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Another £18m for Elgin: New life for Junners building and Jailhouse Nightclub, boats back in Cooper Park pond and more

By Lewis McBlane

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NOSTALGIC sites including the Jailhouse Nightclub, Cooper Park's pond and the old Junners building are set to be transformed by a £18 million grant.

The old Jailhouse Nightclub and Junners are included in plans for the cash.
The old Jailhouse Nightclub and Junners are included in plans for the cash.

Moray Council was awarded £18,291,000 from the Levelling Up Fund, to bolster its Elgin City Centre Masterplan efforts, today (November 20).

The site of a former sawmill off Linkwood Road, which has lain vacant for years, is set to become a space for businesses – after flooding and access issues are sorted.

And, within the same close as the former Jailhouse nightclub, the Newmarket Bar is also included in redevelopment plans.

Moray Council said some of the levelling up money would go towards creating a creative arts centre in Elgin.

Better traffic measures, support for active travel and easing accessibility issues also featured in the bid – which was initially turned down in January in what was dubbed a "major disappointment" before today's announcement.

In the town centre, cash will also go towards creating "an outdoor café culture", according to the council.

Also on the menu for the levelling up cash are improvements to Cooper Park, linking in with the Moray Growth Deal Cultural Quarter.

The Cooper Park Pond will also see accessible walkways introduced, along with biodiversity improvements and new seating.

But the headline plan, for many, will be the return of boat hire alongside the introduction of paddleboard offerings from a planned jetty.

To support the pond plan, the existing toilet block will be extended and turned into a café and ticket office – with an accessible changing places toilet.

Moray Council said the proposed projects would "deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits to the whole of Moray, including the creation of dozens of jobs."

Council leader Councillor Kathleen Robertson (Forres, Conservative) said: “Residents and businesses will be delighted to see this UK Government funding, which is so central to our efforts to support jobs and investment in the city, coming down the line.

“I am delighted that the UK Government has shown its support to Moray and has recognised our strong case for funding for the Elgin City Centre Masterplan projects, which were part of our round 2 levelling up bid.

"Investment of this scale will level up Elgin and the whole of Moray, bringing much-loved Moray features and buildings back to life, creating jobs, and introducing a lively night-time economy.

“This is fantastic news for Elgin and my thanks go to all the council officials who worked so hard to ensure this bid would get the green light from the UK Government.

“Our council have bold and ambitious plans to regenerate our communities – including Elgin – and it is extremely welcome that has been recognised by the UK Government.

“I hope that the SNP-Green government will welcome this funding instead of criticising it.

"They have a huge opportunity to work constructively with us as a local authority to ensure that this funding – as well as the £20 million from their towns fund – benefits our local economy and ensures people are attracted to come and make Moray their home.

"This is another opportunity for the progress of several projects which will give momentum to the regeneration of the capital of Moray.”

Joint leader of Moray's SNP group, and its Economic Development Spokesperson, Councillor Graham Leadbitter (Elgin City South, SNP) said that, despite the "important investment in Moray", it showed "a lack of joined up thinking by the UK Government."

"This funding announcement is long overdue after delays and a lack of joined up thinking by the UK Government, which was last week criticised in a report by the National Audit Office," Cllr Leadbitter said.

"Nonetheless, £18 million is an important investment in Moray but we must also continue to push for significantly more across Moray as the total amount of Levelling Up funds distributed around Scotland is still considerably short of the European funding it was supposed to replace.

"A lot of work has gone into putting the bid together and I know there will be a huge amount of energy to get these important projects up and running now that the funding is set to be awarded."

Moray MP Douglas Ross praised the grant and said he met Michael Gove, who visited Moray in August, to "press the case" for future fund efforts.

“I am absolutely delighted that this huge amount of funding has been awarded by the UK Government through the levelling-up funding," he said.

“It comes hot on the heels of £20 million announced last month for Elgin as part of the UK Government’s plans to boost Scottish high streets, so this money will go a long way to helping to regenerate Elgin and the surrounding area.

“It is particularly pleasing that Moray Council’s bid has been successful, given the understandable disappointment when we missed out when previous funding was allocated.

"I met with UK Government Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to press the case for Moray to receive support in future rounds, and it is great news for Elgin and Moray that we have been able to achieve a positive outcome.

“The UK Government are fully committed to investing in all parts of our United Kingdom with this £18 million funding today further evidence of that and I will continue to push at every turn for money to come to communities right across Moray.

“I look forward to working with Moray Council and other stakeholders to boost our local economy and create new opportunities for local people, thanks to this UK Government funding.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochead said the area had initially been "inexplicably snubbed by the Tory UK Government", and that levelling up funds have failed to replace EU grants.

He also indicated that two recent cash grants, totalling more than £38 million over ten years, had been "directed at one Moray community", which "won't go unnoticed" in other areas.

“Moray deserves our fair share of this funding and there was a significant backlash when this bid was originally and inexplicably snubbed by the Tory UK Government, so I welcome the change of heart from UK Ministers which is certainly good news for Elgin," he said.

“The levelling up fund was of course meant to replace EU funding which communities right across Moray benefited hugely from through the years, with projects funded in every part of the region.

“So far, two major announcements by the UK Government have been directed at one Moray community and I suspect that won’t go unnoticed by our other towns and villages who need their fair share of these UK funds too.

“All money for Moray is welcome but many communities here are being let down by the UK Government as a direct result of them not replacing EU funds as they promised.”

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