Flood-hit town to be boosted by reinstatement of razed attraction with Royal connection

Work to reinstate a historic landmark and tourist attraction in a flood-hit Deeside community could start later this year at a cost of around £3million.

Ballater’s Old Royal Station has long been a focal point in the town and was destroyed by fire last year, months before the area was hit by Storm Frank.

Visitors to the town have long been fascinated by the station’s Royal links – it was historically used by members of the Royal family visiting nearby Balmoral Castle.

Although trains no longer reach the station, it remains of local importance, having housed the VisitScotland Information Centre, heritage attraction, retail units and a restaurant.

All were displaced by the fire, which started in the western part of the building before spreading through the roof void. There was also a small, separate building housing a bike hire company which fortunately was not damaged by the fire.

Parts of the Royal Waiting Room were salvaged from the blaze, and a replica Royal carriage which had been on display was relatively undamaged.

Originally built in 1866, the station underwent a complete refurbishment in 2001 and was leased by Aberdeenshire Council to VisitScotland.

Now the Old Station is to be reinstated to its former glory and will rise from the ashes, following months of work by Aberdeenshire Council, architects Halliday Fraser Munro and Historic Environment Scotland.

A planning application has been submitted outlining the proposals for the site and seeking permission to progress the multi-million pound reinstatement.

It is proposed that a mix of public uses would occupy the recreated station building – a VisitScotland information centre, public library and restaurant – as well as the Royal waiting room and carriage.

There will be a new exhibition space extending along the old platform and over the tracks where the Royal carriage sits, taking the form of railway sheds, mixing Royal heritage with local history.

Simple in construction and metal-clad, one would be dark copper and the other a golden copper alloy, with glazed end gables and high windows showing off the views towards nearby Craigendarroch Hill.

A new, revamped public square is proposed in front of the station, linking it to the nearby Victoria and Albert Halls and creating a destination point for the Deeside Way.

Planning permission is now being sought from the Cairngorms National Park Authority and it is hoped that if granted, work could start on site in November, with the station and exhibition space expected to be open towards the end of 2017.

Marr Area Manager, Janelle Clark, said:  “Given the ordeal Ballater went through with flooding during Storm Frank earlier this year, not to mention a focal point of the village burning down, the rebuilding of the Royal Station and development of the public square will act as a key project in the wider economic recovery of Ballater and surrounding area.

“The aspiration was to create an integrated facility, allowing a more open internal space which will help create an enhanced community, cultural and heritage offering, providing a real focal point for visitors and the local community.”

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “It will be wonderful to see the incredibly popular Old Royal Station building recreated to its former glory. The proposed integrated building that will replace the former VisitScotland Information Centre will serve both visitors and locals alike, with information provision, a library and a restaurant.

“Tourism is at the heart of the visitor economy and is more than just a holiday experience. It creates jobs, sustains communities and provides an international shop window for the region. Without tourism, many remote communities would not be sustainable and business sectors like drinks, retail or construction would be severely impacted.

“I look forward to seeing the great buzz that this new facility will undoubtedly create in Ballater following such a tumultuous twelve months for the town.”

Chief Executive of Halliday Fraser Munro Architects, John Halliday, said: “Ballater is on the road to recovery and working hard to regenerate the area, it is our hope that the restoration of this wonderfully historic site will help toward this work and we at Halliday Fraser Munro are very pleased to be involved with such a valued project to the community.”