In the last 10 years, Moray Council has invested millions into various regeneration projects to try to revive its towns.
The struggles of town centres have been well documented, with the surge of online shopping and plummeting footfall.
Regeneration projects can be like marmite, but they have played a key role in helping struggling Moray towns.
Now a Freedom of Information request has revealed the Moray Council’s cash contribution since 2011 to each regeneration project in Dufftown, Buckie, Elgin, Keith and Forres.
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Together, the Castle to Cathedral to Cashmere project and the conservation area regeneration scheme (Cars) poured £3 million of investment into some of Elgin’s oldest buildings.
The initiatives funded refurbishments to landmarks like the Muckle Cross and the Plainstones fountain.
In Keith, the conservation area scheme ran from 2012 until 2016 which landed £2million.
This project gave Mid Street, Reidhaven Square and Chapel Street a much needed makeover.
Meanwhile, other towns such as Buckie, Forres and Dufftown have benefited from schemes like the Moray Leader Programme and Town Centre Capital Fund.
Team effort is ‘crucial’ to ensure Moray is an attractive place
Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter believes working together is vital to ensure these regeneration projects are a success.
He said: “Working together as businesses, public bodies and community is vital to ensure Moray remains an attractive place.
“Schemes like the Elgin and Keith Cars schemes, Money for Moray and the Moray Towns Partnership have supported new business start-ups.
“It also enables upper storeys to be converted into residential.
“The Keith Cars scheme was really effective.
“Going forward decisions are already being taken in further investment like Buckie Harbour, sustainable travel in Speyside and leisure investment in Forres.
“Investment in a various of facilities and incentives is important to support economy growth and get the best possible recovery from Covid.
Moray regeneration boosted footfall
Buckie Regeneration Group’s chairwoman Sonya Warren highlighted the Moray Town Partnership which ran between 2009 and 2018.
This partnership brought Buckie, Forres, Keith and Lossiemouth together to bring economic benefits.
The projects that received money from the partnership included the Fishwives Walk which continues to be popular with visitors.
The 13-mile path was traditionally used by fishwives to make a 26-mile round trip from Buckie harbour to Keith and back again.
The women would make the journey carrying 40lb creels of fish on their backs, and often return the same day weighed down with heavy churns of milk.
‘Positive impact on Buckie’
Mrs Warren told the P&J: “It has had a positive impact on Buckie and we see people coming to the area.
“I know in Buckie we saw an increase in footfall.
“Working with the four towns was a benefit to the community.
“It was sad we couldn’t carry the funding because the partnership would have brought more Moray activities together.”
More investment needed in Moray towns
Rhona Patterson, chairwoman of the Keith and Strathisla Regeneration Partnership, said: “The Keith Cars was massive for the town and a huge boost.
“Investing in the town is great and it was quite a while ago so we would like some more investment.
“A lot of businesses have improved but there are always opportunities to grow.”
‘Funding played an important part’
Meanwhile, Forres Heritage Trust’s project to open up the walkway around the Tolbooth clocktower as a tourist attraction has benefited from funding.
The group’s chairman George Alexander said: “We received £9,375 from the Town Centre Regeneration Funding for the clocktower project.
“We are still waiting for final planning and building warrant to make the walk safe.
“We appreciate the funding and it played an important part.”