Forres

£3.8m fund proposed to boost town centres, young jobs and rural tourism

A multi-million-pound cash boost which includes £10k grants for town centre start-ups, pop-up shops, new jobs for young people and a rural tourism fund is being proposed by councillors.

The fund is designed to help the Moray economy recover from the impact of Covid-19, and the council’s leader has said that Investing in town centres, the hospitality sector and young people will be of vital importance.

Moray Council will consider a report on October 28 that seeks to invest £3.84m over the next three years in a number of initiatives designed to kick-start the economy.

The proposal is part of a recovery plan to be considered later this week by Moray Economic Partnership, involving all sectors of the local community. The plan has been in development since the early days of the pandemic, when a business resilience forum was formed with representatives from the public and private sector, as well as the leader of Moray Council and Moray’s MSP and MP. This group has informed the recovery plan on a weekly basis while Moray Economic Partnership has met monthly.

Downturn

Moray has been hard hit by a downturn across most business sectors, with 34% of the workforce furloughed, the second highest figure in Scotland with only Highland having a higher proportion at 35%.  This includes all PAYE jobs in both private and public sector

Pop-up shops like this one already running in Forres could open in towns across Moray. Picture: Marc Hindley

Working with a range of partners, such as Business Gateway, HIE, Moray College, the Chamber of Commerce and Department for Work and Pensions, a list of actions has been created to help the area recover.

The funding is in addition to what the council will provide for the projects recently announced as part of the £100m Moray Growth Deal.

The actions proposed include:

  • Town Centre Start-Up – 50% grant up to £10k maximum for individual start-ups
  • Pop-up shop scheme in the main five towns of Buckie, Elgin, Forres, Keith and Lossiemouth and Speyside
  • Town Centre Fund grants for conversion of empty space to living space, and 50% grant for alteration of large retail premises to smaller units in town centres
  • Young Company Capital Investment Scheme – grants of up £50k for investment in equipment
  • New procurement support to assist local firms in accessing public sector contracts
  • Rural Tourism Fund to develop network of facilities for toilets and mobile home use
  • A number of initiatives aimed at developing more opportunities for young people’s employment including up to 15 council jobs through the Kick Start scheme
  • Development of new employment land in Forres and Speyside

Strong foundation

Leader of Moray Council, Cllr Graham Leadbitter, said it was vital that the authority takes a lead in getting the area back on its feet.

Graham Leadbitter
“Investing in our town centres, the hospitality sector and ensuring that there are opportunities for young people here in Moray will be of vital importance.” – Graham Leadbitter

“Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic Moray’s economic prospects looked very positive and we can’t lose sight of that. The current crisis being faced by the world has radically changed things but we have a strong foundation in Moray upon which to build.

“The Moray Growth Deal is a huge opportunity for economic growth, as is the continuing expansion of RAF Lossiemouth.

“We need to complement these positives by focussing on the areas that will be under the most stress as a result of the pandemic and the range of measures being proposed seeks to do exactly that. Investing in our town centres, the hospitality sector and ensuring that there are opportunities for young people here in Moray will be of vital importance.

“These measures have been put forward after a series of consultation events, where we had excellent ideas and feedback from business and community representatives. This will now be considered by councillors and must be backed by investment from a range of partner organisations as well as the council, if we are to succeed in moving our local economy forward.”

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