Should the two buildings officially named as Lanark’s worst eyesores be demolished or should a last-minute attempt be mounted to save them?
That was the question facing the latest meeting of Lanark Community Council which came down by seven votes to two to have the former Royal Oak Hotel and Regal Cinema/Vogue Bingo Club in Bannatyne Street pulled down and the sites used to build new social housing.
The now derelict Royal Oak was a Victorian showpiece during Lanark’s spell as a popular tourist spot while the now shabby Regal was built in 1936 and is accredited with having been one of the finest surviving art-deco Scottish cinemas.
The community council heard that both South Lanarkshire Council and the Lanark Community Development Trust had both identified the buildings as the town centre’s major eyesores. Both buildings are among the first visitors to the Royal Burgh see when they get off the train at Lanark Station or from a bus at the adjoining stance.
The chance to redevelop the sites came with a Scottish Government offer to councils and development trusts of ‘quickie’ grants for town centre improvement projects of over £50,000 that could be planned and carried out rapidly.
The Royal Oak/Regal demolitions and replacements had been planned for some time and so could be simply taken ‘off the shelf’ as the council and trust’s priority submissions for a share of the government cash.
Community Council chairman Frank Gunning, who is also a member of the Development Trust, recommended the council send the Trust a letter of support for the demolition schemes.
There were two dissenting voices, Leonard Gray and Ed Archer expressing their fears that the council was being rushed into a decision; Mr Archer pleaded that restoration of the buildings be at least considered before knocking them down.
However, community councillors voted 7-2 to back the SLC/Development Trust scheme and bid for grants.