Argyll and Bute councillors today agreed a way forward to secure a sustainable future for the Royal Hotel building in Rothesay.
The unoccupied B-listed building on the town’s seafront is in very poor condition and was recently the subject of a Dangerous Buildings Notice, which expired with no work carried out.
The council has now stepped in with a rescue package for the former hotel which would see it sold to a new owner, with the council contributing grant funding to allow essential maintenance and repairs to be carried out in preparation for any future redevelopment.
The move is seen as a key step towards the success of the authority’s planned £2.6million town centre regeneration scheme, which affects an area adjacent to the former hotel.
Local councillor Len Scoullar, who has been closely involved in this issue for several years, said it was imperative that action was taken to save the historic building.
“This unique set of circumstances required a pro-active and decisive response from the council, and that is what we have agreed today,” he added.
“This is arguably one of Rothesay’s most prominent buildings, which has become not only dilapidated but also unsafe.
“There is a significant risk that its continued decline would undermine the wider regeneration benefits we are working so hard to achieve in the town. This could potentially have a significant negative effect on the local community and economy.
“Our view is that the strategic and financial risks posed by the building are sufficient justification for decisive intervention by the council, and that’s what we have now agreed.”
The council’s executive has agreed to establish a partnership with an individual who has said he is willing to buy the property from the current owner, under certain conditions, to deliver a sustainable future for the building.
The proposed partnership is subject to this person providing proof of ownership, and the development of a partnership to secure a grant funding agreement.
An application will be made to Historic Scotland for a Buildings Repair Grant once the ownership issues have been resolved.
Councillor Scoullar explained that there were two alternatives to the arrangement agreed today.
“One is that the building remains under its current ownership. However, given that the owner has indicated he does not have the funds to maintain it, the council would have to find significant amounts of money – on an ongoing basis – to keep it safe and secure,” he said.
“The other is that the council takes ownership of the building through a compulsory purchase order. However, the financial risk is again significant, as we would need out carry out a scheme of repairs to upgrade the building to an acceptable wind and watertight state so as to allow it to be marketed. It would also mean that the council would adopt and retain all the risks associated with the building.
“It is therefore imperative that we grasp this window of opportunity which largely addresses the risks to the council. That’s why we have agreed this common sense solution.”
He added that today’s decision should not be seen in any way as a precedent for other privately owned buildings in a state of disrepair across Argyll and Bute.
“It is the council’s own exposure to significant strategic and financial risk which is the key driver in this particular case, and we have acted to manage and mitigate this risk,” Councillor Scoullar said.
“I’m sure everyone familiar with the former Royal Hotel, in particular the people of Bute, will be delighted to hear that plans are afoot to try to ensure that this historic building can reclaim its status as a jewel in the crown of Rothesay’s built heritage.
“The council is committed to working in partnership to ensure that this important building is safeguarded for the future, while continuing to act within the relevant legislation, and I look forward to progressing the issue as soon as possible.”