A CUMNOCK hotel owner has told how he had a lucky escape from a blaze which ripped through his Belliesle Hotel property which he had planned to develop into one of Scotland’s most luxury hotels.

John Campbell who also owns Cumnock’s Dumfries Arms and Auchinleck’s Railway Hotel has told how the fire at the historic building was a tragedy.

John was working alongside two others on the roof on Friday, June 14, when a spark ignited and the historic building went up in flames.

The owner of Campbell Inns told the Cumnock Chronicle: “We were very close to being trapped on that roof. There could have been a fatality.

“We had a fire extinguisher which is needed when doing that kind of work, but it was completely useless. We tried out best, but we just had to get out. It could have been a lot worse.”

The three men including were torching felt with gas on the roof after a coup of lead was taken from the premises the previous week.

John had planned to set up a luxury hotel which would rival Loch Lomond’s Cameron House, but he has been gutted by the devastating fire.

He added: “That building is irreplaceable. It’s an absolute tragedy that this has happened. We kept the original hand carved Burns fireplace as we couldn’t possibly move it. It was priceless and was going to be the centre piece of the reception area.

“We also kept the Fountainbleau restaurant which was beautifully put together.

“It’s such a massive loss and tragic for Ayr.”

The luxury hotel in the works had the potential for 80 rooms and was going to take up to two years to construct, with a huge extension planned.

Plans included a state-of-the-art spa, fitness facility and swimming pool, as well as a function space to cater for weddings that when finished was set to be a five-star venue.

Despite the devastation caused by the fire, John is defiant in the project and hopes that when the dust settles the mansion can be restored.

John said: “We want to rebuild it. If South Ayrshire council give us permission that we need, we can still rebuild it. The biggest tragedy is that it is such a historic building. We want it have a legacy in Ayr.”

John was left furious by South Ayrshire Council’s handling of his plans over the past six years. leaving an uphill battle to get the property ready.

John told the Cumnock Chronicle: “They (South Ayrshire Council) have handled all of this very poorly. We have had to over come every obstacle.

“When they first gave us planning permission, they requested we put 127 car parking spaces in. But the land could not hold it. They wouldn’t comply.”

John first bought the mansion from the council in 2013, with plans in place for the dream hotel.

But he encountered problems when lodging plans to build on the grassy area surrounding the building.

In 2017, the dispute was heard out at a public meeting where it was argued that the reason for no progress being made on the development which due to a fall out over the use of land outside the hotel.

John added: “It’s the council’s fault that the building wasn’t finished, if they had given us permission it would be open by now.”