MORE than 150 jobs could be created in Elgin under plans that would more than double the size of the St Giles Shopping Centre, signalling a "new chapter for retail" in the town.
An extra 4,569 square metres of shopping space is proposed for the High Street retail attraction under the £7 million proposals, now lodged with the local authority.
Upland Investments and Robertson Property are behind the application, which they believe will make Elgin a "retail force to be reckoned with" and help stop spending leakage outwith Moray.
Business leaders welcomed the move as a substantial investment in the local economy and a major step forward in revitalising the centre of the town.
Those behind the proposal say "active discussions" with a number of national retailers for the new units are already underway.
Plans created by architects Duco and Archial show a new glass-fronted, four-storey development at 135-139 High Street – which currently comprises Claire’s Accessories and land at Branders Close.
That would be linked internally to both the upper and lower floors of the existing mall.
A second adjoining prong of the development – the northern extension – would see two levels of retail space created above the existing bus station, off Alexandra Road.
According to the developers, the two sections combined would create enough retail space to bring up to 150 permanent jobs, with a further 60 posts during construction.
Upland Investments spokesman David Cameron said: "We are very excited about this chance to bring substantial new retail space to the heart of Elgin.
"We hear so much gloom these days about our High Streets, but this is a major step forward in the evolution of the town.
"The modern glazed front we plan for the entrance makes a statement about our commitment to the High Street."
Bill Robertson, who established infrastructure, support services and construction group Robertson in Elgin in 1966, said the development was close to his heart.
"Elgin’s my home and we’re keen to do everything we can to revitalise the centre," he said.
"We have waited a long time for the mall to be in a position to offer a wider and larger retail range. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Upland Investments on this exciting project.
"We are aware of a number of national retailers, not currently in Elgin, who have a requirement for larger town centre store space. If these plans are given the go-ahead it would mark an exciting new chapter for retail in Elgin."
David Urquhart, who chairs the Elgin BID (Business Improvement District), established to help rejuvenate town centre trade, welcomed the plan.
"We’re absolutely delighted at this new investment. This type of development reinforces the work we’ve been doing on BID and demonstrates the confidence that people have in the future of Elgin," said Mr Urquhart, who is joint managing director of wines and spirits merchants Gordon & MacPhail.