of Edinburgh’s award-winning architecture.

View confirmed speakers so far here
Book your ticket here


RIAS convention 2019 © Reiach & Hall Architects


Winter Lectures Series 2019-2020

Our Strathclyde Group publish their programme of talks in Glasgow.

See below the full list of talks or download the flyer here

All on Thursdays: Coffee/tea at 7 pm; Lectures start at 7:30pm.
Admission: £5 / students £2 / season ticket for all 5 lectures: £20.
Venue: THE RENFIELD CENTRE, 260 Bath Street, Glasgow

Professor Bruce Peter of Glasgow School of Art explores ship design from the heyday of the ‘ocean greyhound’, with an emphasis on Clyde-built liners and their interiors.

John Hume, historian of industrial archaeology and architecture examines some of the extraordinary, magnificent and, indeed, noble buildings put up by Glasgow’s industrialists in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

January 23rd: JAMES MILLER (1860-1947)
Fergus Sutherland of Icosse Heritage and Media talks about the career of one of Glasgow’s most successful (and least discussed) architects, the wonderfully eclectic James Miller.

Nick Haynes, historic environment consultant traces the architectural history of the University from its origins in the High Street to the most recent developments at Gilmorehill.

Niall Murphy, Deputy Director of Glasgow City Heritage Trust introduces us to one of the key architects from Glasgow’s Golden Age and one that was a rare beast, the Glaswegian architect with a European reputation.



Casework News from Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway Cases Panel voice their concern about a worrying trend in the appeal process. Read their article and take part in the discussion.

The main text is provided below, or you can read the article in PDF format here 


12 February 2019

A worrying trend – Casework news from Dumfries and Galloway

Several recent cases in Dumfries and Galloway that seem to contradict historic buildings advice from the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland and the local authority planning department have been a cause for local concern. These are cases where the AHSS Cases panel have objected and the local authority have refused the application, twice supported by HES advice. Two cases have led to successful appeals, and the third is in progress. If all three are to prove contrary to what we consider to be the correct conservation approach our Panel, and possibly the planning department as well, will be left confused as to the way forward.

The first case is that of 1 Old Union Street, a Category B listed building in the centre of the Dumfries Conservation Area and concerns the replacement of eleven timber-framed casement two pane windows on the High Street elevation (of a non historic type) with white uPVC casement windows to match the existing design.

The Reporter’s decision was to allow the appeal, with the condition that a new design in uPVC should be approved by planning.

‘The council has referred to Dumfries and Galloway Local Development Plan policy on the Historic Environment – HE1 Listed Buildings. Supplementary Guidance on the Dumfries Conservation Area and the Historic Environment is also referred to. As this is an appeal against refusal of listed building consent not planning permission, development plan policies do not have the status afforded to them by section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as amended). Nevertheless, the policies and guidance are a relevant consideration and I have taken them into account in reaching a decision.’

Legal advice has supported the Reporter’s view as expressed above. The end result is that uPVC windows are to be allowed on an important listed building in the historic core of the Dumfries Conservation Area apparently on the grounds that the building will be enhanced in appearance through the reintroduction of windows with glazing bars, to a design approved by planning, and the alien material will not matter because they are on first floor level and above. The decision is regrettable in that it undermines the locally approved policy of using traditional materials in these situations and thereby supporting skills needed for the proper maintenance of our historic buildings. It also makes the final details of design a matter between the appellant and the planners, rather than a matter for public comment. This decision reflects another recent appeal in Annan (Sussex House, listed B) where new uPVC windows were allowed, subject to approval of details by planners, because they were deemed an improvement on the existing uPVC windows.

The second case is that of the Old Manse, Thornhill where timber double glazed sashes were refused as replacements for the apparently original sashes on the grounds that no case had been made for the necessity of their replacement through a proper condition survey. Such a survey was eventually provided only for the Reporter who then allowed the appeal. The Reporter said, ‘I consider that the window condition survey as submitted by the appellant responds directly to the reason for refusal of the application and so could be considered as part of this appeal….The appellant has submitted no evidence of exceptional circumstances that prevented the timely submission of the window condition report, or any justification for the lack of response to the council’s request for a report under Section 9 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. While this could be considered unreasonable behaviour by the appellant, I am satisfied that the consideration of the window condition report as part of this appeal is appropriate as it directly addresses a reason for refusal, although the document was not before the planning authority at the time of its decision.’

This decision appears to set a dangerous precedent for the way cases with inadequate background information are dealt with, if the public and amenity bodies such as the AHSS lose the opportunity to study and comment on details of proposals. The Dumfries and Galloway Panel see many cases where there is no Design Statement, or with misleading or inadequate information to make a proper judgement. Condition surveys for windows have been particularly poor.

A third case is that of Meikle Dalbeattie Farmhouse, Dalbeattie, where retrospective listed building consent was refused for the total replacement of apparently original timber sash windows in a mid nineteenth century C listed farmhouse. The replacements are uPVC and of designs not matching the originals in any respect. This has gone to appeal and we await a decision.

HES guidance ‘Managing Change in the Historic Environment – Windows’ states

‘Generally, replacement windows should seek to match the original windows in design, form, fixing, method of opening and materials. In replacing sash windows, materials other than timber, e.g. uPVC, will rarely be acceptable. (page 18).

Despite the best efforts of the planning department to apply their approved policies, based on accepted best practice advice, the character of listed buildings and conservation areas continues to be eroded. Contractors continue to offer standardised inappropriate replacement windows and doors. At 10 Lovers Walk, in Dumfries Conservation Area, the doorway with overlight of a paired Victorian villa has been changed without planning permission. It now has an ill-matched uPVC door with an overlight of a different size from the immediately adjoining original doorway of the house next door, giving a completely unbalanced appearance. The council has refused retrospective consent and we wait to see the outcome.

We can only hope that our disappointments in Dumfries and Galloway are not being repeated across Scotland. Input from other regions would help build a national picture.


Dumfries and Galloway Cases Panel


Letter to Cllr Susan Aitken About Devastating Glasgow Fire

AHSS Chairman Martin Robertson expresses the heartfelt sympathy of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland to the City of Glasgow for the devastating fire at the Mackintosh Building of the Glasgow School of Art.

The main text has been provided below, or you can read the letter in PDF format HERE


19 June 2018

Cllr Susan Aitken
Leader of the Council
City Chambers
George Square
Glasgow G2 1DU

Dear Councillor Aitken

Glasgow School of Art fire


I am writing today to express the heartfelt sympathy of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland to the City of
Glasgow for the devastating fire at the Mackintosh Building of the Glasgow School of Art. This is a building we know the
City Council, and indeed all the people of Glasgow, look to with pride and affection. It is a building which, together with
its architect, draws thousands of visitors to your city from across the globe. Once there they quickly recognise that it is
not the Art School alone that makes Glasgow so outstanding a city architecturally. It must make the City Council very
proud that they are the custodians of such a place and very anxious to maintain that quality into the future. However, all
buildings of character, not the listed buildings alone, are of significant importance to the city and it is the remit of our
Society to call attention to their importance and to assist with the preservation of their character for the benefit of all.

The recent fire in Sauchiehall Street has also served to underline the peril that closely packed buildings in an historic city
centre can face. A significant number of these buildings, including many of the first importance, are in the ownership and
direct control of Glasgow City Council. While having no reason to think otherwise, the Society would like reassurance
from the Council that all appropriate fire precautions have been taken with the historic estate and, in particular, the other
Mackintosh building you have in your care, the Scotland Street School. This building is of a similar size and design
purpose to the School of Art and is very likely to have similar construction characteristics. I am thinking particularly here
of the timber lined voids within the building which have played so serious a role in the rapid spread of the GSA fire. Can
we be assured that the City Council has taken cognisance of such matters within a full fire safety appraisal?

The second concern to arise from the new fire is the way it appears to have been able to take serious hold without any
warning transmitted to the outside world. The Incident Officer from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, as reported on
the BBC, said that the fire station is closely adjacent and that the response to the first alarm was almost immediate, and
yet the fire was already extensive and uncontrollable. We know that the Scotland Street School stands alone and is
unoccupied for long periods, as well as being some distance from a fire station. Can we be assured that the alarm
system is adequate to the task of recognising a source of fire quickly and of transmitting this knowledge rapidly onwards
to the Fire Service?

We at the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland are grateful to those organisations who continue to look after the
surviving buildings by our great architects. Scotland cannot afford to lose any of them, and especially not the School of
Art. We urge the City Council to do all in its power to ensure the survival of as much of the historic fabric as possible so
that this true icon can remain in place. We also have concerns regarding the future of the ABC O2; this has held an
important place in the cultural life of Glasgow since 1875 and contributes a fine 1920s frontage to Sauchiehall Street. As
with the GSA, we would urge that as much as possible of the historic fabric of this building be saved. We leave them to
your care.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Robertson




Festival of Architecture 2017

Continuing to celebrate Architecture – AHSS with the RIAS

If you enjoyed the Festival of Architecture 2016, you’ll be delighted to learn that the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland are bringing the festival back for a second year! FoA2017 will take place across Scotland throughout the month of September and will be exploring the theme of ‘home’. It will join the Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Day events in making this a fantastic month to celebrate architecture.

Exhibitions to look out for include 100 Best Scottish Homes and a return of the popular Adventures in Space.

“This National celebration of great architecture will transform Scotland’s relationship with its built environment. It will improve our appreciation and understanding. It will also be fun!”

David Dunbar, former President of the RIAS and now Chair of the Festival of Architecture 2017

Find out more at www.festivalofarchitecture.scot or see our events planned for September HERE.


Strathclyde Group Takes a Stand for Mackintosh Building

AHSS delighted at outcome of potential planning blight in Glasgow

The following letter was sent to The Herald on Monday April 3rd in regards to plans for a student accommodation in front of Glasgow’s Mackintosh building. The group is delighted to say that plans for the seven storey building were refused by 12 out of 19 councillors.

You can see the letter on The Herald website HERE or read it below.

“Dear Sir,

Your recent article regarding the current state of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s organ casing (“Sturgeon to demand answers over fate of Mackintosh organ found lying in pieces”) underlines the need for constant vigilance in preserving our heritage.

On Tuesday 4th April Glasgow City Council will demonstrate whether it really does have the vision to safeguard our built heritage, when the Planning Committee meets to decide an application to build a large unwieldy block of student flats on the corner of Dalhousie Street, adjoining Mackintosh’s world-renowned Glasgow School of Art. The proposed box-like development in its close proximity and dominating height will substantially obscure the present south elevation of the Mackintosh building from view and block out daylight to School studios. The design concept is wholly unsympathetic to its setting against such an iconic building of world renown.

It is ironic that just when every effort is going into restoring the Mackintosh building after the fire, the Council seems intent on approving an immediately adjacent 180-bed student housing development, which GSA director Professor Tom Inns has strongly criticised. The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, the New Glasgow Society and other Glasgow heritage groups, have also lodged objections.

The AHSS is fully supportive of developments which are sensitive to their surroundings;  this proposal is detrimental to an iconic part of Glasgow’s heritage, and should be turned down.

It would also seem as if one section of the Council is working to undermine another. Whilst Planning is proposing to adversely affect part of our Mackintosh heritage, the excellent efforts of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau to attract international events to our city has chalked up another significant success. In June, some 600 delegates will be attending The Society of Architectural Historians’ Conference in Glasgow – only the second time this Conference has been held in Britain; the City Marketing Bureau specifically cite the Glasgow School of Art as one of the buildings that have helped to attract the Conference to the city.  It is unlikely that this group are travelling from the around the world to see yet another undistinguished student block.

The Planning Committee should therefore, on Tuesday, refuse the proposals for student accommodation at 294 Sauchiehall Street.

Yours faithfully,
Iain Wotherspoon

Chairman, AHSS Strathclyde Group
Tobacco Merchants House
42 Miller Street
Glasgow G1 1DT”


Society of Architectural Historians Annual International Conference 2017

Attend SAH’s 70th Annual International Conference, their first meeting outside North America in 40 years

Society of Architectural Historians
2017 Annual International Conference
June 7-11 | Glasgow, Scotland
University of Strathclyde, Technology & Innovation Centre

The AHSS is delighted to be a conference partner of this event!

The Society of Architectural Historians will host its 70th Annual International Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, from June 7–11, 2017. Meeting in Scotland’s largest city, world renowned for its outstanding architectural heritage, reflects the increasingly international scope of the Society and its conference. Architectural historians, art historians, architects, museum professionals and preservationists from around the world will convene to share new research on the history of the built environment. The Glasgow conference will include 36 paper sessions, eight roundtables, an introductory address and plenary talk, 33 architecture tours, the SAH Glasgow Seminar, and more.




Autumn Newsletter 2016

The latest news from the AHSS


Once again, it has been a very busy time for the AHSS since the mailing of our Spring 2016 magazine, particularly in this, our 60th Jubilee year!

The Forth & Borders Group are working very hard to protect the Royal High School in Edinburgh, the Dumfries & Galloway Group are running their photography competition, we have launched our new website, and with the help of our North East Group, we are excitedly preparing for our special Jubilee AGM. We do hope that you will be able to join us at Fyvie Castle in October.

As you may know, the AHSS was formed in 1956 to stop proposed demolition in Edinburgh’s George Square. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in this campaign, however in the following 60 years we have been successful in many others! To mark this momentous occasion we will be producing a special Jubilee publication this winter, instead of our usual Architectural Heritage Journal. The Journal will return in 2017. If you have any stories, memories or photos that you would like to be included please contact the National Office, we would be delighted to hear from you.

It has been a pleasure to participate in the Festival of Architecture 2016, if you have not been to any events yet, make sure that you do before the end of the year. www.foa2016.com

To find out more about what we have been up to, have a read of our latest news pieces and view all upcoming events here on our website.

Keep up to date with all AHSS activity by visiting our Facebook and Twitter.


Best wishes,

From all at the AHSS.

Did you receive a paper version of our newsletter? Let us know your email address and we can email it to you in the future!


Winter Lecture Series Announced!

Meet interesting people and learn something new.

The AHSS is delighted to publish the programmes for our Winter Lectures Series, taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

As with previous years, there is a fascinating line up of topics to be covered between October 2016 and April 2017. Take this opportunity to learn more about your favourite Architectural genre or learn something entirely new.

Members and Non-members of the AHSS are all welcome to attend these events. Ticket costs apply, refreshments are provided at each talk.

Download the programmes here:

Forth & Borders Group Winter Lecture Series

Strathclyde Group Winter Lecture Series 

Dundee Conservation Lecture Series: information to follow


60th Jubilee AGM Weekend

60 Years of protecting and promoting Scotland’s historic built environment!

Venue: Fyvie Castle
Time: 11am Saturday to 4pm Sunday
Cost: £70 (Discount available for Students)

To mark the occasion of the 60th Jubilee of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, our North East Group will host a wonderful weekend of celebrations.

Join us on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October 2016, in Aberdeen to celebrate our 60th Jubilee.

The AGM will take place at the spectactular Fyvie Castle on Saturday afternoon, followed by a tour, talk and 60th Jubilee Dinner in the Castle. Accommodation has been arranged at the historic Carmelite Hotel in Aberdeen’s Merchant Quarter. There will be a coach to transport members from the Carmelite hotel to lunch on Saturday, Fyvie Castle, and back to the hotel.

Sunday’s activities will include a visit to one of Aberdeen’s most historic private houses, Chaplain’s Court, a light lunch, talk on the history and heritage of Aberdeen, and photo opportunity outside our beloved Aberdeen Old Town House.

Members to arrange their own transport to Aberdeen on Saturday morning and return on Sunday afternoon.

Download the Booking Form here.

Download the 60th AGM Notice and Agenda.