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Catastrophic water leaks, major fires and historic boardroom deals: Timeline of 6 years of Poundland works in Elgin

The project to restore and reopen the Elgin High Street building has certainly not been straightforward.

Poundland surrounded by scaffolding.
Poundland in Elgin has been surrounded by a web of scaffolding for most of the last six years. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Between catastrophic water leaks, fires and historic boardroom deals, the Poundland works in Elgin have been anything but smooth.

Over the last six years the prominent High Street corner building has not had its troubles to seek – even without taking into account a global pandemic.

At the very beginning there was no indication Dandy Lion would still be staring a protective fencing in 2024.

It’s been a complicated process to keep track of, but the Press and Journal has been reporting on the saga every step of the way.

May 12, 2018: First signs of trouble for Poundland and Elgin shoppers

Poundland surrounded by wooden boards.
Wooden boards were erected without warning outside Poundland. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Poundland is closed suddenly after Moray Council serves a dangerous building notice.

Concerns had initially been raised about dangerous chimneys on the roof in December the previous year.

Further inspections revealed loose stonework had been allowing water to pour inside leading to concerns about the structure of the building.

At the time, Poundland described the closure as necessary for an “unexpected upgrade” to take place.

Further surveys were ordered to determine the extent of the internal damage.

Newspaper clipping reading "falling stone fear shuts Elgin shop"
Poundland’s closure made the front page of the Press and Journal in May 2018. Image: DC Thomson

June 6, 2018: Poundland reopens with temporary entrance

A few weeks later and changes had been made to allow Poundland to reopen on Elgin High Street.

A temporary entrance through a fire door at the side of the building was used while the front remained blocked off for safety reasons.

Looking down North Street towards Poundland side door.
A temporary side door was opened on Poundland. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Elgin Bid welcomed the development to ensure staff kept their jobs with hopes repairs could be done “in the background” while trading continued.

Meanwhile, insiders revealed the top floor and attic of the property had been blocked off for a number of years, allowing water to pour inside unchecked.

June 14, 2018: Concerns for Poundland building grow in Elgin

Just a month after the initial dangerous building notice was served, the first concerns were developing that this would not be a quick fix.

Moray Council extended the road closure notice on North Street until the end of the year.

Poundland building behind "we love Elgin" boarding.
Concerns were growing the fencing on Elgin High Street may become a long-term fixture. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Elgin City South councillor John Divers said: “Having heard about the damage inside, I’m not surprised it is going to take several months.

“It’s right in the middle of Elgin’s conservation area so every effort should be made to preserve it if possible.”

September 10, 2018: Full extent of damage laid bare in survey

Confirmation is received that the extent of the damage to Elgin Poundland building is far worse than anyone expected.

A complete survey reveals the water damage extends from the roof right down to the basement.

Back of Dandy Lion looking at Poundland.
Dandy Lion has been keeping a watchful eye on the restoration work throughout. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Elgin Bid confirms that work to dismantle and rebuild part of the roof is to begin immediately.

Any hopes the work will be completed within months is gone with the latest estimates stretching to more than two years.

Insiders say a “heavy gutting” job is needed to be done inside before any restoration and repair can be done.

December 31, 2019: Poundland makes historic decision to buy Elgin building

After a long period of inactivity on-site, Poundland confirms it has made the historic decision to buy the Elgin building to pay for repairs itself.

It later becomes clear the delay came amidst negotiations behind the scenes between Poundland and the previous owner of the building over who would pay for repairs.

The move makes it the first property the retailer has ever owned outright in its 30 years of trading while running more than 800 stores.

Newspaper cutout reading "Poundland's plan to save dilapidated Victorian building"
Poundland again made the front page of the Press and Journal in December 2019. Image: DC Thomson

Ben Wall, the firm’s head of portfolio management, tells the Press and Journal the company has already spent more than £1 million on the project with “significant” expenditure still expected.

He said: “We had wanted to work with the previous landlord to firstly make the building safe then make repairs.

“When it became clear that wasn’t going to be taken forward we looked at buying it.

“I can’t stress enough how much of a very unusual option this has been for us to take – we traditionally lease property.

Artist impression of completed Poundland building.
Planning documents later revealed an artist’s impression of the restored building. Image: Poundland

“This isn’t something we have ever done before but we wanted to take control of the situation.

“We don’t want to see any more negative impact on Elgin’s High Street.

“We’re 100% committed to town centres all over the UK, we hope this will be a real boost to Elgin and help make it more vibrant.”

Elgin Bid chief executive Gill Neill said: “A lot of other companies might have just cut their losses and walked away, so it’s great that Poundland has committed to Elgin.”

July 22, 2020: Planning application reveals Poundland building to be demolished

Despite the Covid lockdown arriving, work continues behind the scenes in restoring the building.

A planning application submitted by Poundland reveals for the first time the monumental undertaking needed.

Documents reveal “key sections” of the building will be demolished and rebuilt. The neighbouring building on North Street, which Poundland extends into, will also be rebuilt.

Newspaper cutout reading "Eyestore revamp milestone lifts hopes for town"
There were now hopes a way forward had been agreed for the building. Image: DC Thomson

Designs show that while the ground floor will retain the retail store, the upper floors will be brought back into use as flats.

Poundland’s Mr Wall said: “It’s a major milestone in our efforts to address the structural issues in such an important building to the town and also provide homes that support central Elgin as a place to live, as well as shop and work.”

September 15, 2020: Major hurdle cleared to demolish listed building

The plans clear their first major hurdle when Historic Environment Scotland does not object to the demolition of the B-listed building.

Heritage experts blame poor-quality stone, “inappropriate” pervious repairs and a “lack of maintenance” dating back to the 1970s for is decline.

Pedestrians and traffic on Batchen Street in Elgin.
Concerns have been raised about extra traffic on Batchen Street throughout the last six years. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

The plans, which are approved the following month, also cover the neighbouring North Street building.

Documents lodged with Moray Council reveal there were “lengthy negotiations” about the size of the new building.

Planning officer Craig Wilson wrote: “The proposed replacement building is of a particularly high quality finish and detailing and this approach is a positive outcome for the town centre in exceptional circumstances and goes someway to reducing the loss of the listed building.”

February 24, 2021: Massive crane arrives in Elgin to begin work on Poundland project

Elgin High Street shoppers get their first major sign at the scale of work that is needed over the coming years.

A massive crane that towered over every other town centre building, with the exception of the St Giles Church steeple, arrives.

In May it is confirmed that the street closures are now expected to continue until December 2022.

Crane towering over Elgin High Street viewed from Ladyhill.
The crane dwarfed almost every other building on Elgin High Street. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

September 23, 2021: Elgin building is almost completely gone

Photos taken by Press and Journal photographer Jason Hedges reveal the work Elgin shoppers can’t see of Poundland.

Hidden from view by protective fencing, the historic building is almost completely gone with only some parts of the façade remaining.

Remains of Poundland viewed from above.
The Poundland building was almost completely demolished before being rebuilt. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

The upper floors and roof have been completely demolished.

Meanwhile, Poundland is continuing to trade in a reduced store through the same temporary entrance as before.

August 12, 2022: Major fire at Poundland

Restoration work suffers a massive blow when what is left of the Poundland store on North Street is set on fire.

Customers are still in the shop when the blaze begins near the entrance. Staff are praised for helping shoppers, including one wheelchair user, to safety.

Flames from Poundland building from afar.
Poundland on fire in Elgin. Image: Peter McGregor.

The alarm was raised when a “smouldering package” in the health and beauty aisle was spotted falling off a shelf shortly before closing time.

Videos on social media showed cans of deodorant ablaze. The fire was aided by being started close to the section containing toilet roll.

Within a week, a 15-year-old boy was charged in connection with the blaze.

November 26, 2022: Poundland reopens in temporary shop

Following the fire, Poundland doesn’t trade from its High Street and North Street location.

Instead, it opens a temporary store just yards away in the former home of Poundstretcher, next to TK Maxx.

poundland fire
Parts of the Poundland store in Elgin were badly fire damaged. Image: DC Thomson

Documents are lodged with Moray Council about a month after the fire with the retailer welcoming back customers two months later.

The following month road closure on North Street is extended yet again, this time to June 2024.

January 8, 2024: Hopes lessons will be learned for Elgin town centre

There are hopes that the massive project is now entering its final year.

The closure of North Street since 2018 has brought extensive disruption to the town centre.

Metal frame for restored Poundland building.
The first sign of the Poundland building being rebuilt in December 2022. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

Work on the Poundland building has led to more traffic on Batchen Street and coincided with an increase in illegal parking concerns in Elgin.

Business leaders say “lessons need to be learned” to prevent similar disruption in the future.

April 8, 2024: Scaffolding begins to come down at Poundland

There are hopes the end of the saga is finally in sight with protective scaffolding beginning to be taken down.

The move reveals for the first time the new building that has been built on Elgin High Street with hopes Poundland will reopen from the store later in the year.

Upper windows on Elgin Poundland.
The restored Poundland building begins to emerge from behind the scaffolding again. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

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