Warning that St Giles could be ‘boarded up’ are ignored

Councillor's dismiss warning that St Giles could be 'boarded up'
Councillor’s dismiss warning that St Giles could be ‘boarded up’

THERE WAS A DOUBLE blow for Elgin’s struggling town centre on Tuesday when financial support bids from two separate organisations were deferred.

Councillor’s decided to await further information before making decisions on funding applications from the Elgin Museum and St Giles Church – with one Councillor responding to threats of closure by calling on them to “go ahead and do it”.

Elgin Museum had been looking for investment to support a number of projects that would look to enhance the attraction and increase promotional opportunities through training for volunteers. There would also be a focus on developing tourist information at the site and build better links with other ongoing projects such as Elgin BID and the Castle to Cathedral to Cashmere Experience.

The funding had been asked for over a number of years – but figures in the application were questioned and a number of inaccuracies noted by members of the economic development and infrastructure committee.

Committee chairman John Cowe pointed out that there were no projected increases in income over coming years – and that by his figures average donations worked out to around 40p per person.

This was supported by Gordon Macdonald and Fiona Murdoch who claimed the figures “did not stack up” and that plans “lacked imagination and innovation”.

However, Douglas Ross and Gary Coull spoke out favour of at least considering the application, Councillor Ross highlighting that the facility was a 4-star tourist attraction. He added that while the council should not be “held to ransom” it would not be advisable to make a decision on this by itself before wider council priorities are considered.

In adding his support Cllr Coull, who is Moray’s community champion for tourism, pointed to a recent conference held in the museum that had attracted more than 100 visitors to Moray. He added that turning their back on vital tourism and cultural projects such as this would be “sending out the wrong message to the sector”.

His argument was to no avail, however, as members agreed to defer the decision to the next meeting of the policy and resources committee.

St Giles warning

Hot on the heels of that decision members also elected to give the same treatment to an application from the congregation of St Giles Church, who were looking for support for a feasibility study on the church’s future use after a decision was taken by the congregation that they would no longer meet at St Giles.

This, councillors were told, followed investment in the Williamson Hall at St Columba’s Church in Moss Street.

Cllr Murdoch opposed the application outright on the basis that it was not a Council owned building, a position that was supported by Cllr Wright who suggested there were other avenues to obtain funding for this kind of study.

Cllr Macdonald highlighted a number of buildings in his own Buckie ward that were owned by the Council but had not received any support of this kind.

Councillor’s decided to defer any decision despite a warning from Jim Grant from the Council’s Economic Development department, who suggested that there was the imminent threat that the congregation moving could result in the building being boarded up and left empty for a significant period of time.

Cllr Alexander, who has been involved with the Forres Tolbooth and who highlighted that they had received initial funding for a feasibility study, suggested they “should go ahead and do it” claiming that it would give the community something to rally around and support.

A final decision on both applications will now be passed to the policy and resources committee meeting on June 9.

(This was the first report from insideMoray’s new contributor Chris Johnstone.  Chris, from Elgin, will specialise on community reporting from The Moray Council.)