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  • Writer's pictureEsther Clark

November Update

Ed Morton offered to do an updated report immediately after the fires in early October. It was four weeks before he was allowed to come and little cooperation was given by the council as you can see from what he says in his brief but telling report. SAVE, who commissioned him wrote twice and emailed once but it took persistence in Ayr before his visit was agreed. He was not allowed to visit the site nor given access to all the information. For a worldwide respected Structural Engineer who has worked on Westminster Abbey, York Minster and the like it showed little respect.

Ed Morton's Report is shown below and also available for download in PDF format.

9th November 2023 RE: AYR STATION HOTEL, AYR, SCOTLAND 1. INTRODUCTION This statement has been prepared as a meeting summary and proposed strategy for securing the safety of Ayr Station Hotel following a meeting with representatives of South Ayrshire Council (SAC) on Wednesday 1st November 2023 at 9.00am at the Council Offices. In attendance were the following: § Mike Newall (SAC Chief Executive); § Hugh Talbot (SAC Team Leader, Building Standards); § Pat Lorimer (Conservation Architect and member of Ayr Deserves Better); § David Bell (on behalf of SAVE); and § Ed Morton (Conservation Accredited Engineer on behalf of SAVE) The meeting was offered by Chief Executive of SAC Mike Newall (MN) to allow Conservation Accredited Engineer Ed Morton(EM) to meet with the Council’s engineers and technical experts to discuss the best approach to making Ayr Station Hotel safe and allowing the adjoining road and railway line to reopen as quickly as possible. No Engineers from the either SAC or the Contractors attended the meeting.Access to the site was not permitted. Prior to the meeting,a copy of the post-fire drone footage secured by SAC had been requested, to allow for preparatory viewing to inform the discussion between experts. This request was ignored. Hugh Talbot agreed at the end of the meeting that it should be possible to provide this. EM had emailed twice since with no response to this request. Thus, a full interrogation of the drone footage has not been possible by EM. However, from the information that was provided to EM at the meeting, EM’s visual inspection of the building the day prior, and on EM’s full survey of the structure in June 2023, EM has reached the following conclusions on a proposed strategy for securing the building in line with duties to ensure public safety and protection of a listed building. 2. PROPOSED STRATEGY A. The south gable appeared less affected by the fire than expected.It would of course be naturally more stable due to the lack of openings in the wall (besides a former doorway now infilled with solid masonry) and being tied into the east and west longitudinal elevations would add further stability. This gable is important to the structural integrity of the listed building. B. If SAC’s current strategy was to demolish the south gable, this may potentially undermine the structural integrity of the building. From the evidence EM has seen it is EM’s professional view that the proposed down-taking of this wall is neither justified or necessary in order to make the building safe. It was also confirmed that the gable has not yet been examined in detail by the council or its engineers. C. Alternative approaches to demolition are still feasible and EM considers the following three stage strategy to be practicable, subject to further inspection once all the scaffold sheeting is removed: Stage 1: remove all loose debris and material from the building and environs, including any damaged scaffolding [much of the latter has already been completed, with all roof sections now largely removed] Stage2: instigate structural support works to secure the building and make it safe, including strengthening and reuse of the existing scaffolding which looks to remain remarkably intact from close visual inspection and drone footage Stage 3: reopen A70 road bridge,railway line and station. With the building and environs made safe, careful assessment of options to repair the listed building



Reference was made to the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 Section 29: Dangerous Structures.

Where the local authority considers that urgent action is necessary to reduce or remove the danger it may, after giving the owner of the building such notice (if any) as the circumstances permit, carry out such work (including, if necessary, demolition) as it considers necessary to reduce or remove the danger and may recover from the owner of the dangerous building any expenses reasonably incurred by it in doing so.

Works were proceeding on site with the removal of the scaffold roof. EM has inspected this prior to the meeting from the west side outside the site boundary.The perimeter scaffold was still in tact with some sheeting remaining but in the process of being removed.The south gable scaffold had not yet had the sheeting removed and thus had not been assessed.

A drone video was shown which was an internal flight principally to the south end of the South Range, in the area of the fire damage. The drone footage showed the poor condition of the building to the area surveyed with the majority of the internal floors lost, although with an intact section of first floor to the south end, and an apparent east west main beam surviving in reasonable condition.

One cross wall and chimney stack had failed and collapsed. SAC advised that the upper section of the south gable would be assessed when the scaffold sheeting was removed.

It was noted from the footage that the east, west and south perimeter scaffold appeared in reasonable condition with intact sheeting and boards appearing unaffected by the fire. It seems that the internal fires (at an apparent number of different positions simultaneously) had extended vertically up the building in a chimney effect common to fire events. Internal timber backing lintels had been lost in areas leaving masonry over more vulnerable. It was suggested that the existing scaffold had been ‘written off’ by Zenith (scaffolding contractors and their insurers). EM considered this premature based on the drone footage seen.

[Post Meeting Note: assuming the sheeting was removed externally this assumes that SAC must have some confidence in the condition of the gable to allow work people to access this elevation].

EM advised that only the minimum work necessary to make the building and environs safe should be undertaken under the Act, and that beyond this the council would be acting without the necessary listed building consent.This should include alternative options, other than demolition, to allow retention of fabric, particularly related to the listed status of the building. SAC advised they would need to undertake works which most expedient to secure the safety. EM asked if any alternative options of temporary works had been considered as opposed to demolition and which may be more cost effective and quicker to implement.

For instance,as the scaffold appeared in reasonable condition, could the west scaffold not be utilised and strengthened with buttressing scaffold to the west car park side with appropriate kentledge. This could provide support to this perimeter scaffold which could then have ladder beams extending through windows and the elevation clamped to provide lateral restraint. The south gable has perimeter scaffold to the south side and could have similar beams spanning across to the internal face to clamp this elevation and provide lateral stability.

EM considered the above may be a quicker, more cost-effective option to allow the station and road to be opened more expediently.

MN confirmed that these should be considered.

Internal debris would be removed to permit further assessment of the structure and SAC confirmed that they would provide regular updates on the progress of the preliminary works.

EM suggested it would be sensible for SAC to appoint a Conservation Accredited Engineer and advised a list was available from online resources at the Institution of Civil Engineers. EM subsequently sent the list of accredited engineers to SAC to assist.

Ed Morton – Conservation Accredited Engineer

9th November 2023

231108 - Morton Plan - V4
Download PDF • 174KB

We had a Roundtable meeting of MSPs at Holyrood including Carol Mochan, Siobhian Brown, Katy Clark, Paul Sweeney, Sharon Dowey among others, with Ben Dewfield-Oakley from SAVE, Jocelyn Cunliffe from Architectural Society for Scotland, Robin Ghosh from Econstruct and Esther Clark from Ayr Development Trust.

We had an interesting discussion about the fact that to restore the Hotel would probably be less disruptive and costly than demolition and also take less time. Below is an article from The Scotsman reflecting on the position.

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