Councillors in South Ayrshire have hit out at a heritage group's claims that the crumbling Station Hotel building in Ayr can be saved from the wrecking ball.

A special meeting of South Ayrshire Council on Friday agreed to allocate a further £744,000 from the council's reserves to maintain the protective scaffolding and sheeting around the building until May next year.

That's on top of £500,000 previously allocated, for the same purpose - though that money will run out at the end of this month.

Council leader Martin Dowey was responding after the SAVE Britain's Heritage campaign group released a report on Thursday claiming the building is in a much better condition than had been previously thought.

SAVE also claimed the hotel could be repaired and restored for £9.2 million - against the council's own estimate of a £6m cost to demolish the south wing of the building alone.

A report prepared ahead of Friday's council meeting also warned that no money has yet been identified to pay for that demolition.

Cllr Dowey told Friday's meeting: "The last time we were here, we did say that people had to come back with a costed plan.

“What we have got is a report that, once again, wants the council to pay to make it wind and watertight.

“It is just under £10m, but that is not for a new hotel - it is just to make it wind and watertight.”

He pointed out that the scaffolding and encapsulation were there to do just that, and that this situation could not continue.

Cllr Dowey continued: “We are only in this position because the building has effectively been abandoned. I welcome that the Scottish Government is to pay some of the money, but time has just about run out.

“If SAVE have a plan and have identified money and an end use, then everyone in this room would love to hear it."

Cllr Dowey suggested that the near-£10m cost identified by SAVE was not a sum that the council had at its disposal .

“£10m is a hell of a lot of teachers and carers," he said.

"There have been no companies, no ‘high worth’ individuals coming to save it.

“Everyone in town wants a conclusion.”

Councillor William Grant, leader of the authority's SNP opposition group, agreed, saying: "The saga continues, but we need to make sure the saga has a quick ending.”

Labour councillor Ian Cavana asked for assurances about the council’s pursuit of the owner of the property, Malaysian businessman Eng Huat Ung.

SAC’s chief legal officer, Catriona Caves, indicated that the council had initiated a number of charges and decrees, meaning that the property cannot be sold on while the owner owes the council cash.

Labour councillor Brian McGinley asked whether the demolition was necessary, raising concerns that knocking the building down when another solution was possible could land the council in difficulties.

He added: “Not all stakeholders in this issue have been standing up to the plate. Network Rail have not been able to stand up.”

It was pointed out that, while the council had agreed that demolition was the most viable option, no decision to demolish had ever been made.

A report to be brought before the council in February is expected to provide more detail on the viability of demolition, with the council not being in a position to allocate any money for such a move.

Depute chief executive Mike Newall added that the Scottish Government payment of half the encapsulation costs was utilising Network Rail funds.

The council has also sought to have these costs backdated, meaning they may end up paying less than £200,000 of the £664,000 encapsulation costs up to May.

Independent councillor Alec Clark said that the SAVE report ‘had no end game in it’.  He also asked who would have the title of the Station Hotel in the event of demolition.

Ms Caves replied that it would remain in the current ownership under the law.

Councillor Hugh Hunter spoke of his frustration over the long running issue.

He added that, while he was a supporter of maintaining the area's heritage, ‘the council has got a responsibility to look forward’.

He said: “There comes a time when you have to say 'no, this can’t go on'.”

“The sooner it is demolished the better.”

Conservative councillor Bob Pollock described the SAVE position as "disingenuous and fatally flawed", arguing that they had based the costs on work being carried out on the building during normal working hours.

He said that would not be compatible with the operation of the train station.

Cllr Pollock added that he felt a precedent could be set that would encourage other property owners to "let buildings become derelict" with a view to the council stepping in.

Councillor Pollock said that no costs around internal refurbishment had been provided in the SAVE report and warned that the public ‘should not be seduced by a headline’.

Chief executive Eileen Howat said that council could write to SAVE to seek information about resources, timescales and potential users prior to the report being brought back to council in February.