Building at Ayr train station

The Council is taking action at the building adjacent to Ayr Station, which includes the former Station Hotel, in line with our statutory obligations – under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 – around public safety and keeping people safe.

We’ve had to take this action as public safety issues raised in a Dangerous Building Notice served in March 2018 have not been sufficiently addressed.

As a result, an extended exclusion zone has been put in place around the building to protect people from the significant and immediate dangers presented by the current condition of the building.

This has reduced access to some of the platform areas at the train station, which has affected ScotRail services to and from the station.

Work has been underway since mid-September to erect scaffolding around the building adjacent to Ayr train station, with the aim of putting in place sufficient protective measures to allow the reduction of the extended exclusion zone – when it’s safe to do – and the restoration of rail services through the station.

We’re continuing to work with our partners in the dedicated Task Force that has been established to make this happen. Our partners are Transport Scotland, ScotRail, Network Rail, Historic Environment Scotland and other Scottish Government departments.

Update: Friday 12 October 2018

While the scaffolding works that got underway last month have been progressing well, they have also allowed our contractors to carry out a safe inspection of the higher parts of the building.

This has highlighted significant concerns regarding the structural integrity of the building, with the roof deemed to be in a more dangerous condition than had been anticipated.

We’re currently working with our contractors to design a works programme that will address these concerns and continue to support the reinstatement of rail services through Ayr station.

Our priority will be to ensure that it is safe for rail services to run, without risk, while the protective measures around the building are in place.

We’re also working with partners on alternative solutions to restore rail services south of Ayr, taking into account all possible risks and potential mitigations.

Please be assured we’re continuing to work with our partners in the Task Force to progress these issues as quickly and safely as possible, and further updates will be provided as and when we have further information to share.

Further information about what’s happening can be found in our Q&A section.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the actual problem with the building?

Under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003, the building has been classed as dangerous, presenting a clear and significant risk to people and property around it. This was due to its deteriorating condition, which included falling debris, loose roof slates, unsecure pipework and unstable cast iron features.

Who owns the building?

The building is part-owned by Network Rail and majority-owned by a Malaysian businessman by the name of Mr Ung, who has a registered business address in London.

Why haven’t they done anything about it?

That's not for us to say. We’ve had to step in and take action as the issues raised in the second notice served in March 2018 have not been sufficiently addressed.

What has the Council been doing?

We’ve been monitoring this building closely since a Dangerous Building Notice was first issued in July 2013.

At that time, work was undertaken by Network Rail after notice was served, which included netting being erected and crash decks being installed adjacent to Platform 3 and the entrance and ticket office. This meant the Dangerous Building Notice could be withdrawn.

However, earlier this year, we had to serve a second Dangerous Building Notice as we identified falling debris and safety concerns that presented a real risk to the public. As the issues raised have not been sufficiently addressed, the Council had to step in to ensure we could keep people safe.

Why didn’t you do anything sooner?

As we don’t own the building, we had no powers to take action until it became a statutory obligation under the legislation, which happened when the Dangerous Building Notice was issued in March and the issues raised were not properly addressed.

What’s been happening since the Council stepped in?

As our duties to take action relate to public safety, our immediate priority has been to identify and remove all materials that have been identified as a risk.

This has included stonework, brickwork, chimney pots, guttering, railings, walkways, ornamental features and roof decorations.

In total, we estimate that around three tonnes of cast iron materials have been removed. That’s the equivalent roughly of two Ford Fiesta hatchbacks, and we can only imagine the damage and injuries they could have caused if they had fallen off.

Network Rail has also taken action to reduce the risk to the public.

What is the current condition of the building?

Right now, it remains unsafe and that’s why the extended exclusion zone is in place. It’s easy to see just from standing out on the street or on the station platform that it’s in a very poor – and very dangerous – structural condition.

That’s why we’re erecting scaffolding around the building – so we can put in place sufficient protective measures to allow the reduction of the extended exclusion zone and the restoration of rail services through the station.

Does the scaffolding make the building safer?

The scaffolding is allowing further structural assessment of the building to be carried out and helps to secure stone work around the windows etc. Once this has been completed this should allow access to areas of the station which are currently within the exclusion zone and train services south of Ayr to resume.

When will the scaffolding be completed?

As we have now identified some additional concerns regarding the roof of the building, we’re working with the engineers/contractors to develop a design solution and works programme that will address these concerns and continue to support the reinstatement of rail services through Ayr station. At this time, we can’t provide a definitive timescale, but will update information as soon as we can.

How long will the scaffolding be up?

There is no timeframe at the moment as the full structural engineer’s report is still progressing.

Will the scaffolding be there long term?

There is the potential that the scaffolding could be in place in the longer term to ensure public safety and for decisions to made regarding the future of the building.

Who is paying for the scaffolding?

The Council is covering the cost of this at the moment but there are options for recovery of costs.

Will there be lots of noise?

There will be some noise and contractors will try to limit this, however they will be working through the night on the part of the building facing the railway track. We have written to people living nearby to advise them of the work planned over the coming weeks.

Will the scaffolding works cause any more disruption?

Contractors will be working through the night to get this work done as quickly as possible. No additional disruption is envisaged for train services / passengers at this time.

Is the building structurally sound at this time? Are you carrying out a structural survey?

We don’t have sufficient information to make that determination at this time.

Work is underway to complete a full structural survey, and we expect this to be completed and a report provided by our contracted consultant engineers around November – although this will be subject to the condition of the building and safe access to complete the survey works.

How much has all of this cost the Council?

This has cost a considerable amount of public money and we currently estimate that the emergency works we’re undertaking will cost somewhere in the region of £350,000-£400,000.

Where has that money come from?

The works to date have been funded from Council reserves.

Will the Council get the money back?

The Building (Scotland) Act 2003 entitles a Council to recover from the owner of a dangerous building any reasonable costs it incurs carrying out work to prevent access to the building and needed to keeping the public safe. The Council will seek to recover its costs in the future. Any recovery will be dependent on the owner having sufficient assets, and be relative to the established individual liability for the maintenance of the building.

Our immediate focus is on keeping people safe and fulfilling our statutory obligations.

How long will the extended exclusion zone be in place?

We can’t be definitive about timelines at this point, but we can assure people that it will only be in place for as long as it’s needed to keep people safe. It’s in all our interests to reduce and remove the exclusion zone as soon as possible, but we absolutely can’t compromise on public safety.

When will the station get back to normal?

Our priority right now is to protect public safety and support partners to get train services back to normal. We’re working closely with partners to progress works and put in place protective measures that will make it safe for the extended exclusion zone to be removed as soon as possible.

This will then allow the safe passage of trains and passengers with longer trains able to access and pass through the station, and for services to operate south of Ayr.

What about reopening the ticket office and foyer area of the station?

For public safety reasons, these areas will need to remain closed off once the extended exclusion zone is removed.

The alternative access and ticketing arrangements that have been in place since the end of June will continue to operate.

So, what happens now?

We’re continuing to keep people safe and we’ll continue to liaise with Transport Scotland, Network Rail and ScotRail to develop a solution that allows the exclusion zone to be reduced at the earliest opportunity.

What are the Council’s long-terms plans for the building?

As we don’t own the building, it is the owners who currently have the ability to decide upon the future of the building.

You keep saying, you don’t own the building – why not just buy it?

It’s not quite as easy as that and we’re currently confirming the legal obligations and powers of all parties and examining the statutory requirements we must meet before a Compulsory Purchase Order would be granted for the site.

Before we could even begin to consider a CPO, we need to establish whether the existing building can be restored or whether its condition necessitates the redevelopment of the site. That’s really important as this determines what powers might be available to us.

Regardless of this, the Council would need to be satisfied that it has – or can – secure sufficient funding to purchase the site, pay compensation to the landowners and complete the proposed redevelopment of the building or site in a reasonable timescale.

Therefore, funding must be available to allow for the payment of the purchase price, the costs of any contested action and the cost of implementing all the works for the proposed redevelopment. The purchase price is calculated by carrying out a full land cost estimate and includes payment for the land, professional fees and compensation – if any – due to the landowners. Compensation is normally based on the open market value of the land.

Could the building be used for new Council offices if you buy it?

Regardless of the fact that the Council doesn’t own the building, the narrow internal layout of the building is not suitable for use of modern office accommodation.

If you’re not considering the building for Council offices, what are you doing to ensure offices remain in the centre of town?

Following the rejection of the planning application for new Council offices at the riverside block, we’re currently reviewing the options available to us.

Does the Council support the building being turned into commercial offices?

As we don’t yet have the necessary specialist information to determine the true condition of the building, we can’t speculate on its use at this time.

Is the Council working to identify potential alternative uses for the building?

As we don’t own the building, we’re not currently considering alternative uses for the building. If that position was to change, we would consider all information and materials available to us.

Can a community group CPO the building?

Yes. However, they would have to undertake the same steps as the Council and work with us to do this.

Are you going to demolish the building?

As we don't own the building that’s not a decision we can take at this time. The ultimate way forward will be shaped by the condition of the building, which will determine whether it can be restored or redeveloped.

Does the Council know what the new owners intentions are?

There’s no evidence to confirm any recent change of ownership of the building and we continue to send all correspondence to the registered owners of the building.

What about this Task Force – is it just a talking shop?

The Task Force shows just how seriously we’re all taking this. It’s being led by Transport Scotland and is looking at what is required to allow for the removal of the current exclusion zone, as well as what is required in the longer-term. It meets twice a week to discuss progress and updates on this important project.

Is it true that the Council refused planning permission for the building to be used in a different way?

That’s not true. We have never received any planning applications for the building from the current owners.

Has the Council tried to buy the building in the past?

No we have not.

Why has the Council been unable to take enforcement action against the owners of the building for letting it get into such a state when you take enforcement action against others because of the frontage of their building or shop?

These are two very separate issues – one relates to Buildings Regulations and public safety and the other relates to Planning Regulations. So, different issues and different powers granted by different areas of legislation.

Which contractor is carrying out the works?

Our appointed and Network Rail-approved contractor for all the works at the building adjacent to Ayr train station is CPMS. The scaffolding works have been sub-contracted to Zenith.