THE Rothesay businessman who hopes to save the fast-deteriorating Royal Hotel in the centre of the town has warned that a deal to purchase the property is far from signed and sealed.
George Hanson’s note of caution follows a decision by Argyll and Bute Council to commit to a rescue package to save the hotel – including grant funding to allow essential repairs to be carried out, subject to the building’s sale to a new owner.
The unoccupied B-listed building on the town’s seafront has been in an increasingly poor condition for several years, and was recently the subject of a Dangerous Buildings Notice, which expired with no work having been carried out.
Mr Hanson - who told The Buteman in August that he feared the Royal would not survive another winter without major repair work - said this week: “We are very grateful for the council’s support, but there are still some very important obstacles to be overcome with the current owners before any purchase can be completed.”
The council’s Executive endorsed the proposed rescue package at a meeting in Lochgilphead on Thursday – though the decision was taken behind closed doors because of commercial confidentiality, and the financial details of the package have not been published for similar reasons.
Not surprisingly, the move has been warmly welcomed by all three Bute councillors, as well as by Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.
Independent Bute councillor Len Scoullar said of the Royal: “There is a significant risk that its continued decline would undermine the wider regeneration benefits we are working so hard to achieve.
“Our view is that the strategic and financial risks posed by the building are sufficient justification for decisive intervention by the council, and that’s what we have now agreed.”
Bute SNP councillor Robert Macintyre, who also sits on the council’s Executive, called Thursday’s decision “immensely important”.
“For several years now the people of this island have watched the Royal Hotel deteriorate to a condition where it was touch and go whether it might be demolished,” he said.
“This unthinkable scenario was almost with us, so all of us should give a big thanks to George Hanson for the action he has taken. I sincerely hope the remaining obstacles to concluding the matter can be overcome.”
His fellow Bute SNP councillor Isobel Strong, who chairs the Bute Conservation Trust, also expressed her relief at the move to save the building.
“Had this decision not been taken,” she said, “and the Royal Hotel continued to deteriorate, it would undermine the Townscape Heritage Initiative - not only financially but literally, as it links into Guildford Square, which is the focus of the THI.”
Mr Russell added: “I am very pleased that the council has now agreed a course of action that should ensure the involvement of the key local players.
“I have been pressing the council for some months, along with Isobel Strong, to support George Hanson’s bid as the only local solution which would add value to the THI scheme and prevent major problems emerging.”