Call for BID back-down as decision day looms on major investment

A MORAY BUSINESS OWNER who is preparing to make a £3.5million investment in the region has challenged the main objector to his plans to withdraw.

Grampian Furnishers owner Royce Clark is fast approaching the final hurdle – planning consent – in his bid to make a massive expansion of his business, currently based at a former cinema in Lossiemouth.

Mr Clark’s plans would see a new purpose-built furniture store on the outskirts of Elgin that would include sufficient car parking space and a cafeteria on a site off the A96 on the eastern edge of the town.

However, while Moray is crying out for such major investment, one of the main objectors to the plans is the Elgin Business Interest District (BID) – who only last week was encouraging any investment in Elgin.

Mr Clark, who is expecting is planning bid to be considered by Councillors soon after they return from their summer recess, told insideMORAY: “Only last week David Robertson from Elgin BID said that they were encouraging any investment in Elgin – so I wonder if he might now confirm this meant that they were withdrawing their objection to our application?

“Businesses are not lining up to make the sort of long-term investment in Elgin that we are proposing.

“I actually went to Elgin BID prior to progressing our plans for the current site and made clear then the many buildings and sites in the centre of Elgin and why they were not suitable.

“I also sought advice from them on further options they might be aware of – but they agreed there were no suitable buildings or sites large enough for our plans in the town centre.

“They did suggest that there were units on Edgar Road and that we should go there – but that is not the town centre either, so makes no sense – and besides, we cannot buy these units and even if we could, none of them were large enough for our needs.”

The level of investment being proposed is a rarity in Moray, with Grampian Furnishers planning a 20-year project in its home region primarily because Mr Clark knows the local market and the local people he has working for him.

He said: “I have confidence in my business, the local area, my staff and our brand. Our projections have been conservative and show an increase of about 50% – I’m confident we can double our current level of business to around the £4million mark.

“A £3.5million investment by a local family run business is not something that happens every day in Moray.”

Mr Clark said that his investment comes at a time when the market has been at its most challenging – but he remains absolutely convinced it is the correct time to invest in Moray: “It has certainly been a challenging year.

“The elections certainly haven’t helped – and up here the continual talk of independence hasn’t helped trade and doesn’t encourage business to do any investing. The business rates have hit hard too, but we have still managed to show an increase on last year’s figures.”

All being well, the businessman hopes that the new store can be up and running inside a year: “The planning decision is due in August, we have started the site works and about to go out to tender – so it’s hoped if we are successful with planning being granted we can start in September/October.

“The build is estimated to take 8-9 months so a summer 2018 opening is what we are aiming for.”