Hopes have been raised that a new £1.2million fund will help give Moray’s town centres a new lease of life.
The Scottish Government cash chest was created to help communities adapt and overcome challenges facing the retail sector across the country.
Yesterday, Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter described the boost as a “massive opportunity” to support all of the region’s town centres.
Elgin’s business improvement district (Bid) meanwhile backed suggestions to target the money at reopening buildings that have lain dormant for long periods.
Ideas already put forward to revitalise town centres include splitting up larger hard-to-let units to make them more attractive for new firms and converting upper floors for residential use.
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Richard Cumming, chairman of Elgin Bid, warned that empty space in properties were missed opportunities to bring more life to the heart of the town.
He said: “If there’s life in a building then there’s longevity in it. If it’s being utilised then it’s being cared for.
“You need that mix on the high street now. There’s a misconception that it all has to be retail orientated. A lot of people come in for professional services, like a solicitor or an accountant, or hospitality. People living there will support hospitality businesses too.
“Buildings are being under-utilised and large units are difficult to let so if something can be done to reduce the rates and rent then it would help.”
Elgin town centre has been blighted for nearly a year due to repairs on the Poundland building, which was nearing the brink of collapse.
Property owners have since been encouraged to take advantage of funds to maintain historic structures in order to prevent similar issues from happening.
The Scottish Government’s town centre fund will be administered by councils to help ensure high streets are sustainable and diverse.
Mr Leadbitter said: “We want to ensure that communities across Moray have a say in what will work for them, which could be anything from environmental and streetscape improvements through to schemes to get upper floors back into residential use or splitting up larger units into easier to let smaller units.
“Our goal must be to revitalise and bring greater vibrancy to our town centres and make them even better places to live and work.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “This funding announcement can help transform town centres in communities across Moray.
“The health of our town centres is vital to the economic and cultural life of our communities – and this new investment can make a real difference.”