A DEVELOPER has come forward to express an interest in saving Ayr’s crumbling and dangerous Station Hotel building, documents have revealed.

But it took just two days for them to conclude the idea was unaffordable.

The unnamed developer met South Ayrshire Council (SAC) officials in November after emailing council leader Martin Dowey and the authority’s depute chief executive, Mike Newall.

The enquiry, and subsequent meeting, are revealed in documents due to go before councillors next week.

A report to a full SAC meeting on March 1 asks councillors to approve the spending of £500,000 to continue “protective measures” which have been in place at the fast-decaying building as a health and safety requirement.

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Funding is currently in place for those ‘encapsulation’ measures until the end of March – but if councillors approve the £500,000, the authority will continue to meet the cost of protecting the building until the end of September.

Councillors will also be asked at Wednesday’s meeting to appoint an external expert to “support the development of a programme of works” for the demolition of the hotel’s southern wing, comprising about a third of the hotel’s total footprint – a move agreed at a full council meeting in December and which is expected to cost £6.6 million.

But the report warns: “Whilst the £0.5m requested funds can currently be met from uncommitted reserves, a permanent solution requires to be identified to prevent the council from continuing to have to fund on an ongoing basis.

“If a solution is not found in the near term the ongoing burden will eventually deplete the council’s uncommitted reserves below tolerable levels.

“To date no further funding sources have been identified that will support the payment of the demolition of the southern wing of the building.”

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However, no demolition work is to take place until the last attempts to force the hotel’s absentee owner into carrying out repairs himself have been exhausted – a process which is expected to take around 18 months.

The report to next week’s meeting is accompanied by a detailed timeline of events that have taken place in relation to the council and the hotel over recent months.

The timeline reveals for the first time what has happened with attempts to save the building since a public meeting in Ayr Town Hall last September, organised in a bid to gather support from the wider community to rescue the hotel and bring it back into use.

Much of the timeline gives details of emails, phone calls and letters, sent or made by the council, the Ayr Station Hotel Community Action Group (ASHCAG) and other bodies such as SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which produced a report on the building’s future in May last year.

According to the timeline set out by the council, since that public meeting on September 26, 24 meetings – either internal to SAC or with outside individuals and organisations – have taken place to discuss the condition of the hotel and attempts to save it.

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Among 57 separate timeline entries is one from November 23 which states: “Email [received] from a prospective developer expressing an interest in the Ayr Station Hotel building to the Leader of the Council and copied into the Depute Chief Executive.”

The following day Mr Newall contacted the developer to arrange a meeting for November 25.

The timeline entry for that meeting says: “Meeting with a prospective developer who expressed an interest in refurbishing the Station Hotel building.

“Following a detailed discussion about the condition of the building, and the estimated costs associated with bringing the building back into use, the meeting concluded with the prospective developer confirming that the project was unaffordable.”

The timeline refers to ‘a community action group’ rather than solely to ASHCAG – and adds: “References to ‘a Community Action Group’ relate to any and all individuals and groups who have expressed an interest in saving the Station Hotel building. To date there have been more than five individuals or groups.”

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SAVE Britain’s Heritage produced a report in May 2022 setting out a range of alternative uses for the building, including an enterprise hub, hotel and hostel.

That report suggested that a figure of £10 million to bring the station buildings back into good structural order “appears a reasonable figure”.

On the proposed demolition Esther Clark from ASHCAG said: “Luxury hotels are on the increase. We need hotel beds here.

"We also need to save the character of the town of Ayr and the most beneficial route heritage- and townscape-wise is restoration.

“It is also the most green and non-polluting route and would mean craft training and well paid jobs.

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“Demolition of about one third of the hotel will cost the council £6.6m - so as that is 1,000 months of the cost of scaffolding, one would think they would be asking SAVE Britain’s Heritage to follow up on their excellent report instead of refusing internal access which could be obtained from the scaffolding.”

Meanwhile, the report says the council is continuing to pursue recovery of the costs it has incurred so far from the hotel’s absentee owner.

Malaysian businessman Mr Eng Huat Ung bought the hotel in 2014 with the intention of converting it into student residences. 

In 2021, Councillor Peter Henderson, who at the time was the council’s leader, said the hotel’s owner owed SAC £1.2 million for work carried out on the building.

Despite - or perhaps because of - warnings over the dangerous condition of the building, it has been visited several times over recent years by groups of 'urban explorers' who enter abandoned buildings without permission or  and often share footage of what they find via social media.

The most recent of these was uploaded to YouTube on January 6 by a user called 'GrantVentures'. 

Other 'urban explorers' to have published videos of their unauthorised visits to the building include Exploring with Alec (uploaded on October 28 last year), Urbex Outlaws (uploaded on October 26), and Urbandoned (uploaded on November 13, 2020).

To read the full report to next week’s SAC meeting online, see bit.ly/stationhotelreportmarch1st.