Historic hotel demolished by council as row heads to Scottish Parliament

In a highly controversial move, part of Ayr Station Hotel – a B-listed building – has been demolished following a fire.

The demolition of a classic Scottish seaside hotel has led to calls to the Scottish Parliament to bolster safeguards for threatened listed buildings.

A large part of Ayr Station Hotel, which is owned by a Malaysian property tycoon, has been pulled down following a fire last year. The council claimed the damaged building posed a risk to public safety and at risk of collapse.

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SAVE Britain’s Heritage claimed the demolition went ahead without the correct surveys or report to back up the decision with alternative proposals not explored.

The Ayr Station Hotel has been demolished following a fire - but campaigners says more protection is needed to save such historic buildings. PIC: Contributed.The Ayr Station Hotel has been demolished following a fire - but campaigners says more protection is needed to save such historic buildings. PIC: Contributed.
The Ayr Station Hotel has been demolished following a fire - but campaigners says more protection is needed to save such historic buildings. PIC: Contributed.

The group has lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament, with an “urgent parliamentary debate” required to close a loophole that leaves such listed buildings open to demolition without the need for evidence to justify the move.

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Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “We see a huge opportunity in bringing this national issue to the attention of MSPs and opening a much-needed debate on the protection of listed buildings across the country. 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.”

The hotel pictured in 2018. PIC: Contributed.The hotel pictured in 2018. PIC: Contributed.
The hotel pictured in 2018. PIC: Contributed.

The group said it recognised the “paramount importance” of making dangerous buildings safe, but added “enhanced guidance” was needed to address the policy gap. The need to engage conservation-accredited engineers in all cases involving works to listed buildings should also be mandatory, the group added.

Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney said: “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. It is my hope that the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee backs this petition so that we can strengthen protections of listed buildings in Scotland.”

The hotel was designed by the chief engineer of the Glasgow and South Western Railway to draw wealthy travellers to the South Ayrshire Coast. It had 75 luxury bedrooms and a pick of drawing and coffee rooms.

The existing owner, Ung Eng Huat, who also goes by the name Sunny Ung, claimed the council did not give him "adequate notice" of the work, according to reports. The council said he was an “absentee landlord” and that attempts had been made to contact him.

South Ayrshire Council said the demolition went ahead given the risk to public safety - but campaigners claimed more evidence was required to justify the decision. PIC: Contributed.South Ayrshire Council said the demolition went ahead given the risk to public safety - but campaigners claimed more evidence was required to justify the decision. PIC: Contributed.
South Ayrshire Council said the demolition went ahead given the risk to public safety - but campaigners claimed more evidence was required to justify the decision. PIC: Contributed.

Mr Huat went to the Court of Session in May to try and stop the demolition, but the court ruled the safety work could continue.

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Jocelyn Cunliffe, acting chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, said it was “imperative” that all options surrounding dangerous listed buildings were examined and that “adequate checks and balances” were made before demolition, which she described as a “last resort”.

Joe Traynor, director of The Scottish Civic Trust, said: “The Scottish Civic Trust endorses SAVE’s petition, which encourages policy makers to respect and boost the protection of Scotland’s historic buildings.”

A spokesman for South Ayrshire Council said it had been working to protect the public and the critical infrastructure of the railway from the failing state of the hotel for more than 10 years.

"Throughout the safety works dynamic risk and structural assessment have been made."

Historic Environment Scotland has been consulted at all stages.

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