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Historic Highland building could be demolished


By Philip Murray

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Rose Street Drill Hall, Inverness.
Rose Street Drill Hall, Inverness.

A HISTORIC building in the very heart of the Highland capital may be demolished, it has emerged.

Rose Street Hall, located between Farraline Park bus station and Rose Street, is subject to a demolition warrant which expires by mid December.

The news has surprised residents of the city, many of whom were unaware that permission to demolish the building was already in place – or that it was approved almost three years ago during the height of the Covid pandemic lockdowns.

The building, which is not listed, has stood mostly vacant since the pandemic struck. Only the Station News shop facing onto Farraline Park remains open, with the backpackers hostel elsewhere in the building having never reopened its doors after the pandemic.

It is understood that the newsagents has now been informed by its landlord to vacate the building by October 31, which would leave the site completely unoccupied.

And a demolition warrant for the building is in force until December 12, meaning it could be razed to the ground any time from the end of October up to the Christmas period.

Owner of the site, SRP Inverness, which is behind plans for a new hotel on land immediately opposite the hall and next to the Spectrum Centre, has not confirmed if the hall's days are numbered. However SRP was the applicant which successfully secured the demolition warrant for Rose Street Hall back in 2020.

Permission to demolish the hall does not mean it will be acted upon. When asked specifically if reports that the hall was going to be demolished were true, Stewart Campbell – SRP Inverness's director and largest shareholder – did not give a direct answer, only stating that the business had no planning applications lined up for the site.

However, pending planning applications and existing building warrants are not the same thing.

And closer inspection of the warrant order reveals activity as recently as last month – according to Highland Council's own online records an "Application Commencement Date" was registered by the local authority on September 9. This could suggest that SRP Inverness, or agents acting on its behalf, were actively involved with the warrant less than a month ago.

SRP Inverness owns tRose Street Hall (left), and the site of the former two-storey car park on the opposite side of the bus station access road. Permission is in place for a hotel on the old car park (pictured right) and SRP has secured a separate permission to demolish the hall.
SRP Inverness owns tRose Street Hall (left), and the site of the former two-storey car park on the opposite side of the bus station access road. Permission is in place for a hotel on the old car park (pictured right) and SRP has secured a separate permission to demolish the hall.

SRP Inverness's application for its neighbouring multi-storey hotel, which has long been approved and is understood to be due to begin construction in the middle of next year, also adds weight to the idea that demolition is possible. That hotel application, which was approved in November 2020, included an archaeology report dated April 2019 that explicitly stated "Rose Street Hall will be renovated and incorporated into the new build" on the other side of the road.

However, a subsequent building demolition order, which is separate to that application, was later submitted by SRP Inverness and approved in December 2020, suggesting the company's intentions to retain the hall in some way had by that point changed.

And, in a further indication that it may intend to demolish the hall, an updated archaeology report submitted in 2023 in relation to the approved hotel planning application removed the sentence containing "Rose Street Hall will be renovated and incorporated into the new build" from a paragraph that was otherwise completely identical to the 2019 document.

With the three-year demolition order's permission period due to elapse on December 11, the intent to end Station News' tenancy by October 31 and the registration of an 'application commencement date' by the council on September 9 would suggest that moves are now afoot to level the building before the permission window times out.

The news of a demolition order for the hall has sparked a mix of responses online, with many reminiscing about its days as a nightclub and music venue.

Others welcomed the news, saying it had been allowed to become an eyesore in recent years.

John Robertson said: "Progress I guess. Inevitable after years of neglect."

Allan Dubh-Shith meanwhile wrote: "Thank god, it’s about time the building is an eyesore."

But Joanna Higgs responded to say "[It] should never have been allowed to become one."

And others like, Ruaraidh Ross, said: "Its a shame they couldn't have moved the Ironworks [music venue] in to there."

Morleen King, meanwhile, said it was "sad" news.


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