Moray Council dump tourist plans in savings drive

Grant Lodge, Elgin. Picture: Geograph.org.uk (cc)
Grant Lodge, Elgin. Picture: Geograph.org.uk (cc)
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MORAY councillors have shelved ambitious plans for a tourist trail in Elgin as part of a series of £30 million in budget cuts.

The “Castle to Cathedral to Cashmere” initiative would have linked three major visitor attractions in the town. The project also included the £4.2million refurbishment of Grant Lodge in Elgin’s Cooper Park, which would require the council to contribute £1.3million to the scheme.

Speaking at a meeting of Moray Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Fiona Murdoch, the chair of the committee, said: “At a time when the council is seeking cuts to many services I do not feel it is appropriate to go forward on this.

“As a result of our budgetary position, we are reviewing the school estate, seeking to close libraries and toilets, and I do not think that the public would want us to spend this sort of money on a single project such as this, right now.”

She continued: “If anything I would like to see a business case report on this in order that we can assess if this project, and in particular the refurbishment of Grant Lodge, could be taken on by a community group or others.”

Councillor Murdoch said it was imperative that the council focused instead on the development of Elgin town centre.

She told the committee: “High Street First is one of the requirements of the Moray Economic Strategy – we will continue to support Elgin High Street through the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme and the tourist trail.”

B-listed Grant Lodge served as the town house of the Seafield family and was the site of the last clan uprising in Scotland over an election dispute in 1820. Grant Lodge, with the park area, was purchased by Sir George Cooper in the late 19th century and was presented to Elgin for use as a library in 1903. Grant Lodge was used as the town’s library until November 1996.

Between then and July 2003 it served as a Local Heritage Centre combining the council’s local history collections and archives. Following a fire in 2003 the Local Heritage Service was transferred to alternative premises and Grant Lodge has since lain empty.