Work to restore a historic Aberdeenshire building gutted by a huge fire last year could begin this year at a cost of £3million.
Ballater’s Old Royal Station was ruined by a huge blaze in May 2015, destroying businesses Amy Muir Photography, Lucy’s Clothing, the Station Restaurant and a tourist information centre.
Aberdeenshire Council’s policy and resources committee backed plans to get the station up and running again last month in the hopes it could reopen in Christmas 2017.
A planning application has been submitted to the Cairngorms National Park Authority for permission to progress with the multi-million pound redevelopment.
The iconic B-listed building – used by Queen Victoria on her trips to nearby Balmoral Castle – was described as the “centrepiece of the village”.
Its Victorian waiting room and visitor centre can be salvaged, but the rest has to be knocked down and built up again.
It is hoped the new-look building, built in 1866, will be brought back to life as a community facility.
A VisitScotland information centre, public library and restaurant would site alongside the Royal waiting room and replica Victorian carriage.
There will be a new exhibition space extending along the old platform, taking the form of railway sheds – one dark copper and the other a golden copper alloy.
A new-look public square is also proposed outside the station, linking it with the Victoria and Albert Halls.
Work could start on site in November, with the station and exhibition space expected to open in late 2017.
The council’s Marr area manager, Janelle Clark, said: “Given the ordeal Ballater went through with flooding during Storm Frank earlier this year, not to mention a focal point of the village burning down, the rebuilding of the Royal Station and development of the public square will act as a key project in the wider economic recovery of Ballater and surrounding area.
“The aspiration was to create an integrated facility, allowing a more open internal space which will help create an enhanced community, cultural and heritage offering, providing a real focal point for visitors and the local community.”
Jo Robinson, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “It will be wonderful to see the incredibly popular Old Royal Station building recreated to its former glory.
“The proposed integrated building that will replace the former VisitScotland Information Centre will serve both visitors and locals alike, with information provision, a library and a restaurant.”
Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside councillor, Geva Blackett, said: “After months of discussion it is fantastic to see the reality of the planning application.
“While keeping to the original design on the outside, the building inside is innovative and airy – we will have a visitor facility and library fit for the 21st century and have a much loved cafe back again too.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed that the building will be open as quickly as possible.”