Heritage body sets out options to stave off Ayr Station Hotel demolition
March 22 2022
A campaign group promoting the viable re-use of endangered historic buildings has stepped up to the plate to help rescue Ayr Station Hotel.
Save Britain's Heritage has published 'fundable and sustainable' proposals that include part-conversion of the listed building into a destination pub and associated conference space and wedding venue, with a hotel and hostel rooms on the upper floors. An alternative approach would see the town centre gateway transformed into an enterprise hub housing artists' studios and exhibition space.
Detailed plans based take account of South Ayrshire Council's estimated £10m repair bill for structural work alone. A further £8.8m would then have to be found for the hotel conversion or £8.47m to cover the fit-out costs for an enterprise hub.
In an attempt to break the logjam Save argues that lottery funding of up to £5m could jumpstart renovations in a detailed report given to Network Rail and Transport Scotland, which own part of the north wing. This would permit new passenger facilities to be included on the ground floor with railway offices above.
In a statement, Alistair Scott, architect and consultant for Smith Scott Mullan Associates told Urban Realm: "Of the many Scottish buildings worthy of protection, Ayr’s iconic Station Hotel is surely one of the most important. Not only as a prime example of late 19th-century railway architecture but as the centrepiece of the town’s main square and an example that sustainability is more than just fine words.
"Since its closure as a Hotel in 2013, it has been under threat of demolition and various organisations have investigated its future. Most recently Save Britain’s Heritage, supported by a design team of Smith Scott Mullan Associates and Hardies, has produced a comprehensive prospectus on a range of viable options to save and revitalise the building. This would combine community and commercial uses, which would support the Station as a working transport hub.
"Achieving this is a major challenge, but given political and financial support it would showcase Scotland’s role in addressing the placemaking and environmental issues which are now underpinning our government policy. Watch this space………."
Previous attempts to rescue the ailing B-listed French Renaissance style landmark have fallen through due to the significant costs incurred by renovating the neglected building, resulting in an extended stalemate as owners baulk at an estimated £25m repair bill.
The majority of the building was purchased by businessman Mr Eng Huat Ung in 2013 to convert into student apartments.
The report points out that the most sustainable buildings are those which have already been built. Photography by SSM.
As soon as you read "enterprise hub housing artists' studios and exhibition space" you can read we are totally out of commercially viable ideas so we've gone for this and the council/government can fund it indefinitely.
In my humble opinion it's just a big sprawling lump of a building with a now, at best, tenuous relationship to Burns Square. For my money the 'town's main square' is Wellington Square. Burns Square has, for as long as I can remember, been little more than an awkward traffic island.
Shows how the waste of public funds leaves us all worse off.
Look, it's a huge railway station hotel, built to serve the tourists of the time who once visited Ayr in their thousands. Not now.
'Enterprise centre' is shorthand for a bureaucrat's idea of what new bizznizzes need, which is to provide some public sector quangocrat with a nice office from which to tell entrepreneurs they're wrong.
'Artists' studios' is the sort of thing someone who doesn't know anything about art comes up with when they look at an empty indoor space with big windows. Are there hundreds of artists in Ayr, all chomping at the bit to paint their wee upside-down-boats-on-a-beach but can't because they don't have a studio in Ayr Toon Centre? If so, they're onto a winner. If not...
Oh, and 'exhibition space'? Exhibiting what, exactly? Xavier Veilhan's latest show? Defence and Security International's latest human-obliterating advances? Or perhaps the local council's watercolour competition for the under 10's on the theme of 'inclusion'?
If a building doesn't have a role, it's a tax dodge in waiting.
Lots of big numbers being spouted but no detail on the physical scale of the project -- just how big is the building we are talking about?
The choice is we demolish and replace with some steel portal frame monstrosity covered in cladding that will improve someone's bottom line but will look horrendous in 5 years time.
The unasked question is what does Ayr the town want to be?
It's a case study in how to systematically destroy a once thriving town centre. Out of town galore and hollowed out centre. Yes, there is a new plan..but guess what it's to fill back in the demolished buildings with public buildings with nebulous purposes.
Frankly, a station served by the platforms and a wee ticket office would do. The days of hoards travelling from Glasgow for a day trip are long gone (the young team go to the beaches at Troon and Irvine).
A wedding venue between a railway line, the back of a shopping centre and a busy road isn't exactly going to have the Brig O'Doon shaking in their boots!
Ayr Town Centre -- sounds like a F1 driver to me -- seems to have the large floorplates / 80's shopping centres so what has gone wrong?
Is it lack of spending power / on-line is killing it / OOT Big Box at Heathfield Rd is where it is at?
Has the middle class in South Ayr given up using the town centre and gone elsewhere?
If it is OOT then why is OOT winning -- parking / ease of access / scale? -- then can the town centre fightback?
Is Ayr town centre only about shopping or does it have any other strings to its bow?
Ayr Town Centre has a beach / a river / a train station -- is that enough and if not what does it need to survive in an on-line post CoViD19 world?
Would you start with parking?
Is town centre living the answer?
Big up the education side of things -- Uni flats?
Cheap rents / free rents for two years?
OOT Big Box is one thing / has the OOT hospital brought its own issues?
OOT = Out of Town.
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