AHSS Advocates Transparency and Preservation in Ayr Station Hotel Demolition Crisis
In the face of growing concerns surrounding the extensive demolition at Ayr Station Hotel, we have joined hands with local and national heritage organisations to call upon South Ayrshire Council for transparency and preservation of the remaining North Wing and clock tower of this historically significant landmark.
In an open letter addressed to South Ayrshire Council CEO, Mike Newall and Council Leader, Martin Dowey, SAVE Britain’s Heritage, the Architectural Heritage Fund for Scotland, Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, Ayr Station Hotel Community Action Group, Ayr Development Trust, Glasgow City Heritage Trust, and Ayrshire Architectural Heritage Trust, alongside AHSS, have expressed their deep concern over the lack of transparency in the decision-making process concerning the demolition of the South Wing of the hotel.
The letter, prompted by the ongoing demolition of the South Wing due to public safety concerns, emphasises the need for South Ayrshire Council to make public their plans for the remaining elements of the hotel. This request is grounded in the obligation imposed by Scottish law, which requires the council to consider alternative options for ensuring the safety of the listed building before resorting to demolition.
Highlighting an alternative proposal by conservation accredited structural engineer Ed Morton, which could have addressed safety concerns without extensive demolition, the letter raises questions about whether the council explored or considered this option.
Ayr Station Hotel, a listed building, holds significant historical value, and we have underscored the importance of preserving the adjacent tower and North Wing, which were fortunately spared from the recent fire. The lack of protective scaffolding on these sections prior to the fire indicates that, according to council officers, they do not pose a safety risk to the public.
We believe that a positive future for a fully restored tower and North Wing is possible, creating an iconic and vibrant entrance to the town. Collaborating with relevant stakeholders, including SAVE and other signatories of the letter, we advocate for a comprehensive plan that includes modern facilities and a potential integrated transport exchange at Burns Statue Square.
With news of South Ayrshire Council set to benefit from £20 million of Levelling Up grant money for the regeneration of Ayr town centre, including Burns Statue Square, we urge the council to demonstrate a positive vision for the future use of the North Wing and tower. This financial boost presents a unique opportunity for the council to safeguard Ayr’s historic buildings and contribute to the town’s long-term preservation.
Jocelyn Cunliffe, acting chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, said: “The AHSS urges South Ayrshire Council to cease demolition and make a formal listed building consent application which sets out the rationale for the extensive work carried out and demonstrates an overall vision for the regeneration of the whole site. Local authorities are empowered to act timeously to save listed buildings. This case raises issues around enforcement procedures which require public examination to protect and save important listed buildings at risk. Demolition should be a last resort.”
The AHSS has also submitted an FOI request to South Ayrshire Council as follows:
“The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS) seeks the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 or, as appropriate, the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004:
All communications within the Council (including communications with elected members and communications with external advisers), and with Network Rail and Historic Environment Scotland, informing or relating to the decision to carry out demolition works at the former Station Hotel, Smith Street, Ayr, following the fires on 25 September and 2 October 2023, including any relating to
o the extent of the works required or to be carried out
o the appropriate timing for such works, and
o any factors taken, or to be taken, into account in formulating the advice and/or making the relevant decisions.”
Read our letter on the SAVE website.
Image © Historic Environment Scotland