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Furniture store proposal sparks row over out of town developments in Elgin

The new showroom could create up to 50 new jobs.
The new showroom could create up to 50 new jobs.

A leading business group is pleading with Moray Council to throw out plans for a new £3.5million furniture showroom – fearing it could kill off a burgeoning town centre.

Grampian Furnishers want to relocate from Lossiemouth to Elgin, and have earmarked a site on the eastern outskirts of Elgin next to the A96 Aberdeen road. The move would allow the firm to expand, and create 50 new jobs.

But, the town’s business improvement district (Bid) has objected to the proposals, arguing units at the established Edgar Road retail estate remain empty.

And the group has voiced “grave concerns” the project could set a precedent that would further drive business out of Elgin’s historic centre.

Last night Grampian Furnishers’ managing director, Royce Clark, criticised the Bid’s objection – calling on them to look at the “bigger picture”.

Mr Clark claimed the firm’s “significant investment” in the local economy would have knock-on benefits for Elgin’s town centre.

He said: “As a local business, we were disappointed when we saw the objection put in.

“The Bid should look at the bigger picture for Elgin, and the rest of Moray, as a whole and not just be concentrating on the town centre.

“Working with different businesses can make the whole area attractive and attract even more investment to Elgin.”

Mr Clark believes the large showroom, which could also include offices, a cafe and parking for 110 vehicles, could become part of a “gateway to Elgin”.

But defending their decision to lodge an objection, Bid’s manager Gill Neill said members had a “duty” to help town centre businesses prosper while responding to new retail developments elsewhere.

She said: “Opening a third area of retail development out with the centre would set a precedent, which would undoubtedly have a negative impact for the businesses operating there.

“It’s clear to see the out of town developments continue to put pressure on the centre, who face additional pressures such as car parking charges which out of town retailers don’t have to compete with.”

Mrs Neill added: “The local economic plan clearly states that the current out of town provision must be full and the impact of this assessed before there are any more areas of retail opened up.”

Moray Council’s planning committee is expected to have the final say over whether to approve the controversial proposal due to it going against authority regulations.

The site, which is on the northern side of the A96 on the approach to Elgin from Lhanbryde, is currently set aside for an industrial estate, directly prohibiting shops.

Mr Clark has threatened to uproot the firm, which was established in Elgin in 1975 before relocating to its Lossiemouth home, and move it to Aberdeen or Inverness if his proposals are not approved.

A derelict steading, cottage and former dairy at Linkwood will have to be demolished in order to make way for the large new building.

Alistair Kennedy, chairman of Elgin Community Council, said it was difficult to strike a balance between allowing local firms to expand while protecting the town centre.

He said: “If it’s approved then it should just be a one-off. It shouldn’t be allowed to become a precedent. We found it a very difficult one to discuss.

“Royce has said there’s nowhere the right size for him in Elgin – I have no reason not to believe him.

“The main thing for us is that it should be screened off from the road. It’s quite an attractive drive to Elgin from that side and it would be nice to keep it like that.”

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