Ballater station plans move a step forward

Councillors have welcomed plans to tender for the redevelopment of the fire-ravaged Ballater station. The facility, which was gutted by a significant blaze in 2015, was discussed by the full Aberdeenshire Council today (Thursday 30th June 2016).

Councillors approved the next phase of the project, which includes more detailed proposals for the scheme, the planning application process and consultation with communities. Councillors also agreed to begin the tender process to secure a contractor to undertake the works.

It is proposed that a new facility when built will house a VisitScotland Visitor Centre, a community library, exhibition space, and a restaurant, as well as the retention of the Royal Carriage.   It is envisaged that the restaurant will operate independently with its own dedicated entrance. Negotiations are also underway to relocate the Tullich Symbol Stones to within the exhibition space.

Following consultation with the community in the aftermath of the fire and Storm Frank in late 2015/early 2016 it became clear that the aspiration was to reinstate Ballater Square as a public space which will provide Ballater with a space of community and visitor benefit. The report also follows a well-attended community consultation event at which residents gave their views on the overall development of the station. 

Work will also support the development of better pedestrian and cycle routes through the town with integration to wider local projects, such as the Deeside Way.

The B-Listed station, historically used by Royals travelling to their home at nearby Balmoral Castle, was devastated by a fire in May 2015. Aberdeenshire Council quickly committed to rebuilding the station, and has since been in discussions with Historic Environment Scotland, VisitScotland, the Cairngorm National Park Authority and the local community to agree the way forward.

Following the fire investigation and the installation of a temporary structure, a hoarding was put in place, while plans were progressed for the station’s replacement. Of particular importance has been efforts to safeguard the Royal Waiting Room and replica Royal Carriage.

Provost of Aberdeenshire, Cllr Hamish Vernal, welcomed today’s report. He said: Ballater Station is of great importance to our communities and visitors to the region, as well as at a national historical level. I am delighted to see the very positive steps being taken to rebuild this important facility and to see the very welcome approach of working in partnership with VisitScotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Historic Environment Scotland and the people of Ballater.”

Work on site is expected to begin in December 2016 with the new station opening in December 2017, in line with the Winter Festival.