LANARK now has so many derelict and rundown buildings, parts of the town look like “a disaster area.”
This harsh verdict is all the more damning because it comes from a man who has been a lifelong champion of the Royal Burgh, Community Council chairman Frank Gunning.
His remark came during a discussion at the latest council meeting on the first sight that greets visitors when they get off the trains at Lanark Station or from buses at the adjoining stance.
Commented Frank: “When folk step off the train or bus, they must think they’ve arrived in a disaster area. There’s the Royal Oak Hotel sitting, rotting away and The Vogue Bingo Club across the road looking the worse for wear.”
(The Vogue’s owner, Martin Carroll, has been repeatedly quoted in the Gazette, bemoaning the lack of any grants to help restore the classic 1930s’ art-deco cinema into which he has sunk tens of thousands of pounds of his own money to keep afloat.)
The chairman remarked that those touring other parts of town would come across the shabby former auction ring at the Braidfute Retail Park, the derelict Tote building at the racecourse and the forlorn-looking former Lanark Grammar science block in the Wellgatehead.
“There are just too many buildings like that dotted about Lanark now. I understand that the Grammar building is up for sale. It could still be a major asset to the town if someone could go ahead with a plan to turn it into an arts centre.”
Lanark SLC member Councillor Ed Archer told the meeting that a gathering of those interested in the arts centre project were to meet soon to discuss the way forward; funding had been found to carry out a proper survey of the building and this might finally re-discover a long-lost Thirties mural reputedly plastered over a former classroom wall. It was created by the then-famous ‘Glasgow Girl’ artist Jessie King.
A community council member, Eleanor McLean, said that, on a recent tour of the town she had taken visitors on, one of the party had remarked what a fine retirement/care home the old Grammar building could make, being a single-storey structure.
She added that Lanark Development Trust planned to put history-themed, illustrated information boards in the bottom floor windows of the old Royal Oak building.
One Lanark building which has entirely disappeared from view, the former market wooden auction ring, was, it was reported to the meeting, still in existance and stored in a dismantled state in a Carstairs yard; a proposal to re-erect it as a museum was being investigated.