The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Monday, 25 March 2013

Transformation will leave Ayr’s ‘pink buildings’ pretty as a picture

Work to transform the iconic ‘pink buildings’, which sit at the gateway to Ayr town centre, is set to get underway following the successful conclusion of discussions with the property owners and the appointment of contractors to complete the works.
 
The works will be completed as part of the £2.5 million Ayr Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) – funded by South Ayrshire Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Historic Scotland and owner contributions. The level of owner contributions vary according to the specification of the works required.
 
 
[Pictured: Ayr Councillors Kirsty Darwent, Allan Dorans, Mary Kilpatrick, Rita Miller and Corri Wilson joined owners of homes and businesses within the pink buildings, contractors and officers working on the project to celebrate the conclusion of discussions and the appointment of the contractors to carry out the much-anticipated works.]
 
Ayr THI will be delivered through a sympathetic conservation and refurbishment programme that ensures the special historical and architectural character of the buildings is properly maintained.
The properties included in the THI are 1-3, 2-6 and 6A-10 New Bridge Street in Ayr and comprise a total of 12 flats and five shop premises. Planned improvements include:

• Removal of the existing paintwork, which is cracked and peeling in many places.
• Repointing and stonework repairs to improve the external condition of the masonry and to prevent water penetration into the buildings.
• Roof repairs and replacement, where required.
• Renewal of downpipes and gutters to improve rainwater disposal.
• Lime rendering to protect the walls of the buildings.
• Limited structural repairs.
• Window repairs and replacement, where required.
 
ARPL Architects and contractors CBC will carry out all works using traditional methods and materials and in line with best conservation practice to help preserve the history of the buildings and town, while ensuring they can enjoy a sustainable future.

ARPL Architects Ltd director Gordon Fleming said: "We are very pleased that finally the gateway to Ayr is to be restored as a worthy landmark for the town."
 
Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: “I’m delighted we’re finally at the stage when everything is in place for the actual physical works on the pink buildings to get started and my thanks to all the property owners involved in the lengthy discussions to get us to this point.
 
“While we recognise that things have taken longer than we would have liked, a huge amount of behind the scenes work has been undertaken since planning permission was granted a year ago and it was vital all of this was in place before we could progress.
 
“This is an incredible project that will provide a major visible boost and help generate real pride in Ayr town centre for residents, visitors and businesses alike.”
 
Councillor John McDowall, Portfolio Holder for Sustainability and the Environment, added: “Ayr THI is about retaining the character, history and essence of the pink buildings while giving them a sustainable makeover that will help ensure they are returned to the eye-catching status they deserve for years to come.
 
“The works that will be completed will give a new lease of life to these fantastic buildings and set the tone for anyone entering the town, and I look forward to seeing the contractors on site in the near future.”
 
Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “We launched our THI grant programme over ten years ago as we found that for regeneration to really work, it has to have roots. Roots make a place unique, connect people with their history and give a place its identity.
 
“The pink buildings are part of Ayr’s roots and a prominent historic landmark in the town. Thanks to the THI programme, they will now have a new lease of life. This is an exciting step forward in the area’s on-going transformation.”
   
Thomas Knowles, Deputy Head of Investment at Historic Scotland, added: “The iconic pink buildings in Ayr form part of its history and heritage. We are pleased that our grant will help preserve them for future generations to enjoy.”
 
John Harkiss of Harkiss Developments Ltd, who own a number of commercial properties at New Bridge Street, said: "This is very good news for the buildings and is a definite step in the right direction to ensure there is an attractive and welcoming entrance to the town. I'm particularly pleased the project will see the removal of the existing paintwork and the restoration of the stonework so the building will look the way it was always intended to be.”
 
Adrian and Jaclyn Tobin, who own one of the flats in the pink buildings, added: “We’re absolutely delighted the works are now well and truly on the horizon and really excited about the difference this will make for us. We love the flat and its location but the condition of the building has caused us real problems at times so we’re thrilled all that is about to change. We can’t wait for the works to get underway ­– and finished!”
 
The Ayr THI works are being managed by Ayr Renaissance on behalf of the Council. Ayr THI will not only ensure the character of the area is maintained, it will also provide the opportunity to encourage traditional conservation methods and techniques, support on-the-job training and raise awareness of conservation as a potential career.
 
Evelyn McCann, Acting Chair of Ayr Renaissance, added: “Ayr THI is an important step on the journey to transform Ayr town centre and will be a very visible sign that things are changing for the town. This is the start of something really exciting that will make a big difference and will, we hope, help promote the wider economic regeneration of the town centre.”
 
On-site work on the Ayr THI is expected to get underway next month and is expected to be completed before the end of 2014.
 
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported more than 3,000 projects with an investment of over £582 million across Scotland. For further information on HLF, please contact Shiona Mackay on 01786 870638/07779 142890 or e-mail: shionamackay1@btinternet.com
 
 
Ayr’s pink buildings: Historical background
 
When William the Lion created a Royal Burgh at Ayr in 1205, he was reinforcing a recognition that this site on the left bank of the River Ayr was important strategically and politically. A castle had existed on the hill to the south of the river since at least the late 12th century and it was made the seat of a sheriff at about the same time.
 
The town that developed depended heavily on the river for trade and communication. The dog-legged shape of the main street (High Street, Sandgate) allowed many of the house plots which lined it to have direct rear access to the river, while vennels such as Water Vennel and Boat Vennel provided access for others.
 
At that time the river was not the controlled waterway we see today, but rather a meandering stream between mud banks, rising and falling with the tides. There were no quays and boats would have been hauled above high water mark, or secured to private jetties behind those plots that had a river frontage.
 
The Boat Vennel led to the original harbour: the open area immediately to the west of the study area, which would have been a muddy or sandy slope up which ships could be hauled.
 
The people of Ayr had trading and property rights which they guarded carefully. As is commonly the case, a sister settlement developed where those people lived who did not have trading rights yet could provide services that the townspeople needed but were unwilling or unable to provide. In Ayr’s case this settlement was Newton, whose Main Street runs in direct continuation of Sandgate.
 
Communication between the two settlements was by a ford which ran from the south end of Newton to the foot of the Water Vennel, which joined Ayr’s Main Street at the sharp dog-leg. Thus the two arms of the Main Street, with the Vennels, formed a cross, which represented the heart of the burgh, where in the early medieval period a tollbooth was erected.
 
The river was fordable at many points above the ford at the Water Vennel, but at some point in the early medieval period, probably in the 14th century, the first bridge across the river was built on the site of the present Auld Brig. This provided an additional access to the town from the north and may have helped the High Street arm of the main street to prosper at the expense of the Sandgate arm, which suffered (unsurprisingly) from problems with blown sand. However, the heart, the core of the town remained at the intersection of the main street with the Boat and Water Vennels.
 
Although from the late 17th century, as ships had grown in size, efforts had been made to improve the harbour, and the focus of Ayr’s shipping trade had moved nearer the sea where quays and wharves had been built, the situation changed little until the late 18th Century, a period of great social and economic change. One major innovation was the development of wheeled transport (carriages and coaches), and the Auld Brig was found to be ‘unfit for purpose’. A new bridge was required, one that would allow carriages to enter the town easily, and one which would enhance the town’s prestige; show to the traveller that he or she had arrived at somewhere of importance, of taste and of refinement.
 
The site fixed upon for the new bridge was at the Water Vennel ford and plans were sought from Scotland’s premier architect, Robert Adam. However, the burgesses baulked at Adam’s fees and turned to another architect, Alexander Stevens: no less competent, but less fashionable and an experienced bridge designer having already constructed bridges at Hyndford, Leaderfoot, Montrose and Ancrum.
 
Stevens’ New Bridge, in a fashionable Classical style, was completed in 1789 (it was, as Burns prophesised, demolished in 1877-8).
 
To complement the bridge, the Water Vennel was widened and renamed New Bridge Street. Rows of mostly three-storey properties were built on either side of the new street: the row to the left (upstream) facing the river with the superb double-bow fronted house built by Stevens for himself. The downstream properties have a rounded corner and continue along South Harbour Street. Most were built before 1800. There is a further group beyond Boat Vennel, while in the early 19th Century the medieval tollbooth was removed from the centre of the cross and replaced by the present Town Hall.
 
The properties being considered form a remarkable unified group and, as they were designed to do, provide a wonderful and dramatic entrance to the burgh of Ayr. When new, they spoke of, and offered to the traveller, wealth, taste, refinement and modern living.
 
Besides Stevens, the houses are associated with many people who shaped and guided Ayr in the late 19th Century, such as David Auld who did much to establish Ayr as a centre for Burns-centred travel, and the provost John Ballantine, for whom the bridge and adjoining houses were the realisation of his dream for a modern Ayr.
 
Today these properties still speak of wealth, taste and refinement, for the seemingly effortless Georgian awareness of design, spatial planning and architectural detail has resulted in a bravura ensemble performance in which each building plays an equal part.
 
These properties create one of the finest approaches to any town in Scotland: the view of them from the Newton side of the river, with the early 19th century Town Buildings and the late 19th century replacement New Bridge, is the one that for many people unmistakably says “Ayr”. Through their association with Adam, Stevens and the poet himself, they also provide a direct connection between the changing late 18th century town that Burns knew and the 21st century town of today.
 



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