TIME is fast running out for hopes of saving Ayr’s crumbling Station Hotel after councillors set the clock ticking on the building’s demolition.

South Ayrshire councillors have agreed unanimously to demolish the southern section of the dilapidated building in the event that the owner does not step in to make it safe.

But with no progress made over the last four years in attempts to hold talks with the owner, it’s thought highly unlikely that the safety works required to save the building will happen.

Despite the decision, though, the building will not be razed to the ground quite yet.

A full council meeting on December 15 was told that reaching an agreement over the details of any demolition is expected to take around 18 months.

In the meantime the building’s owner will be served with a legal notice demanding repairs be carried out.

Councillor Martin Dowey, leader of South Ayrshire’s minority Conservative administration, told colleagues at Thursday's meeting: “Time hasn’t run out yet, but it is fast running out."

And, speaking directly to anyone seriously interested in saving the building, he added: “If you have a plan, and have the money, please come forward if you have a serious plan.

“If not the council will be forced to do our statutory duty.

"It’s not the end of the road yet, but time is running out for any group that wishes to come forward with credible plans.

“This is not a decision that this council will take lightly. We have got to think of the public purse.”

Councillor Brian McGinley, leader of the council’s Labour opposition group, welcomed the report, taking the opportunity to call for Network Rail, as part owners of the site, to ‘step up’.

He said: “Having been involved in this I would be looking for Network Rail to stand up and be much more open and progressive about their part in the resolution of the issue.

“They are part owners. Any demolition would affect the railway and their ability to work in that area, so I’m looking for them to come up front and centre and work with local community to make a sustainable facility out of this.”

A number of councillors pointed out that there was still a perception that the council has ownership responsibilities at the site.

SNP member Laura Brennan Whitefield (Ayr North) said: “This has been a very frustrating programme over a long period of time.

“This is a result of the owner abandoning a building, and has left us in this terrible financial situation.”

Cllr Alec Clark (Independent, Girvan and South Carrick) commended the efforts of both the current Conservative administration and the SNP group which ran the council prior to May’s local authority elections in trying to find a way to save the building.

Cllr Clark said: “It has been sometimes a very delicate subject, but a very important subject.

“What people have to remember is this is not a council building.

“We have had to spend a tremendous amount of finance on this that could have been of much more to the benefit of residents, and it cannot be allowed to continue.”

Labour councillor Ian Cavana (Ayr North) had a slightly more pessimistic outlook, pointing to the impact of youths breaking into the building and the additional costs in officer time.

While accepting the report, he said: “It seems to me there is no solution to this at this present moment. I don’t know where this ends.”

He added that he was sceptical that an extension of the encapsulation of the building to March 2023 would see any closure.

“I think Walt Disney would be writing the script if March was feasible,” he said.

Former council leader Peter Henderson reiterated the point that the public must realise that the council doesn’t own the hotel and that the money being spent by the authority was ultimately taxpayers’ cash.

He said: ”The public need to understand – it is their money that is being spent every month. Not ours, theirs.

“We have to make a decision, so I fully support recommendations in the paper.

“I have yet to see, in five years, a constructive and viable plan for any other use for the building.”

Conservative councillor Bob Pollock, portfolio holder for economic development, concluded: “Everyone would have loved to save the Station Hotel. The reality is the building is far too far gone and no realistic viable alternative has been found.

“The door is still open. There is a maximum of 18 months for that to happen.”

He added that ScotRail was also being affected through the lack of ticket barriers and reduction in passenger revenue at the railway station.

Cllr Pollock also agreed that Network Rail should be more involved, and expressed disappointment that the recent regional transport strategy had not included the Station Hotel despite the authority’s recommendations.

The report was approved by the council.