Conservation masterplans drawn up to protect the historic character of two towns in Moray could be used to guide future developments.
Blueprints on the heritage of buildings in Keith and Forres will be debated tomorrow to decide whether they become set in stone as planning regulations.
Officials have delved into the past of the towns to decide what traditional aspects of them should be preserved for future generations.
Major developments from the late 18th century in Keith have survived to the present day, with the open spaces and buildings at Reidhaven Square recognised as “high quality”.
Stone carvings and architectural decorations on town centre fronts in Forres were also singled out for praise.
But officials also recognised the blight empty buildings were now causing and the damage they could be doing to regeneration in the town.
Forres councillor George Alexander believes “flexibility” should be allowed in the documents to allow for empty buildings to be swept aside.
He said: “I certainly don’t see any point in conservation orders protecting a building that nobody is going to spend any money on.
“It’s something I’ve been plugging away with for a while with small successes – I managed to get the old mart in Forres demolished with just the old fronts retained.”
Mr Alexander warned the conservation area rules would also cover resident living in the zones wanting to replace doors and windows.
Moray Council’s planning committee will meet tomorrow to decide whether the documents become part of authority regulations so they can be better enforced – they are currently only used as
guidance for officers and residents.
In a report for members, authority planning officer Keith Henderson believed setting up designated areas to protect historical buildings could help to attract more visitors to the region.
He said: “Conservation area character appraisals will assist in delivering the council and community planning partners aim in understanding the ‘sense of place’ of Moray’s conservation areas.
“A better understanding of Moray’s cultural heritage and sense of identity can enrich the lives of local communities as well as playing a significant role for the tourism industry.”