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  • Writer's pictureEsther Clark

October Update

Press Release of September 28th Meeting in Ayr Town Hall:


A major problem is the dereliction of duty to its passengers by NR. There are no toilets, waiting rooms, or other amenities. Even disabled people have to carry cases up two steep stairways and across a bridge to Platform 4. It would cost nearly as much to fix the Station as the Hotel, but the station is less than 20 % of the complex.

Certainly, until Covid, Ayr was the fourth busiest station in Scotland. NR is entirely responsible for the Station maintenance and for any upgrading required. There are 4 B listings and an important War Memorial there.


Ayr Station/ Community Hotel Action Group Meeting in Ayr Town Hall 26th September 2022


The Chair Esther Clark had assembled three speakers, all very experienced in the process of conserving and renovating or repurposing run-down but architecturally significant buildings. The first point to make of course was that the Station Buildings were about 20% of the Station Hotel complex, and totally the responsibility of Network Rail (NR) who built themselves portacabins for their staff, now on to second generation and abandoned their buildings, although they rented out the large Platform 4 building.

The NR portion has been neglected and passengers have no amenities at all, not even toilets, including those for people with disability. According to SAVE the Station would take NR £10m to restore and upgrade. The meeting however was mainly concerned with the Hotel which is owned by a Mr Ung. It is also neglected, not altogether his fault as he did repoint the Front Elevation Wall but required co-operation and permission from NR to proceed. This was in 2014. SAVE reckon that the Hotel conservation and upgrading would cost £12.4m. The newbuild Station or Transport Hubs suggested have been much more expensive than this, even before the expensive demolition is considered.

The first speaker, Michael Davis, a former architect with Argyll and Bute, now retired and in Ayrshire, approached the project from a national point of view acknowledging that towns, the size of Ayr, all over Scotland are suffering from years of neglect by former retail owners, who have since disappeared often under pressure from austerity and internet trading. He pointed out that the spending of one pound on maintenance over the years would have saved £20 today on recovery. He also suggested that current efforts from governments, councils and voluntary organisations, though worthy were not enough, and his final key message was – If we can’t save the Station Hotel, we can’t save Ayr; and if we can’t save Ayr, we can’t save any other towns in Scotland.

The second speaker was Iain Wotherspoon who is Convenor of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland Strathclyde Panel. Iain talked about the environmental impact involved in the project. He pointed out that a great deal of carbon capture was in the building of the hotel from one hundred and thirty years ago, including quarrying and shaping a huge amount of Ballochmyle stone, cutting down trees, shaping them into floorboards and transporting them plus the quarrying thousands of slates etc. If we don’t save the building, all that investment is lost, and we would have to begin again, in an even more greenhouse gas producing manufacture of glass and steel to construct a replacement building. (This would last for a limited time compared to a refurbished Hotel and the cycle would start again.)

While saving the building we could reduce its carbon footprint by hugely upgrading its insulation, using the roof to mount solar panels to generate its own electricity, and heating it with energy pumped from the ground. The change would be something for Ayr to boast about instead of something else to keep quiet about, like the ‘Scotland’s most demolished town tag, that we have acquired.

The third speaker was George Allan from London but with strong Scottish connections. He gives a lot of his time to SAVE Britain’s Heritage. SAVE argued in its recent Report (which is on their website and the local savethestationhotel website.) that the Ayr Station Hotel is a sufficiently important historic building to merit lottery investment of up to £5 million, with further finance from other grant giving bodies, and investment to cover the costs, estimated at £12.4m. He gave the meeting the benefit of his 30 years’ experience in saving and renovating good buildings.

Part of the help that SAVE had given to the campaign to save Ayr Station Hotel was asking South Ayrshire Council to allow them to survey the internal condition of the buildings. SAC replied that they had no powers to allow visitors into a building which did not belong to them. SAVE wrote back to SAC pointing out, that legally every local authority has powers of entry into any building in their area which they believe may be unsafe or a risk to the public. SAC confirmed that this was correct, but still refused SAVE’s surveyor entry to the Station Hotel, this time on the grounds that the building is unsafe. SBH wrote back to point out that only a structural engineer is qualified to say that the building is unsafe or not and to what extent, and the surveyor whom SBH were intending send to Ayr Station Hotel is a structural engineer who has been surveying old buildings on behalf of the organisation for 20 years. At the time of the meeting SAC were still withholding access. Typical of SAC who had denied access to the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust.

Perhaps the most significant piece of advice, heard before, was that we should separate the immediate condition of the hotel from its long-term future. By this,he explained that the tent which is over the building was using up money in significant amounts, while doing the fabric of the building more harm than good, because, it has trapped water inside risking causing wet rot. His advice was to use the existing scaffolding for access to make the building wind and watertight, make the roof and gutters etc. functional again and make the slates and any parts of the stonework which could possibly come loose, safe, to Network Rail and to Building Control’s satisfaction. The tent and scaffolding could then be taken down, allowing the monthly cost to stop, apart from some modest maintenance, and allow the building to dry out. The cost would be not much more than a few months of the cost of the tent. We have then taken care of the short-term condition, and everybody’s minds can concentrate on finding the best solution to the long-term future of the building.


Esther Clark.


 

Details of ownership of Ayr Station and Hotel:


Details of what NetworkRail own are in red.


Single storey Platform 4 Building belongs to NetworkRail.


The ownership of the Station by NetworkRail is shown above. It comes to 16 to 20 percent of the complex.



 

Latest Update 18th October: The SAVE Report gives five optional uses for the Hotel, the cheapest being £12.4M for it to continue as a hotel. To progress any further SAVE requires that an engineer is given access so that more detailed plans and costings can be made. The Council has legal capacity to allow this but has so far failed to give access. Below is the partial report which the engineer denied access completed. SAVE now need permission from the Council to gain access.



We hope at the action group to work with stakeholders on the hotel's future. We also hope that NetworkRail will restore its station buildings to passenger benefit so that the whole complex becomes viable.

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