It has in recent years become increasingly demoralising to walk past Ayr’s grand old Station Hotel.

With every year that has passed, the spectre of demolition has appeared to loom ever larger, as the structure has become covered in sheeting. Long before that, vegetation sprouting out of the sandstone and roofline had become a common sight. By the time the hotel closed in 2012, it was already a shadow of its former self and things have got significantly worse since.

Yet, in spite of all of the recent travails of this once and in many ways still glorious hotel, demolition has seemed almost inconceivable, looking up at the grand building on the way to Ayr United midweek or Saturday games. It is one of those places where you can imagine what things must have been like in the hotel’s early days in the Victorian era or when it was “the place” to go for bright young things in the 1950s and 1960s. Another thing that springs to mind is that it is the type of building that you could not envisage being built now, given its ornate external and internal features and the cost of such skilled work these days.

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However, demolition has in other ways looked increasingly inevitable, amid what has seemed like a protracted lack of will to sort out the situation.

It is clearly not an easy problem to fix.

South Ayrshire Council notes on its website that it has “taken action at the building adjacent to Ayr Station, which includes the former Station Hotel, in line with our statutory obligations - under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 - around public safety and keeping people safe”.

It says: “We've had to take this action as public safety issues raised in a Dangerous Building Notice served in March 2018 have not been sufficiently addressed.”

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Under “frequently asked questions”, the council adds: “Ayr Station Hotel, which occupies most of the building, is privately owned by a Malaysian businessman by the name of Mr Ung, who has a registered business address in London… Why Mr Ung hasn't done anything isn't for us to say.”

You would not have to be a hospitality sector expert to recognise the enormous challenges, if not impossibility, of trying to open the property as a hotel with the same number of rooms that it had in the past, given dramatic changes in patterns of demand.

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The days before mass overseas travel, when holidaymakers would flock off trains and check in at the Station Hotel, are long gone.

Ayr’s retail sector is also hard-pressed, with a slew of major store closures at the top of the town, close to the station.

The hurdles in the way of the rebirth of Ayr’s Station Hotel look to have become much greater in the wake of the latest fire there, which started on Monday.

However, there has been plenty of demand in cities and towns across Scotland for luxury flats in fine old historic buildings such as the Station Hotel, which opened in the mid-1880s. Boutique hotels, and notably spa destinations, are also very much in vogue, and part of Ayr’s Station Hotel building could provide a fitting setting for such an offering if a development package could be put together. Ayr also has a sizeable student population, which needs accommodation.

For people who grew up in Ayr, the Station Hotel will have always been a landmark.

And the scale of the hotel, built with Ballochmyle red sandstone, will surely have impressed many visitors to the town alighting at the station.

Ayr Station Hotel was designed by Scottish engineer Andrew Galloway in an “opulent French Renaissance château-style”, notes Save Britain’s Heritage.

Mr Galloway was the chief engineer of the Glasgow and South Western Railway and also designed the Glaisnock railway viaduct at Cumnock.

Save Britain’s Heritage, formed in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, journalists and planners, says of the hotel: “Its 75 luxurious rooms and lavish facilities catered for an affluent clientele who spent their summer holidays on the Ayrshire coast and attended the town’s fashionable race meetings.”

Often when it comes to saving historic buildings, all it takes is the right plan at the right time. Conversely, many buildings have been lost by a protracted failure to come up with a solution.

It is to be hoped, many decades from now, the people of Ayr and visitors to the town will be celebrating achievement of the right plan, and looking back at recent years as a challenge that was overcome.