Hotelier 'interested' in acquiring fire ravaged Station Hotel in Ayr amid demolition fears
The future of the fire-ravaged Station Hotel in Ayr could yet be secured after it emerged a hotelier is interested in taking over the historic site.
Ever since the Victorian listed building was gutted by fire in September, fears have been mounting that all, or part, of the structure will have to be razed to the ground, resulting in the loss of a South Ayrshire landmark and a hotel lauded by heritage experts.
Contractors from a demolition firm have been on site in recent days as part of ongoing safety works, a process that may ultimately lead to the hotel’s partial or full demolition. But in the wake of a meeting between campaigners and MSPs earlier this week, there is cautious optimism the building can not only be saved, but returned to its former use.
Paul Sweeney, the Scottish Labour MSP, said he had been made aware of a hotelier who “is interested in taking on” the hotel site, with initial plans to carry out a “back-to-back” compulsory purchase order (CPO) – a process that would require South Ayrshire Council’s help.
However, Mr Sweeney, who was among those in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting, said there were questions for the local authority around its efforts to explore a viable future for the hotel, which lay derelict for years prior to the latest fire.
“There is an interest in developing the site,” he said. “The issue has been a lack of institutional co-operation from South Ayrshire Council. It seems like building control and the council’s chief executive’s office have been extremely poor in their communication and engagement.
“We should recognise that there is a workable and movable plan for the hotel. The key sticking point seems to be the lack of agility and pro-activity from the council in putting together a back-to-back CPO that would flip the site to a hotelier that’s willing, and has the financial capacity, to do something with it.”
Ben Dewfield-Oakley, conservation officer with SAVE Britain’s Heritage, a group that has long campaigned to safeguard the hotel building, told MSPs the situation was now at a “critical juncture”, and urged the council to act “urgently, legally, and reasonably”.
He cited a report that has been submitted to the council by conservation engineer, Ed Morton, which indicated “alternative approaches to demolition are still feasible”, and has proposed a “practicable” three stage strategy to make the building safe and allow the adjoining road and railway line to reopen.
As things stand, those closures are set to remain in place until January. South Ayrshire Council’s leader Martin Dowey stressed “public safety is at the forefront of our concerns”.
It is understood the council has so far been unable to contact Eng Huat Ung, a Malaysian businessman who purchased the hotel in 2010. Amid the ongoing disruption, it is offering grants to local businesses affected, and ensuring parking will be free in the town until January so as to attract footfall.
A council spokesperson said: “We have not been approached directly by any hoteliers who are interested in the former Station Hotel site. A local resident, who was part of a group who expressed an interest in saving the hotel, came forward with a suggestion that a number of hotel groups may be interested in taking over the former Station Hotel building. The individual was advised that the interested hotel groups should make contact with the owner of the building to take matters forward. Nothing further emerged from that conversation.
“The council is focused on the ongoing safety works – our primary aim is to open the road bridge to help traffic circulate around the town and help the rail operators get the trains running again.”
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