Long-neglected Category B-listed hotel’s future hangs in the balance as council mulls demolition
A joint letter, organised by SAVE Britain’s Heritage, has been signed by leading Scottish architects and conservation experts, urging the preservation of Ayr Station Hotel.
The Category B-listed building sustained significant damage in a recent suspected arson attack. South Ayrshire Council was reported on Monday as having said it was “too early to say” whether the building will be demolished.
The open letter advocates for the restoration of the chateau-style landmark, suggesting its potential for various new uses and its capacity to reinvigorate Ayr, which is situated 30 miles southwest of Glasgow.
Notable signatories include Karen Anderson, the president-elect of RIAS (Royal Incorporation of Scottish Architects); Professor Gordon Murray, who played a role in the refurbishment of Glasgow Central Station; and Ewan Lawson, a partner at Simpson & Brown with experience in restoring historic buildings damaged by fires.
Other signatories represent organisations like the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, the University of Edinburgh, the Glasgow Institute of Architects, Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) Scotland, and the Architects’ Journal.
The letter highlights successful instances of restored listed buildings, such as Seafield House, which was awarded Best Renovation and Conversion at the Herald Property Awards and reopened as luxury apartments after a fire threatened its demolition.
The joint letter emphasises the need for an urgent and comprehensive structural assessment by a certified historic buildings expert to determine the hotel’s condition following the fire. This is distinct from the council’s building safety survey.
South Ayrshire Council’s preferred demolition plan for the south wing would result in a partially cleared site adjacent to a derelict building under absentee ownership. The letter urges the council to initiate compulsory purchase proceedings, a necessary step in the building’s revitalisation.
In the weeks leading up to the fire, SAVE published a report by specialist buildings engineer Ed Morton, revealing that the hotel’s condition was better than previously thought. SAVE called on elected councillors to reconsider their contentious demolition plans and explore a refurbishment option.
SAVE believes that such an approach could encompass essential station facilities and provide a range of uses on the upper floors, from modern office suites to studio spaces.
The text of the letter and signatories:
Sir, The fire at Ayr Station Hotel was shocking but we strongly believe the building can and must be saved (report, Sep 27). This Category B-listed landmark played an important role in the life of Ayr for generations and its repair and reuse can be a catalyst for the town’s renaissance. We need look no further than Ayr’s own Seafield House for examples of listed buildings restored after serious fires.
Thanks to the swift actions of fire crews, much of the building has been saved. What is needed now is an urgent condition survey by an accredited historic buildings expert to establish the facts, as only then can informed decisions be made. At the same time the council must begin compulsory purchase proceedings against the absentee owner. These are the vital first steps to getting the wraps off and the building back in use.
- Henrietta Billings, director, SAVE Britain’s Heritage
- Bobby Jewell, Architects Climate Action Network Scotland
- Karen Anderson, president elect, RIAS
- Professor Gordon Murray, past president, RIAS
- Robin Webster OBE, PPRIAS
- Malcolm Fraser, director, Fraser/Livingstone Architects, Edinburgh
- Jude Barber, director, Collective Architecture, Glasgow
- Ewan Lawson, partner and conservation architect, Simpson & Brown, Edinburgh
- Michael Dougall, director, O’DonnellBrown and past president, Glasgow Institute of Architects
- Alistair Scott, architect, former director, Smith Scott Mullan Associates
- Rory Olcayto, writer and critic, Pollard Thomas Edwards, London
- Jocelyn M Cunliffe, national vice-chair, Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland
- Iain J Wotherspoon, Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Strathclyde Group
- Miles Glendinning, professor of architectural conservation, University of Edinburgh
- David Cook, director, Glasgow Building Preservation Trust
- Jonathan Potter, president, Glasgow Institute of Architects
- Fiona Sinclair, past president, Glasgow Institute of Architects
- Ben Addy, managing director, Moxon Architects, Crathie & London
- Kinlay Laidlaw, chair, Ayrshire Architectural Heritage Trust
- Niall Murphy, director, Glasgow City Heritage Trust
- Thierry Lye, chairperson, New Glasgow Society