Thursday, June 13, 2024

Controversial plans to install shutters on Ayr shopping area are rejected

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The Wood Property Group had submitted a planning application to South Ayrshire Council to put up aluminium shutters at both ends of the Lorne Arcade, between High Street and Arthur Street.

The application stated that the gates would be closed and the shutter brought down between 6pm and 8am.

The applicant stated made the case that the Lorne Arcade should be treated as a building which, under the Land Reform Act, would not be considered a right of way.

Under that proviso, Euan Pearson, representing the Wood Property Group, argued that the only material issue to be judged in the application was whether the shutters were compatible with policy around Ayr’s conservation area status.

The application attracted 112 objections, the majority of which cited the blocking of a public right of way and the implications for businesses and residents.

Supporting representations backed the applicant’s own insistence that the shutters would provide additional security for the businesses in the Lorne Arcade as well as ‘vagrancy, drug use and anti-social behaviour’.

Among them were Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Council (FSWCC), who stated their support for the proposal,  providing there were assurances that the Lorne Arcade was in private ownership and that there was no right of way.

However, that conditional support was subsequently recorded as an objection, a move that ‘appalled’ the community council.

Jim McKay, of FSWCC, said that they voted in support after hearing the owner’s business plan.

He said that the CC was ‘satisfied that the improvements and investment by the applicant can only be beneficial to Ayr town centre’.

Mr McKay stated: “The amount of anti-social behaviour that takes place outwith trading hours is disgusting. It includes urinating, litter, drug dealing and anti-Semitic slogans.

“Shop owners should not have to encounter this before they open for business in the morning.”

He added that community council was ‘appalled’ by the council’s decision to record their representation as an objection and questioned the power to ‘over-ride the decision of a democratically elected community council ‘because they consider it to be wrong’.

Mr McKay also supported the applicant’s argument that there was no record of the right of way and, as a building, the right of way legislation was not applicable.

He also suggested that, if it was deemed to be a right of way, the council would be obliged to support its maintenance.

One objector also took the opportunity to address the panel.

Kirsteen Hood, who runs Ayr Eight Ball Pool club in Arthur Street told councillors of her concern about the impact on her business and the potential danger around emergency access for both residents and businesses.

She said: “God forbid if there was a fire in any of the other buildings on Arthur Street. How are we meant to get out. On operating plan the exit is to the left into the car park.

“Our only access out of that street is out through Lorne Arcade through to the High Street.

“We have a lot of disabled groups who come to the club, a lot from Enable Scotland. The pool league starts at 8pm and finishes at 11.30pm. A lot of them use the bus stop at the bottom of the arcade.”

She added that the loss of passing trade would hit the various Arthur Street premises that operate outwith ordinary hours.

Mr Pearson, made the case for the proposal, arguing it was part of a plan to reverse falling occupancy levels.

The proposals were rejected by the council’s planning committee, in line with a recommendation by officials.

A report from the planning officer who dealt with the case stated: “There are no objections to the proposals from a built heritage perspective insofar as the design and materials of the altered entrances and proposed shutters do not adversely affect the character, appearance or setting of Ayr Central conservation area.

“However, a right of way, in which access by all non-motorised means is exercisable under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, exists through the Lorne Arcade, and has done so for at least 60 years.

“The shutters, when in the closed position, will obstruct this right of way to the detriment of public access in the locale.”

Following an adjournment, councillors voted unanimously to refuse the application as recommended by planning officers.

The Wood Property Group has confirmed that it has lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government. 

A spokesperson said: “It is noted within the report the council states it “considers” the right of way exists but failed to show any physical evidence to substantiate this claim.

“It has been demonstrated via Freedom of Information that a right of way has not been asserted by the court so a right of way does not exist.

“The matter as pointed out at the regulatory planning meeting it was in fact Ultra Vires and it is not the responsibility for the planning dept to police a right of way either. 

“Lastly, Scotways within their submission also confirmed a right of way has not been recorded and therefore does not exist.

“Lorne Arcade is private property not public and the Land Reform Act does not apply to a building such as Lorne Arcade.

“We look forward to our appeal being upheld and permission granted within the next few months.”

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