THE final death knell for controversial plans to build a new leisure centre in the heart of Ayr could be sounded this week.

On Thursday, members of South Ayrshire Council will make a decision on watered-down proposals for the site of the Arran Mall and the former Hourstons department store - which, according to a report, "deviate significantly" from proposals agreed by the authority's former administration in August 2021.

The project - championed by the council's previous SNP-led administration - looks highly unlikely to be taken forward after the authority's Conservative group seized power following the local elections earlier this year.

The council's Conservative candidates, and some independents, had made scrapping the plans for a new centre a major plank of their manifesto ahead of polling day in May - instead saying the focus should be on refurbishing the existing Citadel Leisure Centre facility.

In the autumn councillors voted against taking the plans for a new centre any further.

The proposal is already sitting £7m over budget, with the current inflation rate expected to see that figure rise even further.

However, the terms of the contract with HubSW, which operates the framework for large public contracts in South Ayrshire, require a 30-day window to be provided for hub and council officials to work together and bring a proposal forward which would be in line with the budget.

A report on those revised proposals, to be considered at Thursday's meeting, points out that compromises have already been made to the original design by not including a main hall.

HubSW's revised proposals would see the rear of the Hourstons building demolished - but no refurbishment of the historic front of the building to incorporate its facade into the new facilities.

The facilities earmarked for that refurbished area would be transferred to the main building.

This would have a knock-on effect on the leisure facilities, including:

- reduction in the main pool from eight to six lanes

- reduced ‘fun water’ zone including removal of flumes and soft play area

- reduced spectator seating from 150 to 100.

The total leisure centre floor space would be reduced by 20 per cent.

The report continues: “The aspiration for the new leisure centre was to provide a facility with the correct balance between sport and leisure that would be more flexible and could see significant increases in participation at all levels.

“The new building would also be a ‘destination’ for families to spend more leisure time together in a town centre location.

"The revised proposals would see a noticeable diminishment of these aspirations.”

The council has 60 days from receipt of the revised proposal to make a decision on whether to go ahead.

If councillors do reject the proposal, the justification for it would no longer be affordability - but on whether the facility met the requirements set out in  the original plan.

HubSW would have the option of challenging any decision to reject the proposal within 10 days of it being made.

The council could base the decision on ‘other reasons’. However, this would entitle HubSW to a payment of almost £1m in fees.

The budget for the centre is £44.99m, with £1.68m already spent on the project.

The council has also handed over a non-returnable deposit for the Arran Mall.