16th June 2015
Ballater’s VisitScotland Information Centre is to remain in temporary premises within the Cairngorms National Park Authority offices whilst discussions continue over the potential rebuilding of the historic Old Royal Station.
The devastating fire at Ballater’s Old Royal Station last month left VisitScotland Information Centre (VIC) staff, and a number of other businesses based within the Station, without premises. VisitScotland kindly appreciated the offer from the CNPA and their landlord, the Victoria and Albert Halls Trust, of shared accommodation and on Friday 15th May, VIC staff moved across the road to the CNPA offices.
The Old Royal Station is owned by Aberdeenshire Council and has been leased to VisitScotland for the last 15 years. The Council has confirmed further survey work has been undertaken and discussions are ongoing with Historic Scotland, so the temporary VIC move will become a longer term solution, potentially for 18-24 months.
Over the coming months, enhancements will be made to the VIC in terms of displays and shelving, along with a limited retail offering, accommodation booking service and ticket sales.
Philip Smith, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “Our thanks obviously go to the CNPA for offering us this accommodation which allows us to maintain a presence in Ballater – and symbolically in Station Square – and it is hoped this work will be undertaken by the end of June. I would also like to add thanks to our staff, for carrying on doing a brilliant job under the circumstances.
“It has been decided that the replica royal carriage, which appears to have only suffered some minor superficial damage, will remain in-situ for the time being, but will be protected and secured. All other exhibits from the museum have either been returned to their owners or are in the process of being returned. Items owned by VisitScotland will be stored in a secure location and now that contractors are able to enter the building, they will search for any ‘missing’ items.
“VisitScotland will work closely with Aberdeenshire Council as it moves forward with plans for a rebuild and that we look forward to discussing opportunities with a range of partners to offer an enhanced visitor information service for Ballater, Deeside and the Cairngorms. We are also aware that there is a community desire to enhance the heritage museum aspect and, again, we will be happy to work with these partners.”
Grant Moir, Chief Executive of the CNPA said: “It’s great news that the development of Station Square is already under consideration. Until a replacement is ready to be occupied again, we are very happy for VisitScotland to continue to share our offices at the Albert Memorial Hall and we are grateful to the Hall committee for their support on this.
“The VisitScotland Information Centre provides an important service for visitors to Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms National Park and we will be working with VisitScotland staff to ensure that not only do they feel at home in our offices but that their customers continue to get what they need.”
VisitScotland will work with Aberdeenshire Council and the wider Ballater community in relation to the design of an attractive display for the hoarding which is currently being built around the Royal Station site.
Councillor David Aitchison, chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services committee, said: “We are very pleased that the CNPA has been able to offer accommodation to allow the VIC to continue to operate during the busy summer season. It’s a great illustration of the support being shown by partners and the Ballater community as we work towards the longer term plans.
“Surveys are currently ongoing to assess the condition and structure of the remaining station building to assist in developing future plans. We will also be working with VisitScotland and the local community to develop an attractive display for the hoarding around the site that gives an impression of the station and the plans for its replacement.”