An Elgin park could be revamped and empty eyesore buildings renovated as part of the council’s 10-year vision for the town centre.
A draft masterplan has been published by Moray Council which highlights key areas of the town which will be the focus of wide-ranging improvements.
Cooper Park could be connected to the High Street via active travel corridors, offering a safe space for cyclists and walkers.
Fencing and vegetation around the front of the park would be removed and a new attractive gateway will be created to welcome people in.
The footbridge over the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road could also be replaced by a walking/cycling route into North Port.
The existing play park and mound could be upgraded and become more open and inclusive, with the public toilets relocated there and the skatepark expanded.
A sports hub will replace the existing sports pavilion and will include changing rooms, showers, storage, bike parking, and hire and flexible space.
Under the blueprint, the pond will be transformed, with a water fountain centre-piece in the form of an angel to be installed, and water-sports to take place there, with equipment hire available from the sports hub.
A 100-seat outdoor performance area is also planned, where live performances could take place.
Renovating disused old buildings
Moray Council wants to ensure the town centre is vibrant and pleasing to visitors and is targeting eyesore buildings such as the former Junners toy shop.
Empty since 2015, it is a substantial premise on South Street, with the owners failing to sell it.
Now, the local authority wants to transform it into a courtyard cafe/restaurant and modern flats.
The former Jailhouse nightclub and Grant Lodge would also be brought back into use as part of the proposals, along with the Sawmill and Auction Mart sites on Linkwood Road.
Plans to develop the auction mart into housing and a restaurant have been proposed before but fell through due to flooding concerns.
There is a vision to create at least 50 new residential homes in the town centre by 2030.
Properties above M&Co will also be targeted as new housing or potential hotel development.
Public art, illuminated panels and living walls would be used to brighten up the frontage along the A96 to make the road “less hostile” for walkers and cyclists.
The plans include revamping South Street the use of benches, planting, and street art to make it more welcoming.
The Poundland building would also be used as a mixed-use development to “improve negative perceptions of the street due to the imposing nature of the building that align it.”
It is currently undergoing urgent repairs over fears that stonework from its roof could plummet onto the pavement below.
Shopfronts in the town centre will be helped by an improvement scheme to make them more welcoming, and the “tired and dating” North Port precinct will be a main part of this.
Town centre improvements
The masterplan also outlines the partial pedestrianisation of Moss Street by restricting it to one lane for cars.
Batchen Lane is to be made more attractive through enhanced lighting, street furniture and planting.
The blank facade of TK Maxx would be improved through a new mural, illuminated panels, or a green ‘living wall.
Cafe culture will also be encouraged through outdoor seating areas throughout the area, including Batchen Street.
A Visit Elgin app will be developed, along with a new heritage trail, both by 2023.
Improvements will also be made to shabby-looking lanes in the town centre.
This will “encourage people to use them more frequently as they provide direct routes into the City Centre and are an important part of Elgin’s history.”
Harrow Inn Close, City Arms Close, Fife Arms Close, Hays Close, Red Lion Close, Shepherd’s Close and Branders Close will all be prioritised.
The Cultural Quarter has long been discussed by the council, with funding awarded through the Moray Growth Deal for it.
It involves Elgin Town Hall being transformed into a “cultural and creative learning and entertainment centre.”
The premises will eventually boast a restaurant, a small cinema space and learning spaces for creative industries and related courses with music and media studios.
The currently empty Grant Lodge will be refurbished and turned into a high-quality food and drink heritage visitor experience attracting 50,000 visitors per year.
It is hoped these projects will increase pedestrian footfall between Cooper Park and town centre shops by 15% between 2019 and 2030.
A high-quality four or five-star hotel will be developed at Lossie Green or another location to help support this.
Council leader Graham Leadbitter told the P&J: “Cooper Park is a focal point for Elgin and the wider community with a plethora of sports taking place in normal times.
“While Elgin has been a trading hub for centuries and has a huge amount to offer and the High Street has amazing open space and buildings.
“Looking forward it is important that we build on what we have and support economic recovery.
“It is also important that the town centre becomes desirable and links to the centre are safe and desirable for cyclists through the redesigning of roads and we bring life back to the town.”
Mr Leadbitter added that the projects within the masterplan will be funded through the Moray Growth Deal and private investment.
You can have your say on these plans here.