The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory (SDSO) trustees have announced that a rebuild of the former site would not be possible and that a new location for a future build will be looked at.

We announced last year that East Ayrshire councillors had approved a funding request for a feasibility study to explore options to replace the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.

The popular venue was ravaged by fire in June 2021.

When the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory first opened in October 2012, it was the world’s first large public use observatory within an International Dark-Sky Association designated gold tier Dark Sky Park.

Cumnock Chronicle: Fire damage from 2021.Fire damage from 2021. (Image: Danny Cameron)

Following the conslusion of the study, it was found that a rebuild would not be financially sustainable in the long term, and that new site options will be explored.

A SDSO board of trustees statement said: "As we announced in a joint press release last year, with financial support from East Ayrshire Council we commissioned third-party consultants to examine the feasibility of rebuilding on the formerly leased site.

"The results of the detailed study made clear that a rebuild on that site could not be financially sustainable long term.

"Multiple negative factors, all of which adversely impacted the charitable business throughout its history, were influential in the determination process; amongst them poor access and lack of services/facilities.

"Ultimately, this informed the Trustees’ evidence-based decision that the SDSO will not be returning to its former site."

Trustees added that they had concluded a lengthy insurance claim in April of this year.

They added that the process took longer than they had expected.

Cumnock Chronicle: The fire from a distance.The fire from a distance. (Image: NQ Archive)

Their statement continued: "For the last several months we have been exploring a number of new site options, a task made more challenging because of our specific set of requirements.

A new site not only requires dark skies free from light pollution, but it is also vital that it offers greatly improved visitor access, the provision of mains power and water supplies, communications, and the ability to ensure the security of both the site and the building.

At present, we are in negotiations with respect to possible sites for a new Observatory facility. Unfortunately, the procurement process is lengthy. These negotiations are commercially sensitive and, for the meantime, are being treated as confidential by both parties.

"We are not able to disclose or discuss any further details in this regard until such time as an agreement in principle has been reached.

We will be investing a considerable sum in a new observatory. We will also need to raise additional funding to achieve our goal of creating an enhanced facility, even more ambitious than before, to protect the future viability of the project.

"As such, first and foremost, the trustees have a duty of responsibility to the charitable business to ensure that the investment is made wisely and has the best possible opportunity and conditions in which to achieve the highest levels of success.

"The new observatory must be financially self-sustainable throughout future years for the benefit of many future generations."

Trustees added that they accepted that some with a keen interest in the future of the SDSO will find this news disappointing or frustrating.

They said: "We hope that those people will come to understand the position. Although we have appeared silent, we have been working hard on the many and varied steps required to move the build project forward.

"The current campaign of criticism against the trustees being promoted via Facebook contains a number of incorrect impressions that appear to be based on little more than conjecture. We trust that this statement sets the record straight.

"We fully recognise how valuable the new SDSO will be as an educational and tourism asset, not just for the south-west, but for the whole of Scotland and beyond. Every decision we take is with the very best interests of the charitable business at its core.

"We will continue to take a considered and measured approach in order to achieve the best possible future outcomes for the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory."