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‘Major’ scheme for eyesore motel area

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By Fiona Reid
‘Major’ scheme for eyesore motel area

A MAJOR redevelopment scheme is being put together for a rundown part of Moffat — and it could create 50 new jobs.

The owners of the ‘former woollen mill’ site, which includes the derelict Moffat Mercury Inn, have revealed they have plans for ‘major external and internal renovations’.

And they say they are working with the neighbouring Co-op on initial layout proposals, which could include ‘significantly improving’ the external appearance of the existing retail and visitor centre; extra parking, a new soft play and cafe.

In a submission to Dumfries and Galloway Council, Equorium Property and EWM Group also note opportunities at the dilapidated former motel.

Their statement, lodged by agents John Handley Associates, confirms an ‘intention to progress the proposed redevelopment of the site’, adding: “The proposals will represent a significant investment in the Moffat area. This in turn, will safeguard existing local jobs and provide opportunities for further job creation, with around 50 new positions anticipated.”

It was submitted during a consultation on the region’s replacement local development plan (LDP), with Equorium Property and EWM Group welcoming the local authority’s ‘recognition of the site as an important mixed use development opportunity’.

They also called for the

existing retail and tourism outlet at Moffat Woollen Mill, and the adjacent land, to continue to be allocated as a redevelopment opportunity in the new LDP.

The statement adds: “Although there has been little progress to date, it is still a key aspiration of our clients to provide a major retail and visitor development at this location which would reflect the existing retail and tourism uses on the site, including the Woollen Mill, restaurants, Co-op food store and former hotel.”

Other business priorities are said to have, so far, delayed the scheme but they stress it remains a key priority as part of a planned programme of investment throughout the UK.

Discussing the Mercury Inn in particular, the agents say: “There is also the opportunity to redevelop the former motel building which sits along the frontage of the site, and is owned by our clients.”

Although no exact timescales are given, there is mention of a formal planning application ‘in due course’ and it’s noted that both firms are keen to work with officials and progress matters.

Mercury campaign Mick Barker, from Moffat, yesterday confirmed that there has already been a meeting between the owners and council staff, with another scheduled to take place shortly.

He said: “It’s hoped that the development plans will get every possible support from DG Council and, indeed, it’s their stated intention to be as helpful as possible. However, there is a lot of work for the owners to do, including with the council and community, to see evidence on the ground of the owners’ intent.

“What we are looking for is evidence of the specific nature of the plans as mentioned, an idea of the proposed timetable for implementation, and the nature of the consultation process with the community. We don’t have any of that yet.

“This new dialogue, and the helpful and direct involvement of council officers is a positive improvement, which gives us the best chance to see the Mercury being dealt with.”

Meanwhile, Annandale North Councillor Lynne Davis is cautiously optimistic and said: “I would support the local authority working with the owners of the site on any appropriate new proposals they bring forward.

“If they fail to materialise it may be prudent for the council to explore further avenues such as compulsory purchase and any locally-driven re-development plans for this prime site.”

However, David Mundell MP and Oliver Mundell MSP are more wary.

David said: “We’ve been here many times before and nothing has ever happened other than the building deteriorating further. I’m only going to believe there is an intention to do anything with the site when I see action on the ground.”

And Oliver added: “Urgent action is needed on this site and I fully understand local frustration and scepticism on this issue because of decades of inaction by EWM.”

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