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Elgin cultural quarter: Moray Council begins search for contractors to lead regeneration of landmarks

Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter in Cooper Park.
Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter in Cooper Park.

Moray Council has begun the search to find contractors to write the next chapter for some of the region’s most well-known landmarks as part of its “cultural quarter” vision.

Grant Lodge, Cooper Park and the Town Hall in Elgin are poised to receive major overhauls as part of the £31million project.

Last week the authority committed funding to try and reopen the doors on the historic B-listed landmark as a heritage attraction.

Now the council has published notices to begin the search for contractors to draw up designs for the cultural quarter area, which is intended to be the flagship of the Moray’s growth deal.

The information has revealed more information about the proposals, including the creation of a centre-piece fountain and the reestablishment of boating in the Cooper Park pond.

A cafe christened Slainte-Mhath is planned for Grant Lodge as part of an attraction called “Stories from the Shadows” revealing untold tales from the region – with Macbeth and the Wolf of Badenoch due to take centre stage.

It is also hoped the venue, which has been closed to the public since a fire in 2003, will help signpost other destinations to visitors.

Meanwhile, the planned £9million refurbishment of Elgin Town Hall includes a small cinema, flexible event rooms and a multi-purpose performance space.

Information published by the council explains it expects contractors to be appointed in March with workshops due to take place through the summer to help shape the cultural quarter designs.

A privately-funded £9million hotel with up to 100 bedrooms has also been earmarked for the area to cater to coach tours and business needs.

Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Moray Council has reported “strong” interest in the hotel opportunity, which will be a four or five-star site.

Moray growth deal: Package accelerated to help region bounce back from Covid-19

Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter explained the cultural quarter project would help rejuvenate some of Elgin’s most prominent landmarks while attracting more visitors to the area.

He said: “As an example, Elgin Town Hall is used by individuals and groups from all over Moray and beyond, supporting theatre productions and bringing in acts that are attracted to Moray by a larger capacity venue.

“There is a real opportunity to maximise the use of that space for many years to come and provide value to even more people in the region.”

The cultural quarter project is part of the £300million Moray Growth Deal.

The Scottish Government has pledged £12.7million for the scheme, the UK Government £3.5million while last week Moray Council agreed to dedicate £3.9million of funding.

Grant Lodge, Elgin

The rest of the investment is due to come from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the private sector.

Work is expected to begin on-site in 2024.

Stuart Black, HIE’s area manager in Moray, said: “The Elgin cultural quarter will breathe new life into two much-loved venues in Moray and give the area’s rich cultural offering a new platform. It will also support both tourism and creative industries, important sectors in Moray that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

“We are very pleased to be able to offer our support. The funding for the design works should enable the projects to get started early in the Moray Growth Deal and aid economic recovery.”

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