War of words over Lorne Arcade shutter argument as behaviour branded 'disgusting'

Lorne Arcade in Ayr
Lorne Arcade in Ayr -Credit:Ayrshire Post

Councillors backed planning officers assertion that Ayr's Lorne Arcade is a legal right of way despite the owner's insistence that it was exempt.

A proposal would have seen shutters installed at either end of the arcade, to be closed outwith opening hours.

Wood Property Group argued that the proposal would address anti-social behaviour and security issues, while there was concern raised about the impact on businesses in Arthur Street.

Discussions at South Ayrshire Council's Regulatory Panel centred around the status of the right of way claimed by the council.

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.

He said that the applicant was only required to seek permission because the Lorne Arcade is within a conservation area and added that the planning service had 'latched onto public opinion' centred around members of the public not wanting to be 'inconvenienced'.

With contrary views expressed by planners and the applicant over the status of the Lorne Arcade as a right of way, councillors sought clarity from Head of Planning Craig Iles .

He stated that the council's view is that the nature of the Lorne Arcade meant that it was an 'external space' rather than a building, and had been used as a right of way for more than 20 years.

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

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