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John Trail Hotel

Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

North East Scotland Preservation Trust

Former bookshop to provide new visitor accommodation 

The former John Trail bookshop is a building of high historic and social significance for Fraserburgh and had been identified as a priority for restoration in the town centre. Comprising two buildings, with the earlier dating back from the late 18th century, the cluster was in poor condition following a fire in 2009 and was listed on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register.

A key challenge was the lack of owner. At the time of AHF’s first involvement, the buildings were deemed ‘bona vacantia’ – or ownerless – meaning that ownership had reverted to the Crown. Once the Crown had disclaimed any interest in the buildings the local authority was able to take on ownership – the next step was to find a willing developer to take on a restoration project.

North East Scotland Preservation Trust (NESPT) was set up in 1985 as a ‘revolving fund Building Preservation Trust’ to acquire and restore historic buildings which could not be restored by normal commercial means. This project involved exploring the possibility of converting the buildings into visitor accommodation, meeting a gap in current market provision. With relevant recent experience, NESPT sought and secured ‘preferred bidder status’ to deliver the project. The Trust was also committed to providing training and volunteering opportunities through the project, which is located in one of the 20% most deprived parts of Scotland.

The Architectural Heritage Fund assisted by providing a Project Viability Grant for an Options Appraisal which assessed the viability of different types of accommodation (hotel, guest house, bunkhouse, serviced apartments, or self-catering). This helped enable NESPT to make a successful pitch to develop the building as a small hotel, which led to the local authority transferring ownership to the Trust.

To an extent, it was the availability of various sources of regeneration and conservation capital funding (including funds co-ordinated through the Fraserburgh Heritage Regeneration 2021 Scheme) that drove project timescales. AHF was able to provide three successive development grants to fund three phases of work (to secure planning permission, building warrant, and preparation of tender documents) to get the project ready for a start on site. Capital works commenced in June 2020 and despite all Covid-related challenges Phase 1 is due to be completed in November 2021.    

John Trail building, Fraserburgh – NESPT

Image Credits

Philip Stewart Photographers and Paul Higson

AHF Funding 

Project Viability Grant - £3,000 (2017)

Project Development Grant - £10,000 (2019)

Project Development Grant - £10,000 (2019)

Project Development Grant - £10,000 (2019)

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