The Future of Ayr’s Station Hotel

Our guest speaker Mike Newall, South Ayrshire Council’s incoming Chief Executive Officer who kindly agreed to provide a talk on the ‘Future of Ayr’s Station Hotel, which, experienced an unexpected event recently. Also, Hugh Talbot, the Council’s Buildings Standard Co-Ordinator, who accompanied Mike.

Mike has been the Council’s Depute Chief Executive and Director of Housing, Operations and Development, with extensive local authority experience.  He has been a Chief Officer with the Council since March 2009, and during this time has had responsibility for an extensive range of front facing and corporate Council services, including Neighbourhood Services, Housing, Facilities Management, Planning, Building Standards, Community Planning, Policy and Performance. Before joining South Ayrshire Council, Mike was a Development Manager with CALA Homes where he was responsible for multi million pound development sites across the central belt of Scotland.

The station was opened on 12 January 1886 by the Glasgow and South Western Railway. This was the third station to be named ‘Ayr’ in the town: the original station, located on the former Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway, opened in 1839. When the Ayr and Dalmellington Railway was opened in 1856.

The current station was built just 300 yards south of the previous station. The Glasgow and South Western Railway became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway during the grouping of 1923, passing on to the Scottish Region of British Railways during the nationalisation of 1948.

When sectorisation (the act of splitting up BR regions into sub-brands) was introduced in the 1980s, the station was served by ScotRail until the privatisation of British Rail

Ayr used to have an Intercity twice-daily London Euston service (one daytime and one sleeping car train) which ran to/from Stranraer via Barassie to the Glasgow South Western Line, which ceased in the early 1990s.The Ayr to Glasgow service is one of the busiest on the rail network in Scotland and can suffer from serious overcrowding at peak times.

Mike explained that the Council has taken action at the building adjacent to Ayr Station, which includes the former Station Hotel, in line with their statutory obligations – under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 – around public safety and keeping people safe. They took this action as public safety issues raised in a Dangerous Building Notice served in March 2018 have not been sufficiently addressed. As a result, an exclusion zone has been put in place around the building to protect people from the significant and immediate dangers presented by the current condition of the building.

What is the actual problem with the building Mike said rhetorically?

Under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003, the building has been classed as dangerous, presenting a clear and significant risk to people and property around it. This was due to its deteriorating condition, which included falling debris, loose roof slates, unsecured pipe work and unstable cast iron features.

Who owns the building he asked again?

Ayr Station Hotel, which occupies most of the building, is privately owned by a Malaysian businessman by the name of Mr Ung, who has a registered business address in London.  The ground floor of the north wing is owned by Network Rail and housed the station’s ticket office and all other station facilities.

Why haven’t SAC done anything about it?

Why Mr Ung the Malaysian business owner hasn’t done anything isn’t for SAC to say.  SAC had to step in and take action as the issues raised in the second notice serviced in March 2018 have not been successfully addressed.  Network Rail has taken action to keep its customers and staff safe and supported SAC throughout firstly as a member of the Task Force set up to get train services back up and running and now as a member of the Strategic Governance Group looking at the long-term future of the building.

What has the Council been doing?

They’ve been monitoring this building closely since a Dangerous Building Notice was first issued in July 2013. At that time, work was undertaken by Network Rail after notice was served, which included netting being erected and crash decks being installed adjacent to Platform 3 and the entrance and ticket office. This meant the Dangerous Building Notice could be withdrawn. However, in 2018 we had to serve a second Dangerous Building Notice as SAC identified falling debris and further safety concerns that presented a real risk to the public. As the issues raised have not been sufficiently addressed by the owner, the Council had to step in to ensure people were safe.

Why didn’t SAC do anything sooner?

As they don’t own the building, they had no powers to take action until it became a statutory obligation under the legislation, which happened when the Dangerous Building Notice was issued in March 2018 and the issues raised were not properly addressed.

What is the current condition of the building?

Right now, it remains a Dangerous Building and as the building continues to be in poor structural condition, we have erected a structural encapsulation and put in place sufficient protective measures to meet our statutory duties with regards to public safety. This has also allowed ScotRail Alliance to fully restore train services at the station, which was a positive outcome for the travelling public.

What’s been happening since the Council stepped in?

Mike Newall

SAC have a statutory duty said Mike regarding public safety and they’ve been actively working to keep people and property safe and that has been at the heart of everything we’ve done with regards to this building. The protective measures that have been put in place have helped achieve this and, as of 20 December 2018, have facilitated the restoration of a full rail service to and from Ayr train station. Network Rail has also taken action to reduce the risk to the public. A structural survey was completed in September 2019, and is currently available on this webpage. However the recent fire has set further challenges, not least the future of the whole building.

Harry Jackson gave a worthy vote of thanks