An ambitious regeneration plan to breathe new life into Elgin has been unanimously approved by Moray councillors.
The final draft of the Elgin City Centre Masterplan was given the go-ahead at a meeting of the planning and regulatory services committee on Tuesday.
Proposals include regenerating buildings to enhance the town’s night-time economy, a cultural quarter centred on the redevelopment of the area around the town hall and Grant Lodge in Cooper Park, enhanced pedestrian and cycle links, public artworks, and environmental initiatives to grow the economy, create jobs and attract millions of pounds in investment over the next ten years.
Frank Brown, Conservative councillor for Elgin North, said: “This is clearly going to really move forward the regeneration of Elgin. I look forward to it (the masterplan) being improved and subsequent initiatives within it moving forward.
“The real improvement it’s going to make is to Elgin residents and making it an attractive place for tourism and economic development.”
John Divers, Labour councillor for Elgin South, praised strategic planning and development manager Gary Templeton and his team for collating the findings of a public consultation into the final document.
Cllr Divers said: “I go back over the years and think about all the consultations on dealing with Elgin town centre, and this one looks as if it’s going to come to fruition.
“I look forward to seeing this come forward as soon as possible.”
Claire Feaver, Conservative councillor for Forres, also welcomed the masterplan.
She said: “I’d like to thank the people who put their comments in.
“There were an awful lot of points put forward and it’s great the public got so involved with it. All in all it’s good stuff.”
As well as the draft masterplan, members agreed a timetable for a 46-point action plan and for a steering group to be established to oversee it.
They also noted that improvement plans for other towns across Moray currently under development will go to a meeting of the committee early next year.
A proposed sculpture of an angel in Cooper Park pond has been dropped from the project, and the site of a luxury hotel originally mooted for Lossie Green will be reconsidered.
Instead, other locations are under review for the hotel, an art project running through the town centre will be progressed and Elgin Museum will be included in the plan.
The public consultation on the masterplan held earlier this year prompted 114 online responses and 468 comments from an information day held in August.
Support was given for the regeneration of South Street, Thunderton Place and Northport with wider pavements, living green walls and artwork as well as better pedestrian and cycle links between Cooper Park and the town centre.
Those responding were also keen to have unused buildings in the town centre brought back into use.
The hotel along with the redevelopment of Grant Lodge, improvements at Cooper Park and Elgin Town Hall are to be funded through the £100m Moray Growth Deal which is expected to be signed off before Christmas.
Money for that has come from the Scottish Government, UK Government, Moray Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the University of the Highlands and Islands and others.
Feasibility studies on new travel bridges between Cooper Park and Northport crossing the A96 and another over the Aberdeen to Inverness railway line as well as transport assessments through the town centre will get under way this month.
Proposals also include turning the former Elgin Club building into a boutique hotel, creating a sustainable travel hub at Elgin bus station, and providing electric vehicle charging points in town centre car parks by 2030.
By local democracy reporter Hazel Lawson