Plans to secure the future of the crumbling Loudoun Castle estate will be discussed this week.

East Ayrshire Council cabinet meets on Wednesday and will be asked to approve supplementary guidance on the council’s approach to the historic estate for inclusion in the recently approved Local Development Plan 2 (LDP2).

The draft guidance outlines the type and scale of development that would be allowed on the estate, which has sat empty since the closure of Loudoun Castle Theme Park in 2010.

Much of the guidance appears to set out some of the issues that resulted in the refusal of a proposed £450m holiday resort.

That project would have included 450 luxury lodges, indoor water park and leisure complex.

More than 1000 new homes were also planned to support the restoration of the historic buildings.

The application had been deemed ‘unacceptable’ by EAC, a view which was backed by the Scottish Government Ministers.

Transport Scotland also indicated that the traffic issues at the Bellfield Roundabout should limit housing to 250 units. 

The report points out that the problem at the interchange has only increased since.

The main issues with that plan had been the impact of such a large housing development on the estate, the lack of certainty that the housing would lead to restoration, and the lack of a ‘master plan’ for the estate as a whole.

The new guidance sought for LDP2 formalises the council’s position that any development should primarily be for a tourist attraction with  a minimum of housing to enable the restoration work.

The draft guidance to go before cabinet states that ‘the appropriate and sympathetic development of this site is supported by the council as it has the potential to bring significant positive environmental, economic and social benefits to East Ayrshire and the wider area while safeguarding the future of important national historical assets’.

If approved, the guidance would ‘encourage development within those areas of the site considered to be least sensitive and most suitable for the development uses (tourism, leisure, tourist accommodation) and only support development that is sensitive to the heritage value and landscape character of the site’.

Loudoun Castle estate comprises a ruinous early 19th century country house incorporating earlier castle fabric, walled garden, surrounding cottages, plantations and pastureland. 

The gardens are deemed of “national importance” along with a number of listed buildings.

The report outlines the poor condition of the estate: “Substantial areas of masonry are failing, whilst others exhibit endemic loss of the mortar matrix and severe structural movement.

"The remaining sections of the east tower and the south-eastern portions of the fabric give particular cause for concern. 

“The condition of the estate has been degraded in a number of locations through lack of management, loss of designed landscape elements, defunct theme park features and encroachment of development along its southern boundary. 

“The setting of the estate is affected by a background of industrial features including Whitelee windfarm and electricity transmission towers. 

“Despite this the overall pattern of the estate north of the A71 appears remarkably similar to that seen in 19th Century mapping, and the estate landscape makes a noticeable contribution to local landscape character, including elements that have been part of the landscape for many years.”

The draft guidance states that the council would support a scheme of consolidation works to the castle and a scheme of restoration works to the garden and designed landscape.

However, this would not require the castle be renovated and brought back into active uses.

Instead, it could involve stabilisation and future proofing the remaining structure.

The report sets out the types of developments that would not be supported, echoing the issues with the refused application.

It states: “The council will not be supportive of any application that requires a level of enabling development that would irreversibly have a significant detrimental impact on the integrity of the garden and designed landscape.

“A previous planning application  included a high volume of housing, which was deemed to have a significant detrimental impact on the value and amenity of the garden and designed landscape. 

“While the council support the redevelopment as outlined, the primary purpose of the allocation is to bring some significant economic and socio benefit to the wider area while securing the long-term future of the castle and associated garden and designed landscape.

“As such, housing must form a minimal part of the mix of uses on site as possible in order to safeguard and prevent the deterioration of the value and character of the garden and designed landscape.”

If the draft guidance is approved, it will go out to  public consultation.