THERE HAS BEEN a warm welcome for the news that planning permission had been granted for one of the largest developments Moray has ever seen.
Yesterday’s special meetings at Moray Council debated every line of the proposals from Springfield Properties to build 870 homes, two schools and the Moray Sports Centre in Elgin.
First on the line to insideMoray in welcoming the decision was Moray’s MSP Richard Lochhead, who had a particular interest in the Sports Centre having been at the forefront of the establishment of such a facility in the region for several years.
He said: “Having been involved in the campaign for improved sports facilities locally for a number of years, I am well aware of the excitement around the project and how this development would transform leisure provision in Moray.
“Clearly the decision to give this project the green light is a huge step forward in making the dream of state of the art sports facilities in Moray a reality, and I’m certain that this will be warmly welcomed by the local community and those involved in local sports groups.
“Obviously it is very important that the necessary infrastructure is in place as this is clearly a very large development, with 870 homes in the plans, but this project is absolutely a vote of confidence in Elgin’s future.”
Kathryn Evans CEO for Moray Sports Centre, said she could not be happier with the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting: “Approval of the Sports Centre is the next piece of the puzzle we’ve been waiting for.
“As a charity, we rely quite heavily on fundraising to make the Moray Sports Centre a reality. Without planning consent, organisations such as sportScotland haven’t been able to allocate funding due to the element of uncertainty. This will no longer be the case now that we have the support of Moray Councillors behind us.”
Way clear for major investment
Elgin City South councillor and joint leader of the SNP group at Moray Council, Graham Leadbitter, said he was delighted that the plans went through by 15 votes to four with three abstaining.
He said: “I very much welcome the decision of the Planning Committee, which paves the way for major investment over the coming years on the south side of Elgin. That investment will see much needed education and sports provision, as well as a large amount of affordable housing.
“This application demonstrates confidence in the Elgin economy and provides vital affordable housing, which is one of the biggest issues raised with me by constituents. There are currently around 3500 separate applications for council housing in Moray and if that clearly demonstrates the importance of getting more houses built, not to mention the substantial amount of employment that the construction work provides.”
Scathing at Tory opposition
However, Cllr Leadbitter was scathing of Administration group councillors who opposed the proposals, adding: “We had the Tory councillor for Elgin City North opposing economic development in Elgin in a move which would, in effect, have made almost any housing development proposals unviable.
“He was backed in his arguments by another Tory councillor who stated that there were too many affordable houses being required, despite the thousands of people in Moray desperately needing affordable accommodation.
“Thankfully these nonsensical arguments were opposed and I look forward to seeing our housing challenges being tackled by development at both Findrassie and in Elgin South. I am also very pleased that my amendments to planning conditions, which will see significantly increased cycle provision, were also backed by the committee.”
Huge vote of confidence
Chair of the economic development and infrastructure committee, Councillor John Cowe, insisted that the decision was a “huge vote of confidence” being shown by Springfield in the future of Moray.
He said: “At the moment we need 350 new homes each year to keep up with demand – it is impossible for the council to do that so this is badly needed.”
However, Councillor Cowe lamented the loss of the abandoned plans for a new Western Link Road into Elgin, saying: “The road would have gone a long way to stopping the congestion in the south of Elgin. I always said it would come back to bite the council and now it has – another railway bridge is desperately needed in the west of Elgin.”
Up to 600 new Jobs
Springfield’s chairman Sandy Adam commented: “This is a significant milestone for Elgin – the development will generate around 600 jobs over the next 30 years. Job opportunities and apprenticeships will increase and in many cases offer a career for life to local people.”