Town centre exodus could be much worse than was thought

Study produced fears that people are deserting Moray town centres in greater numbers than expected.
Study produced fears that people are deserting Moray town centres in even greater numbers than expected.

MORAY’S TOWN CENTRES are suffering a downturn that may be far worse than has been feared.

Councillors attending the planning committee meeting this week were provided with a report on a survey that measured pedestrian throughput through several town centres – two years after a similar exercise had been conducted.

Figures from the report indicated that while there was a decrease in the number of empty premises in the centre of Elgin, there had also been a drop in football in much of the town – although the east end of the High Street showed an increase of 75 pedestrians an hour. By contrast, footfall on Edgar Road, where out of town retail units exist, showed an increase of 110 pedestrians an hour compared to the 2014 exercise.

In Forres vacant units had increased by one – but footfall on parts of the High Street had dropped by almost 75 an hour. Mid Street in Keith showed a similar drop in footfall, while in Lossiemouth the exercise showed the average footfall increased by between 12 and 24 per hour depending on the specific part of town.

Report author Rowena MacDougall who in her summary said: “The 2016 results have seen improvements and decline on some indicators. Generally, most town centres provide a wide variety of uses across retailing types with a mix of national and multiple retailers.

“There have been small increases in vacancies in Forres and Dufftown, with all other centres either showing a decrease in vacancies or maintain 2014 levels. Generally, pedestrian footfall decreased across all towns – with the exception of Edgar Road, Elgin.”

During the discussion on the report Elgin councillor John Divers said that it was of concern that the day the survey was carried out was June 23 – the day when people throughout the UK were voting on the EU Referendum.

Pointing to the fact that there were a number of people attending polling stations at either end of Elgin High Street, he concluded that the measure may have given a false impression, saying: “People turned out in good numbers for this vote – but our numbers are still down and that worries me.”