>> 30 May 2016
SNP councillor for Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside Geva Blackett has hailed progress on the historic old railway station at Ballater, which was destroyed by fire last year.
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. 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.
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.
Commenting, Cllr Geva Blackett said:
“While keeping to the original design on the outside, the building inside is innovative and airy - we will have a visitor facility and library fit for the 21st century and have a much loved cafe back again too.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed that the building will be open as quickly as possible!”
Originally built in 1866, the station underwent a complete refurbishment in 2001 and was leased by Aberdeenshire Council to VisitScotland.
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.
Jo Robinson, VisitScotland Regional Director, said:
“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: