A massive crane has been erected in Elgin town centre ahead of demolition work finally beginning on the Poundland building.
The dangerous High Street structure has been covered in scaffolding for nearly three years after decades of neglect brought it to the brink of collapse in May 2018.
A vision has been approved to demolish large parts of the B-listed corner structure, which is most fondly remember as Woolworths, before rebuilding it in a similar style.
Contractors are now preparing for work to begin on the project with a huge crane currently overlooking the Poundland store and Elgin town centre.
The crane towers over other buildings in Elgin town centre.
Crane arrival welcomed but still ‘no end in sight’ for Elgin town centre disruption
Poundland concluded a deal to buy the store in December 2019 after negotiations for the previous landlord to fund the extensive repairs broke down.
Elgin City South councillor John Divers, who is a director of the business improvement district, has praised the retailer’s commitment to the High Street.
He said: “Most people would have jumped away when this happened, I think Poundland’s response has surprised a lot of people.
“I’ve seen them working on the scaffolding outside before and this will be seen as a positive step by a lot of people because they can see progress.
“I’ve seen all kinds of great plans over the years where people say when stuff will be done and then it never happens so it’s certainly positive.
“I wouldn’t say the end is in sight though. This is going to be a long job so we’re going to be living with it for a while yet.”
Building flaws blamed for current state
Assessments of the Poundland building blamed “inherent flaws” in the design of the Victorian building, which was built in 1856 as a house and bank, for its current state.
However, it is believed that a prolonged period of “inappropriate repairs”, “lack of maintenance” and alterations, predominantly during the 70-year tenure of Woolworths, have exacerbated the defects.
Water pouring through the roof of the building has caused the current weakness in the structure.
The disruption has led to the town centre’s North Street being closed since the building’s dangerous condition came to a head in May 2018.
Poundland’s vision for the building will involve it being rebuilt with the upper two stories brought back into use as accommodation.
Meanwhile, an extension stretching down North Street with two ground floor shops and another 17 flats on upper floors has also been planned.
A Poundland spokesman said: “It’s great to see this huge crane on site so that remedial work can start on the unsafe parts of the building.
“This will take until the late summer and the reconstruction work will start in the autumn and take about 18 months.
“Our store in Elgin High Street will remain open serving our customers throughout the work.
“Once work on the building is complete it will be a fantastic asset for Elgin and we’re looking forward to playing a big part in the town’s regeneration.”