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Spate of listed building losses spark calls for legislative change

June 11 2024

Spate of listed building losses spark calls for legislative change

Ongoing demolition of the B-listed Ayr Station Hotel has triggered wider calls for a debate on the future of listed buildings amidst fears of an accelerating loss of heritage.

Built environment charity Save Britain's Heritage has launched a petition urging the Scottish Parliament to engage on the need for stricter safeguards to prevent the same fate from befalling more historic buildings.

The public petition asks MSPs to host an urgent parliamentary debate on the issue amidst concern over a 'loophole' which permits local authorities to demolish protected structures under emergency public safety powers, circumventing planning law in the process.

In the case of Ayr Station Hotel South Ayrshire Council has proceeded to demolish sections of the fire-damaged hotel without first making public the reports and surveys that informed its decision-making process. To prevent this situation from repeating Save is asking for a minimum evidence threshold for councils to meet in addition to a mandatory requirement for local planning authorities to engage conservation-accredited engineers for listed building work.

Save director Henrietta Billings, said: “These buildings are gifts to the nation from the past – and we should be taking every step necessary to ensure they are protected from unnecessary demolition – as is intended by the legislation.”

  It is hoped that tightened legislation will minimise future demolition while maintaining public safety, ensuring that all parties, including Historic Environment Scotland, are armed with all the facts before setting off on a path of no return.

Paul Sweeney MSP, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow, added: “This petition addresses a glaring loophole in existing policy. It is not acceptable that councils can demolish listed buildings in Scotland – using so-called public safety powers – without providing evidence to show that there is no alternative to demolition."

Recent demolitions justified on safety grounds include the John Stirling Maxwell School in Pollokshaws and Dundee's Willison House with a growing list of threatened buildings such as Hillhead Baptist Church and the Vogue Cinema in Possilpark waiting to hear their fate. 

Scenes of destruction have fuelled demand for legislative change
Scenes of destruction have fuelled demand for legislative change


#1 Posted by Chris on 11 Jun 2024 at 09:18 AM
It’s going to keep happening until they a) Remove VAT on all historic building work and b) Penalise neglectful building owners.
Use that
Ghetto King
#2 Posted by Ghetto King on 11 Jun 2024 at 09:48 AM
The council is in a catch 22 here.

For years it tried to get the absentee landlord to maintain the building but to no avail.

The building then becomes derelict and a target for willful fire raising resulting in a situation where the railway station is now affected causing harm to the wider economy.

Perhaps, out of a civic duty for safety and to bluff the absentee landlord into action the council starts to demolish the building.

Millions of pounds of Council Tax have already been spent getting to this point.

What needs to change , is how after hundreds years and historic clearances both in the Highlands and Lowlands , do absentee landlords , whomever and wherever they are, can still hold the aspirations of thousands of people at bay?

By the way , this is still going on today. Look at the all flurry and fury of all the student flats getting built on borrowed time and money. Why is no-one asking who has the real power behind these builds? I am afraid that in even 5 or 10 years time the situation of the Ayr hotel will be replicated across all of Scotland's cities when these new flats need maintained and cannot be because the fees are too high or the absentee landlords choose no to because there will be no law to force them to take responsibility , and , if there are it will be too costly for the councils to do so.

#3 Posted by KLD on 11 Jun 2024 at 10:03 AM
The removal of rates relief on vacant listed buildings (hitherto available in perpetuity) should hopefully prompt owners to do something with them, or sell them if they can't.
#4 Posted by Geoff on 11 Jun 2024 at 11:45 AM
Having worked in public sector regeneration, there is zero focus on this kind of issue from the Scottish government. Only grant funding for the odd community project and lots of guff about community wealth building and placemaking
Graeme McCormick
#5 Posted by Graeme McCormick on 11 Jun 2024 at 12:40 PM
High time the SG introduced AGFRR on all land and buildings. Only when property becomes a liability forcing owners to pay an annual rent of charge will they do something with it or dispose of it to others who will That applied to the public sector as well as private owners.
Islands of Sanity
#6 Posted by Islands of Sanity on 11 Jun 2024 at 17:31 PM
#4 Spot on. We are moving to a nadir with respect to the built heritage and with placemaking, there are a few atypical examples of excellence, but the volume housebuilders, outwith a few golden brownfield sites, produce nondescript solutions that are trawled out across Scotland. Hard to tell where you are.
Glasgow bob
#7 Posted by Glasgow bob on 11 Jun 2024 at 21:43 PM
Lol I love you folks. ' all building owners are decent chaps'

Today there are building being demolished on safety ground.

I've yet to see a hand wringing owner saying ' oh my word I'll pay for the demo work and the disruption......'
#8 Posted by Eavesdropper2000 on 13 Jun 2024 at 12:03 PM
I agree with much of the above and there is also need for a shift in our built environment mindset; at the developer level in promoting retainment of heritage buildings (using VAT cuts, removing long period rate relief and as #1 says: penalising and probably as far as public shaming). We also need to change the resident mindset by promoting local history and pride in the maintenance of such buildings - too many folk are content with their overpriced white render cardboard boxes with no public space or greenery.

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