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‘Lessons need to be learned’: Hopes Poundland works in Elgin will finally end in 2024

Elgin town centre has been disrupted by the building works since it was sealed off nearly six years ago.

Poundland building in Elgin surrounded by scaffolding.
The Poundland building in Elgin has been surrounded by scaffolding for nearly six years. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

It has already taken nearly six years, but there are hopes 2024 will finally be the year Poundland works on Elgin High Street will come to an end.

The prominent corner building has been surrounded by safety perimeters since May 2018.

That was when Moray Council served an enforcement notice on the dangerous structure.

Pavements have been closed and traffic diverted for years as specialists worked out what to do about the building.

The Covid pandemic and a fire delayed the works, but now there is hope there is an end in sight this year.

However, Moray Chamber of Commerce says lessons need to be learned from the disruption to ensure it never happens again.

Close-up of Poundland building through scaffolding.
Glimpses of the new building can be seen through the scaffolding. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

‘We need to learn from Poundland disruption’

For nearly six years North Street has been closed in Elgin town centre due to the Poundland works.

The road was the primary route for vehicles from the west end of the High Street to leave the area, including for taxis.

This has meant traffic being diverted up narrow Batchen Street. Vehicles have to drive across the road’s flat and kerbless pavements to get round parked cars.

Sarah Holmes outside Pencil Me In.
Pencil Me In shop owner Sarah Holmes hopes the end of Poundland works in 2024 will boost Batchen Street businesss in Elgin. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Motorists have had to weave in and out of shoppers at times to make their way off the High Street.

Businesses on Batchen Street hope the end of the Poundland works in Elgin will allow them to take advantage of the area outside their front door again in 2024.

Sarah Holmes, who runs Pencil Me In, said: “It will allow us to return to the partial pedestrianisation of Batchen Street, which really helps positive customer behaviour as they can dander up the street looking in shop windows without panicking about cars zooming towards them, their children or their dog.

Pedestrians and traffic on Batchen Street in Elgin.
Batchen Street has been more congested during the Poundland works. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

“Little things like the reduction in noise and dirt that comes with continuous traffic will also be welcome.

“Overall, it will just be great for that part of the town to be looking great and back to normal.

“I imagine it will take time for drivers to stop using Batchen Street. I’d like to see some help from Moray Council, Elgin Bid, police and Poundland themselves to re-educate drivers.”

How Poundland stepped in to save Elgin building

A lack of maintenance by previous owners of the Poundland building was blamed for it deteriorating to its dangerous state.

Water was allowed to pour in through the roof for years, causing sections of the sandstone building to become unstable.

It is understood some of the upper floors in the building had collapsed, which led to the enforcement action from Moray Council.

Sarah Medcraf leaning against wall on South Street in Elgin.
Moray Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sarah Medcraf. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

The B-listed building opened as the A&W Reid bank in 1856. It is most fondly remembered in Elgin as the former home of Woolworths.

Poundland was the most recent tenant with a lack of investment from previous owners blamed for the situation.

In a historic move, the retailer bought the building to make it the first of its 800 nationwide stores it had ever owned to ensure repairs were done.

Deconstructed Poundland building viewed from above.
The deconstructed Poundland building in September 2021. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

A project to dismantle the building and rebuild it with the upper floors to be used as flats was then commissioned.

‘Having an end in sight is exciting’

Sarah Medcraf is chief executive of Moray Chamber of Commerce.

She said: “Elgin town centre has been impacted by the works for many years. Having an end in sight is very exciting.

“Not only will we see the renovation work of a large building on the High Street and how it now fits in to the landscape, but access through North Street will take the pressure of Batchen Street and South Street and will open up more short-stay parking and taxi spaces.

Artist impression of completed Poundland building.
An artist impression of the redeveloped Poundland building. Image: Poundland

“As a region we need to learn from the disruption that this has caused to prevent a repeat of this situation. It has negatively impacted businesses and footfall in the town.”

Poundland was contacted to comment.