£ 30m MESS

Re­gen­er­a­tion in fo­cus af­ter ‘ car­bun­cle’ binned

Ayrshire Post - - Front Page - Stu­art Wil­son

The £ 30mil­lion dream to re­vive Ayr town cen­tre lies in tatters this week.

Coun­cil bosses have been or­dered back to the draw­ing board af­ter a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat at the hands of the pub­lic.

Their bid to erect a new Burns House – an £ 11m an­chor to the river­side over­haul – has been unan­i­mously thrown out by their own coun­cil­lors.

Now com­mu­nity lead­ers, who hailed the re­sult as a “vic­tory for democ­racy,” in­sist the town’s fu­ture can­not turn to dust.

Nor­man McLean, chair of Fort, Seafield and Wal­lace­town Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, said: “We will con­tinue to be a thorn in the side and will not let the mat­ter rest.

“The peo­ple have spo­ken. Now we would like the coun­cil to get round the ta­ble and lis­ten.”

Plans for the new of­fice block at the foot of the High Street were la­belled a “mon­strous car­bun­cle” dur­ing a highly charged plan­ning hear­ing at­tended by more than 100 res­i­dents at County Hall.

A vic­tory for good old­fash­ioned democ­racy it may have been.

A hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat for those in charge of South Ayr­shire Coun­cil it most cer­tainly was.

And in the end, only one real op­tion faced those charged with seal­ing the fate of the now in­fa­mous “mon­strous car­bun­cle”.

Burns House II now threat­ens to stain not just the long- term legacy of Ayr, but the short- term ca­reers of those steer­ing its path.

Coun­cil­lors across the po­lit­i­cal di­vide, both past and present, joined forces with com­mu­nity lead­ers and ob­jec­tors drawn far and wide.

Their mes­sage clear: bin this non­sense now.

From the mo­ment SNP coun­cil­lor, Siob­hian Brown, ad­dressed a packed plan­ning hear­ing at County

Build­ings last Wed­nes­day, the tone was set.

“I am baf­fled at how we as a coun­cil have ended up here,” she said.

“I un­der­stand why so many peo­ple are here to­day and are so pas­sion­ate about this.

“We all want the best for our town. This needs re­con­sid­ered as a mat­ter of ur­gency.”

Bosses from Ayr Re­nais­sance took a watch­ing brief from the back of the au­di­ence which num­bered more than 100- strong.

Key fig­ures, in­clud­ing James Knox and David Bell, had been charged with de­liv­er­ing the orig­i­nal mas­ter­plan for the town’s re­gen­er­a­tion.

But of­fice block de­signs were en­tirely the baby of coun­cil of­fi­cials, who em­ployed Glas­gow- based ar­chi­tects Kep­pie.

Nor­man McLean, a lead­ing voice in the cam­paign against their de­signs, said ini­tial “ex­cite­ment” fired up by the Re­nais­sance mas­ter­plan had now long sub­sided.

The chair­man of Fort, Seafield, and Wal­lace­town Com­mu­nity Coun­cil added: “The con­cept is unimag­i­na­tive and over­sized.

“In the late 60s, the Royal Burgh of Ayr Town Coun­cil granted con­sent for Burns House and the

Gen­eral Ac­ci­dent Build­ing and we live with the con­se­quences.

“We can­not re­peat those same mis­takes.

“I showed a friend of mine these de­signs and she said it looks like they’ve taken Burns House and dropped it at the bot­tom end of the High Street.”

For­mer SNP coun­cil­lorIan Dou­glas added: “It is the de­tail that mat­ters here. The heart of our town has to be right and we can­not erect an­other Burns House.”

Michael Hitchon, pres­i­dent of the Kyle and Car­rick Civic So­ci­ety, la­belled the plans “bland, repet­i­tive and dull”.

David Dickson, the Deputy Lord Lieu­tenant of Ayr­shire, added: “Thanks to Ayr Re­nais­sance we should have a fine op­por­tu­nity here.

“It is a trea­sure of a site.

“But this build­ing is out of place and out of pro­por­tion.

“This is not a po­lit­i­cal is­sue – it is about peo­ple want­ing to pre­serve their county town.”

Shaun Dar­went, speak­ing on be­half of wife and for­mer Labour coun­cil­lor, Kirsty, said: “It is a bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment which should be re­fused.

“Ayr and its peo­ple de­serve bet­ter.”

Res­i­dent Neville Washington added: “This rep­re­sents a rare op­por­tu­nity which the peo­ple of Ayr will live with for a gen­er­a­tion or more.

“What we have is a mon­strous car­bun­cle on the face of a much loved friend.”

For­mer South Ayr­shire SNP leader Al­lan Do­rans – who played a key role within Ayr Re­nais­sance un­til his de­par­ture as a coun­cil­lor – said: “At no time did I en­vis­age such a bland build­ing.

“It is not in keep­ing with such a his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant lo­ca­tion and negates the work of Ayr Re­nais­sance over the last nine years.”

David Stavell said: “The de­vel­op­ment is a dis­grace.

“When will this coun­cil re­alise this is not their place and we are not their peo­ple?”

A coun­cil spokesman said: “We are now con­sid­er­ing our op­tions.”

No go Plans for new High Street of­fice block have been re­jected

Vic­tory Cam­paign­ers ( from left) Nor­man McLean, Robert Singer, Sandy Craw­ford and Michael Hitchon

Tragic Mark McCub­bin was found dead on Mon­day

Ob­jec­tors From left Sandy Craw­ford, Michael Hitchon, Ju­dith Pater­son, Nor­man McLean, Forbes Wat­son, Phil Martin and Eileen Mun­roe

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