The long-running saga of a new £52m Ayr Leisure Centre was brought to a conclusion yesterday  (Thursday) after the tightest of votes.

The affordability of the new centre was cited as future plans were debated by South Ayrshire Council.

However, it was also revealed that, like the new centre, the cost of refurbishing the Citadel leisure centre had risen significantly to just under £27m.

All ten Conservative and four independent councillors voted to cancel the project, including both of those who had been backers of the centre as part of the previous administration – Cllrs Alec Clark and Brian Connolly.

The nine SNP and five Labour members voted against the cancellation, resulting in a tie at 14 apiece.

This meant provost Iain Campbell had the casting vote, which he made in favour of cancellation.

Council rules meant that, despite coming to power in May, the Conservative administration had to wait six months from the last budget to fulfil its manifesto pledge.

The move was heavily criticised by opposition parties.

SNP Councillor William Grant said the Citadel was ‘well past its sell by date’ and asked council leader Martin Dowey for more detail around the proposed ‘mixed development’.

The Conservative leader would only reply that it would be housing and other developments.

Labour Cllr Philip Saxton brought up the absence of any mention of the Citadel in the paper, describing it as ‘not very transparent’.

He said: “We know there was a manifesto commitment of £10m to refurbish the Citadel. Refurbishment is now £26.7m.”

Cllr Saxton continued by asking why there was no reference to the refurbishment project.

Cllr Dowey responded: “This paper is about the leisure centre, it is not about Conservative manifesto.  Plans[for Citadel] will be discussed at a later date.”

The SNP’s Craig Mackay raised the bid for £20m of levelling up funds, arguing that the cancellation of the leisure centre was ‘throwing away any prospect of getting that money.

Cllr Dowey dismissed Cllr Mackay’s comments as ‘irrelevant to this paper.”

Cllr Mackay’s colleague, Cllr Laura Brennan Whitefield asked the leader: “We had a vision to improve Ayr and that brought with it commercial opportunities.”

She said the chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership had described the Ayr plan as the most ‘comprehensive regeneration strategy that he had seen anywhere in Scotland’.

She asked: “Does your vision match this, Cllr Dowey?”

“Yes, it does,” he responded.

Labour’s group leader Brian McGinley spoke of his disappointment.

He said: “Since this new administration came it just seems to be delay, delay and more delay. And the more you delay, the higher the costs.

“There doesn’t seem to be a plan B and there has been no discussion of the Citadel which is a fundamental part of whether you can go ahead with this particular development.

“If we don’t go ahead with this particular development, the chance of having a fully functional, carbon neutral, welcoming, modern, attractive leisure facility is gone for the next generation.

“I know your natural inclination isn’t to develop, your natural inclination is to conserve and do things in a way that is refurbished rather than new. But the arguments [for a new centre] are so overwhelming.”

He added that he believed the Citadel wasn’t ‘family friendly’ and would not attract tourists.

Cllr Dowey responded: “The clearing conditions have not been met for the site.

“Even if we wanted to build today, we could not build today. Our plans for Ayr will be family friendly and I am quite sad that you think the Citadel isn’t family friendly, as I think it is.”

Conservative colleague, Cllr Ian Davis asked officials whether the figure could go higher than £7m over budget.

Derek Yuille, lead officer on the project, indicated that the figure was based on a two percent increase, but that a three percent increase could see that figure continue to grow.

Cllr Davis said finding an additional £7m would result in cuts which was ‘not something I would support’.

The motion to scrap the project and instigate a feasibility study for the Hourstons site was approved after Provost Campbell’s casting vote.