A radical master plan to regenerate the historic heart of Ayr has been approved by South Ayrshire Council (SAC). The decision triggers the immediate demolition of 1.2 acres of largely derelict twentieth-century buildings on the Riverside site, located on the River Ayr and covering the site of Ayr’s ancient trading hub.The planning application was submitted by owner of the site Ayr Renaissance; the regeneration vehicle set up by South Ayrshire Council and charged with the regeneration of the town centre.
Chairman of Ayr Renaissance, James Knox, says: “This decision marks a turning point in the fortunes of Ayr. Decades of blight will be swept away, opening up the river to the town’s people for the first time in generations. Our master plan offers a humane and beautiful solution to the transformation of this key site which will act as a magnet for visitors, office workers and inhabitants alike. It marks a sea change in the economy of the town.”
In 2013, Ayr Renaissance began acquiring the properties of the Riverside site with funding from SAC and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, with the final property being acquired in March 2016. The site, which falls within the Ayr Central Conservation Area, ’lies in part of the historic town centre of Ayr which has been continuously occupied for around 800 years’. Archaeologists will be working alongside the demolition contractors in preparation for a six-month dig. “Given its footprint within the medieval Burgh,” says Consultant Archaeologist, Thomas Rees, “the site offers an unparalleled opportunity to understand not just Ayr’s earliest history but also how Scotland’s trade developed on the West Coast.”
Following SAC’s landmark vote, Ayr Renaissance is immediately implementing the first stage of its master plan for the Riverside site which will reveal a view that has long been blocked by post-war development. The master plan was conceived and drawn up by acclaimed international land artist Charles Jencks, and award winning Irish architect Niall McLaughlin. Their overarching vision creates a new “River Square” incorporating not just the redeveloped block but the River Ayr itself, as well as its re-landscaped northern shore and the two flanking bridges. It is envisaged that this dramatic new urban riverside space will become a place for festivities and events with a glazed festival structure, allowing flexible use for creative attractions and public access. The anticipated uses of other buildings include commercial, cultural, leisure, community, hotel and residential.
Crucially, South Ayrshire Council have already committed to building new council offices on part of the site, which paved the way for planning approval of single phase demolition of the site in its entirety. The office will serve around 350 members of staff and their presence will kick-start economic activity in this distinctly deprived part of the town which has long suffered from high vacancy rates, dereliction and low footfall.
“This really is an exciting moment – not just for Ayr, but for the whole of South Ayrshire”, said Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council. “I’m very proud we are now at the point when we will see the physical works to regenerate Ayr get underway. This has been a long time coming and marks the start of a whole new era for the town that will create a legacy for generations to come. “
“The transformation of this riverside site, and the opportunities to open up the river as a feature once again, will breathe new life into the town and will well and truly ensure Ayr is a true destination of choice for living, working and leisure. Ayr has a vibrant and exciting future ahead – and it starts now.”