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Elgin’s unexpected £20 million boost from UK Government: What will the money be spent on?

Several locations in the town could get a significant face lift from the money.

Artist impression of refurbished South Street
Moray Council believes South Street is among the areas in Elgin town centre with untapped potential. Image: Moray Council

Elgin could be poised for a massive refurbishment after securing a surprise £20 million boost from the UK Government.

The unexpected cash came during a conference speech from Rishi Sunak in a pledge to help “run-down” towns.

Moray Council has already drawn up a blueprint for what the money could be spent on. The area was overlooked for UK Government support less than a year ago.

Bringing empty town centre buildings back into use, revamping Cooper Park, reopening Grant Lodge and gull control are all part of the Elgin town centre masterplan.

Aerial view of St Giles' Church looking across Elgin High Street and rest of town.
It is hopes the funding will encourage businesses to move into the town centre. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

It is expected that the blueprint will be dusted off to form the foundations of a new spending plan.

However, talks are expected between Moray Council, the UK Government and Scottish Government before the money is spent.

Here are some of the projects in the Elgin town centre masterplan that could receive a share of the funding.

‘Making Elgin town centre more attractive’

A total of 15 separate projects have been identified in Elgin town centre to help make the area “more attractive” for businesses and shoppers.

At the core of the proposals is the refurbishment of empty properties to encourage firms to move in or convert them into homes.

Specific buildings identified include the former Jailhouse nightclub and Newmarket Bar.

The former Junners toy store, the former Elgin Club on Commerce Street and the former church and print works on South Street have also been put in the spotlight.

Aerial view of former Jailhouse nightclub.
Moray Council says the former Jailhouse nightclub in Elgin is one of the hardest sites to redevelop in the town. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

South Street has been identified as an area that could be “significantly more attractive” with landscaping, public art and shop front improvements.

North Port has also been earmarked for improvements to entice people into the town centre with a possible new bridge to Cooper Park.

Street murals facing the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road have also been suggested on the rear of High Street buildings to create a more “positive impression” of Elgin.

More public art, refurbishing lanes off the High Street and controlling vehicle access to Batchen Street are also in the masterplan.

Looking at entrance to St Giles Centre from High Street.
Talks have been suggested with the owners of the St Giles Centre. Image: Jasperimage

Meanwhile, Moray Council has suggested contacting the owners of the St Giles Centre to find ways to encourage business to relocate into it.

And gull control measures have been proposed for new buildings alongside more work to raise awareness on how to deter the birds as well as waste management.

The Wolf of Badenoch statue could also be moved from its current location at the west end of the High Street due to concerns it is currently “lost”.

Reopening Grant Lodge as ‘food and drink experience’ in Elgin

Moray Council estimates that a refurbished and expanded Grant Lodge as a food and drink visitor attraction could pull in 50,000 visitors a year.

The historic B-listed 18th Century former home has fallen into disrepair following a devastating fire in 2003.

The focus of the proposed attraction is intended to be the Speyside whisky industry with a viewing platform overlooking Cooper Park part of the proposals.

Artist impression of refurbished Grant Lodge looking towards Elgin Cathedral.
Artist impression of refurbished Grant Lodge. Image: Moray Council

However, documents explain that a range of food and drink could be showcased with shortbread, Cullen skink and soup other possibilities.

It is hoped that the refurbished Grant Lodge will encourage people to spend longer in Cooper Park.

Elgin Cultural Quarter: Timeline for work to start on two major buildings revealed as a ‘guide target’

Cooper Park and Elgin Town Hall

Improvements to Cooper Park, Elgin Town Hall and Grant Lodge are part of what Moray Council has branded a “cultural quarter”.

Proposals for Elgin Town Hall include getting rid of the current “tired” concrete exterior alongside modern extensions.

Artist's impression of entrance to Elgin Town Hall.
The entrance to Elgin Town Hall could be redeveloped. Image: Moray Council

It is also hoped that the water feature and flag poles will be brought back into use.

Work inside the building has also been proposed to improve the flow of guests. Some touring companies are known to overlook Elgin due to the venue’s layout and design.

A new sports pavilion and an outdoor performance venue have been listed as possible additions to Cooper Park.

Artist impression of Cooper Park pond looking towards Grant Lodge with boats in water and boy playing with kite.
Artist’s impression of redeveloped boating pond in Cooper Park. Image: Moray Council

Work has been suggested on the boat pond to bring it back into use. New “gateways” to make entrances to the park clearer have been proposed.

Lossie Green has also been suggested as the possible site for a privately-funded “high quality” hotel.

What happens now with Elgin’s £20 million from government?

Moray Council has stressed that no decisions have been taken on what the funding will be spent on.

However, it has described the Elgin town centre masterplan as a “good foundation” on identifying projects to spend the £20 million from the UK Government.

The “cultural quarter” proposals in the masterplan have already received Scottish Government support as part of the Moray growth deal.

Elgin is among 55 across the country to have been described by the UK Government as “left behind”.

The SNP has condemned the latest grants as “pre-election bribery” with voters due to go to the polls next year.

Kathleen Robertson wearing a purple coat in Grant Park in Forres.
Moray Council leader Kathleen Robertson.

A Town Board will now be formed to decide where the funding will be spent. There will be representation from community groups, parliamentarians, businesses, cultural and sports groups and public sector organisations. Moray Council is expected to lead the process.

Council leader Kathleen Robertson said: “With the Elgin masterplan already geared up for progressing such investment, it feels as though we’re on the cusp of some very exciting developments coming soon across the region.

“It’s clear to me that a recent visit from the Levelling-up Secretary to Elgin has shown the UK Government exactly what we’re capable of achieving here in Moray and that’s something we can all be immensely proud of doing together.”

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