A leading businessman in Moray’s biggest town believes demolishing a historic building could encourage other firms to move to the area.
Permission has already been granted to knock down the 19th century former tobacconist on Elgin’s High Street to make way for a new shop and studio flats.
Developer Springfield Properties has pledged to design the replacement structure in the Victorian style of the original to bring “a new lease of life” to the “neglected” west end of the street – arguing the cost of refurbishing the current building is unviable.
However, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has objected to the plans – believing the unusual stone shop front makes it a “critical heritage site” in Elgin.
The Scottish Government is now considering the project to determine whether knocking it down goes against national policies.
David Robertson, chairman of Elgin’s business improvement district (Bid), believes bringing the Victorian building at 184-188 High Street back into use would maintain the momentum from shops opening on Batchen Street.
He said: “We’re supportive of all firms that want to invest and improve Elgin. In this case, it’s a difficult balancing act between bringing it back to life and keeping its historical importance.
“We’re positive the correct outcome will be reached and another piece of regeneration will hopefully be put in place.
“The impact of Bid and the conservation area regeneration scheme is gathering pace with the exciting developments in Batchen Street.
“A number of nationally-known companies are also looking to locate here and the continuing work to improve the street environment and shops helps this.”
The building has been decaying after becoming empty in 2008. Despite objecting to the demolition HES has admitted parts of it are already falling down.
Springfield believes the state of the property is now putting off other firms moving to the High Street.
The property company wants to open a shop on ground level with 15 studio flats, targeted at people working for short periods in the town.
The project has also won the support of Elgin Community Council due to the belief derelict buildings give a “discouraging” impression of the town.
A HES spokeswoman said: “Because this application is for substantial demolition of the listed buildings we welcome the opportunity for further scrutiny of the case.”