PLANNING OFFICIALS ARE recommending that Councillors allow a change of use for land on the outskirts of Elgin – paving the way for millions in inward investment by a local retailer.
However, members of the planning committee meeting early next month to consider the bid by Grampian Furnishers will be told by the Elgin Business Improvement District that allowing the creation of the new store will harm the town centre.
Existing planning rules say that retail developments should not be permitted on the proposed development close to the Reiket Lane roundabout – but officials have been persuaded that in this instance a relaxation is justified.
When councillors meet on Wednesday, October 4 for a special meeting of the planning and regulatory services committee to decide the issue, they will be told by Elgin BID that they have no objections to the local company – but do object to the site chosen.
In a statement Elgin BID say: “Throughout this application process, Elgin BID have made it clear that we are in no way objecting to Grampian Furnishings. Our objection has been and continues to be the site of the proposed development – and how the development contravenes the Moray Council’s own policies and plans.”
Outlining why the BID was created in the town, to cope with out of town developments, the statement adds: “It is clearly evidenced over the years the use of retail parks has changed dramatically – as Moray Council have passed applications for change of use and unit size.
“Moray Council has plans and policies in place which are there for a reason, to ensure everyone is treated the same way, given the opportunities, subject to the same rules and no one is given an unfair advantage. We are simply asking for the rules to be observed and followed.”
Last night Grampian Furnishings owner Royce Clark said that he hoped common sense would prevail – and was greatly encouraged to note that planning officials saw the merits of what has been a long search for an alternative site on which to expand his business and allow it to remain in Moray.
He said: “Lossiemouth is my home town and if we leave it will be one of the hardest and biggest decisions of my life, this is a 20+ year plan to allow the business to continue to grow and become an asset to the Moray economy.
“I have spent the last two years searching for larger premises and the lack of a suitable building or space anywhere in Elgin resulted in this site being the only one suitable. Quite simply, if there had been a building of this size in the town centre or the retail park then we would have been in it by now – at much less a cost than what we have invested to date in this bit of ground.”
Mr Clark added that many sites had been considered and talks even took place with Elgin BID who had agreed no suitable town centre site was available.
He added: “I would urge those with concerns for business in Elgin to read our Retail Impact Assessment, which was carried out at huge expense and demonstrates clearly the lack of a suitable site – and that the site on which we wish to create the new store will have minimal impact on the town centre. Indeed, it would encourage people to come to Elgin who might otherwise not have done so.”
Looking ahead to the meeting on October 4, Mr Clark added that he hoped common sense would prevail, saying: “We have seen this already in the comments made by planning officials who have looked very carefully into our plans for this expansion.
“I would also hope that account is taken of the public support we have received – the majority of those people in Moray are recognising that our investment is a considerable one, that we are an existing Moray business looking to create a greater presence just a few miles from our current location.
“We are looking to enhance our business in Moray and this is the only way we could see our being able to do that, something I hope that is clearly grasped by Councillors.”