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Lifeline for Ship Inn? Councillors launch defiant effort to save Banff pub

The Ship Inn has made plenty headlines over the past few months...

Councillors have launched a defiant last-ditch attempt to save Banff’s Local Hero bar after hearing how the owner has “run it downhill”.

For more than 30 years, film fans from all over have enjoyed a pint in the Ship Inn.

Bill Forsyth’s 1983 movie made stars of parts of Scotland with Pennan in Aberdeenshire standing in for the fictional Ferness.

Just a few miles away from the picturesque village, it was the Banff pub that was used as the interior of the Macaskill Arms.

Stars Peter Riegert and Denis Lawson played out some of the movie’s most famous scenes there and it has since been hailed as a “jewel in the crown” of the area.

Denis Lawson and Peter Riegert behind the bar at the Ship Inn, in Banff.

Dispute between councillors and staff

This summer, owner George Wood outraged fans of the film by announcing plans to turn the Deveronside pub into two flats.

Council planning officers recommended that the move be approved by the Banff and Buchan area committee today.

But councillors instead voted to defer any decision, blasting a lack of information on the potential effect on other businesses.

A report will now be completed on how the change could impact the local economy.

An image from the film, with actor Denis Lawson behind the bar. Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock

Owner to blame for decline of Ship Inn, Banff expert claims

Quantity surveyor, Julian Watson, urged councillors to seek more answers before consigning the Ship Inn to the history books.

Mr Watson claimed the bar’s downfall was caused by poor management in recent years.

He said: “It is without a doubt a tourist facility, and the report has no comment on the economic impact this will have.

“Many pubs are failing, we can’t deny that. 

“But we are now down to three in Banff at a time when tourism here is exploding.

“This corner is seeing tourism like we have never seen it before, and this pub has got a lot of potential.

“The owner took it over in 2008 and has generally run it downhill, people just aren’t going there.”

Councillors were today shown images of the Ship Inn revealing some work has already started there.

Mr Watson said that “some people” had expressed an interest in taking on the pub but could not say for sure “how serious they are”.

Plea to look at plans ‘from a professional perspective’

The application attracted objections from six members of the public citing the bar’s links to Local Hero as a reason to save it.

Film critic Mark Kermode, his radio show co-host Simon Mayo and Denis Lawson himself also argued that the bar should be preserved.

Scroll back and forth to see the potential changes for yourself –

But local authority planning chief Jim Martin stressed that the proposal was endorsed by various council departments.

And he claimed there were no valid reasons to knock it back.

“We have to look at this from a professional perspective,” he added.

The lone voice in support of his recommendation was Banff councillor Michael Roy.

He said: “I don’t think we should be directing him [the owner] as to what he does with his own property.”

The Ship Inn: Banff bar already undergoing work in this recent image

What can be done to save Ship Inn, Banff councillor asks

Banff and District councillor Glen Reynolds led the crusade to save the Ship Inn.

He said: “To sell off this great piece of family silver would be very regrettable.

“To lose this really would be to lose a jewel in the crown.”

He was backed by Mark Findlater and John Cox, who called for more information on how the plans could hit trade at the town’s remaining bars.

The area committee voted 6-1 in favour of deferring the decision.

Film critic Mark Kermode told podcast listeners that walking into the Ship Inn years ago was “like stepping into a movie”.