PLANS for a £7 million extension to Moray’s largest shopping centre will go before councillors this week.
Developers behind the St Giles Centre proposal say it will transform the High Street area of Elgin, signalling a “new chapter” for retail in the town.
The partners involved are urging the area’s elected members to support the development, which would more than double the existing space, bringing 210 new jobs, and 60 more during construction.
Upland Investments, which owns the St Giles Centre, and owners of the adjoining land, Robertson Property, are behind the 4,247-square-metre proposal, which includes changes to Elgin’s bus station.
Designed to create an environment attractive to larger retailers, including an “anchor” store, the developers say it will breathe new life into the town centre and help halt spending leakage outwith the area. A number of national retailers have already voiced interest in the development.
Planning officials are recommending approval of the plan, despite an objection from the council’s transport manager over parking provision.
A report to go before the planning and regulatory services committee on Tuesday says that would be off-set by the impact of the development on the vitality and viability of Elgin town centre, and the associated wider economic benefit.
Business leaders earlier welcomed the proposal as a substantial investment in the local economy and a major step forward in revitalising the centre of the town.
Among backers is the Elgin Business Improvement District (BID) scheme. Chairman David Urquhart said: “This new investment supports the work we have been doing on BID, and reinforces the confidence people have in Elgin. It also complements our Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS), which helps businesses enhance their shop fronts to make Elgin town centre a vibrant and attractive place.”
The extension, which will run from the High Street through to the bus station, will create the U-shaped building envisaged when the centre was first designed.
Under the plans, the new bus station will be covered and an improved stance design included, eliminating the need for buses to stop on the A96.
The bus station would be temporarily relocated during construction, and investigations are ongoing into a temporary alternative. Parking for bicycles will also be provided.
Initial drawings, submitted to planners last March, showed a glass-fronted, four-storey development at 135-139 High Street – which currently comprises Claire’s Accessories – and land at Brander’s Close. That would have required demolition of the C-listed frontage, provoking some concerns. Four representations were received by the local planning authority, mainly raising objections to the modern design being “parachuted into” the historic High Street setting.
However, an amended plan was submitted earlier this year and showed the retention of the C-listed façade, which prompted no further representations.
Natural stone cladding to match the existing stonework on the High Street must be used on the remodelled ground floor façade, officers say.
According to the ‘Elgin City for the Future’ blueprint, published by the Moray Community Planning Partnership in 2011, Elgin High Street is the “most important economic space” in the region.
Katherine Mackintosh, development director at Robertson, said: “As a local business, we want to deliver what is best for Elgin and we already have interest from a number of national retailers.
“Without this consent, it is unlikely that the city centre will be able to lever the kind of investment vital to a vibrant and diverse Elgin city centre.
“This is a key strategy in the ‘Elgin City for the Future’ masterplan, and we are pleased that we have been able to work with Moray Council to deliver it.
“The new St Giles Centre will revitalise the centre of Elgin, increase the number of people shopping in Elgin Town Centre, boost existing traders and stimulate the requirement for food, drink and cultural choices in the town. Elgin is and must remain the prime civic, retail, cultural and event space in Moray.”
David Cameron from Upland Investments said: “These days it is pretty much unique for a town or city to be home to this kind of investment, and most places would welcome it with open arms. To protect Elgin and provide stability for the future, the town centre needs to grow and attract the kind of retailers that will make Elgin a destination for shoppers from all over the area.”