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'Generally positive' Elgin Cultural Quarter feedback, despite driving worries


By Lewis McBlane

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PLANS to link up and regenerate some of Elgin's biggest attractions went before the public on Friday, June 30.

Public meeting for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, held at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Public meeting for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, held at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

A public consultation at Elgin Library gave details of the £31 million Cultural Quarter project, with costs split between the Scottish Government, Westminster and Moray Council as part of the £100 million Moray Growth Deal.

Speaking at the consultation event, project manager Claire English and project architects said community feedback had been "generally positive".

However, locals also shared concerns over parking and potential anti-social driving.

Key to the project is a proposed "cultural oval" – a clearer, circular walking route passing some of the town's visitor highlights, including Elgin Town Hall, Cooper Park, Grant Lodge, Elgin Cathedral and Elgin Museum, before returning to the Town Hall through the nearby underpass.

A separate "cultural avenue" will also run between the Cathedral and the Town Hall, Ms English said, would be "pedestrian-priority" but would not ban cars.

Rounding out the Cultural Quarter's big ideas are bringing 18th century Grant Lodge – boarded-up since a 2003 fire – back into use with a major restoration earmarked to start in 2026, upgrading Elgin Town Hall from 2025, and building a new hotel.

Claire English at the public consultation for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, held at Elgin Library...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Claire English at the public consultation for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, held at Elgin Library...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

"People have been here all day and we have had a really good attendance," Ms English said.

"It's great that people are interested in it and, in general, people are excited.

"This part of the project is about laying out a route to enhance what's already there – what is there for everybody.

"They might have constructive views or concerns, for example people were concerned about whether our solutions on parking will work, but we have generally had good feedback."

Paula Harte from Bishopmill at the Elgin Cultural Quarter consultation at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Paula Harte from Bishopmill at the Elgin Cultural Quarter consultation at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Paula Harte, who lives at Bishopmill, said planned changes were "definitely needed", and having better walking routes would be "absolutely fantastic".

The Cultural Quarter could be an antidote to a "rather tired" Elgin, she added.

"It looks amazing actually, it's definitely needed," she said.

"To make more pedestrian areas and to improve the look of it would be absolutely fantastic.

"It's a good way to really encourage people to use what's there.

A sticky note suggestion from the Elgin Cultural Quarter consultation event at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
A sticky note suggestion from the Elgin Cultural Quarter consultation event at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

"The amazing landscaping means people will be coming down and lingering – rather than passing straight through.

"Grant Lodge is a lovely building and Cooper Park is a really nice park, especially with the pond.

"So it is actually working with something that's already good.

"Because I think Elgin is looking rather tired."

However another Elgin resident – who asked not to be named – said the "cultural avenue" plan could lead to Cooper Park becoming a "racetrack".

Linking up the park's roads, he argued, could worsen anti-social driving in the area, which he had been impacted by.

Oberlanders architect Catriona Kinghorn at the consultation for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Oberlanders architect Catriona Kinghorn at the consultation for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Designs for the Cultural Quarter were drawn up by architects at Oberlanders and LUC.

Catriona Hill from Oberlander Architects said feedback had been "really interesting and generally positive".

"It's great how many local people have come along, who have many memories of why things are the way they are – going back decades," she said.

"That's why we don't want anybody, in any way, to feel excluded.

"Feedback has been really interesting and generally positive."

Public meeting for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, held at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Public meeting for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, held at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Ms Hill added that the changes would make Elgin more attractive for both tourists.

She said: "It's all about knitting together what's already on offer and what will be coming up from the Growth Deal project.

"It would be good just to unconsciously feel that you belong and that you know where you are going in Elgin.

"And I think it has been quite a long time coming.

"It recognises that there is nice stuff happening already and it's good speaking to people and hearing their ideas."

LUC landscape architect Duncan McLean with plans for landscaping the Cultural Quarter. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
LUC landscape architect Duncan McLean with plans for landscaping the Cultural Quarter. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Jackie Andrews, chairwoman of Elgin Town Hall, said Cultural Quarter works would turn the venue into a better multi-use space for community groups, while also attracting "bigger and better events".

"Elgin Town Hall is much more than a venue – it's something for the whole of Moray," she said.

"We have so many community groups using the hall and, after the redevelopment, it'll be much more flexible."

She added that planned works would also help draw in bigger shows and more punters from across the region.

Public meeting for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, held at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Public meeting for the Elgin Cultural Quarter, held at Elgin Library. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

"I think a lot of people don't realise that Elgin Town Hall is the biggest venue between Inverness and Aberdeen.

"So we want to attract bigger and better events, as well as attracting more people from Moray and beyond.

"Because the Town Hall can't host some of the big theatre companies at the moment.

"We want people coming through, visiting restaurants and pubs, staying the night, and helping businesses and the economy."


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