Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Meanwhile on the Gurn twitter account

We're old media now too, most news in Nairn breaking over on Facebook these days but we still have our moments from time to time.

In the meantime if there's not much being posted here it's worth having a look at the Gurn twitter account. Quite a lot happens in the Nairn twittersphere these days and you can scroll down the wee twitter box on the right hand side as far as you like to see what the latest craic is. You don't have to have an account to look at tweets either. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

King Street flats and CAB application - submissions to Highland Council's e-planning pages stacking up - including submission from a heritage architects firm in Edinburgh

This observer has just had a browse at the the Highland Council's e-planning pages for the King Street application file. There have been a number of submissions recently both in support and against the application and all those serious students of Nairn planning matters that have been paying attention to this matter may wish to go and read the latest material which can be found here both under the comments and documents tabs.

It will be interesting to see what attention Councillors from other parts of the Highlands will make of all this material when the decision is eventually made. It seems unfair perhaps that given there has been so much debate locally that councillors from elsewhere will be the ones that decide, but that is the nature of the Highland Council planning set-up

There are personal pleas for much needed housing and the CAB, worries about parking, more from the Community Councils and Nairn BID. One particular submission caught our attention this morning from Simpson and Brown architects, it reads:

"Mr John Sanders
Comment submitted date: Mon 20 Jul 2020

We have been commissioned to comment on this application on behalf of the Nairn Residents Concern Group and private individuals.

We object to this application due to the following concerns;

- that the conservation of the existing listed buildings and the stone buildings within this historic area has not been fully taken into account.
- The development could prevent or restrict the prospect of regeneration of the listed buildings on or near the site
- The design does not full respect the urban history of the site
- The proposed design is too large and high for the site and overshadows an existing listed building
- A bin store would be built against the wall of a listed building - this would damage its appearance and restrict beneficial future use

The regeneration project for central Nairn is clearly important. Regeneration of a historic urban area should start with the conservation of existing buildings of value. This must include listed buildings but should also include all stone buildings. The underuse, dereliction or demolition of these buildings would harm the historic character of the area. If these buildings are in good condition and in a sustainable use, then they enhance the character of the area in a way that no new building could achieve.

Effective and well considered planning for the regeneration of a historic area must enable a sustainable new use for the listed and other heritage buildings. A proposal which puts a further constraint on the already difficult to achieve conservation of existing buildings, is poor quality planning. We consider that it is vital that this application should include, in its design statement, an explanation of how this project aids or impedes the regeneration of the surrounding area. This should include an options appraisal for the school and police station buildings. This study should include an assessment of the possible uses of the buildings and the amenity, servicing, and parking requirements for each use. This kind of assessment is needed before the new building is designed. If the proposed building overshadows the existing buildings to the point that they could not be used for conversion to housing or offices, for instance, this consideration should guide the design to reduce overshadowing or proximity. If excavation or services trenches for the new building could also include the necessary upgrade to services for the existing buildings, then that would save money in the regeneration project overall.

The building only responds to the historic urban grain because it is a rectangular building set at right angles to the direction of the main street. In a historic context, understanding urban grain is essential before producing a design. It needs to be considerably more subtle than has been shown for this application. The ordnance survey maps of 1866 and 1904 show that the plots for houses on the High Street ran at 90 degrees to the street, as would be expected in any Scottish town. However, due to the high status of many of these houses, this grain was not particularly urban. The area around the free church and school was not developed apart from the gardens, and presumably, garden walls, until the late 19th century. For its first half century, the building would have been visible from the west and east. The development of the immediate area involved three major buildings - the Free Church of 1840, the Free Church School 1847, and the Police Station 1869-1902. This means that the two surviving buildings were two thirds of the total of the first and only generation of development of this backland to the north side of the High Street. Paramount in responding to the urban grain should be a respect paid to the surviving buildings which are now the only surviving record of this urban grain. Without them, we would have no above-ground physical record of the urban grain in this area, or of the character of development, or of the attractive sandstone used to build them.

John Sanders

Simpson & Brown Architects"

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Gurn twitter account

We're old media now too, most news in Nairn breaking over on Facebook these days but we still have our moments from time to time.

In the meantime if there's not much being posted here it's worth having a look at the Gurn twitter account. Quite a lot happens in the Nairn twittersphere these days and you can scroll down the wee twitter box on the right hand side as far as you like to see what the latest craic is. You don't have to have an account to look at tweets either. 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Nairn Beach stars in NoHumanEye video - Zombie Baby

NoHumanEye in another collaboration with local loon and filmmaker Rowen Henderson.

Monday, June 29, 2020

King Street twists and turns - a planning application that just keeps getting more and more curious...

The application for flats and an office on the King Street parking spaces plus the accompanying demolition of the OSWB (old social work buildings) has already built itself up into an impressive file on the Highland Council e-planning site with the various documents of objection and the changes to the application itself. Latest up is an updated transport assessment submitted by the Council's consultants on the behalf of the Council plus a couple of design statement documents. 

The stuff you normally see at the start of the application process but such has been the gravity of issues raised in the process that it seems a lot has had to be adjusted. A quick look into the design statement reveals: 

“This Design Statement has been updated along with the other relevant information as a result of feedback from the consultation process. The principle change to the project is that the Old Social Work building will now not be demolished as part of this planning application” 

So what now for the OSWB? Still to come down at a later date? that does seem to have been the desire of Glenurquhart Road for some time despite the survival of the OSWB having been integrated into the existing town centre plan after an expensive consultation paid for by the Scottish Government.  An interesting juncture then for the plan by the new Nairn “powerhouse” team of the town's Community Councils, BID and Nice, to repurpose the OSWB? More here. 
One of our regular readers who alerted us to new goings on the e-planning pages told us that in his opinion: “the application has already gone through three revisions, a couple of site-relocations, and a redesign....the proposal is out of line with the agreed town centre plan; it significantly reduces the parking capacity in the area; and it screws up any more comprehensive town centre regeneration scheme” 

With the Covid-19 emergency it has been harder for the planning process to proceed effectively given the restraints on meetings and perhaps too the need to be as transparent as possible enters into choppy waters given the temporary arrangements at Glenurquhart road during the crisis. Given that the Council are prosecution, judge and jury in this case (applicant, planning authority and developer on the project) - Their vested interests mean that under planning legislation they are required to be extra scrupulous in how they deal with this.

Here at the Gurn we feel there is room for critics to suggest that this is now an entirely new application and should be resubmitted and considered in a post-Covid environment. They would argue that this is necessary so that we get it right for the town and the Council cannot then be in anyway accused of rushing things along at an inappropriate time with an application that has become a bit of a quagmire. 

This is an important and controversial planning application, if you have any spare time on your hands then make a cuppa or pour a dram and catch up with all the latest documents here on the Highland Council planning site. It's your town, have you had your say yet?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Diamond-back moth danger to Brassica plants - warning from Highlands & Islands Growers group

Archie McLaren from the Highlands & Islands Growers passes on the following alarming information:
I just want to warn all members to be on the lookout for Diamond-back Moth. In the past few evenings I've noticed small moths flying up from the Brassicas when I do the watering, and this afternoon I identified the culprit at close quarters. It's definitely Diamond-back or Diamond-backed Moth, Plutella xylostella, the world's most serious pest on Brassica crops. I've seen it many times before, but only once in UK. It's a tiny moth about 1cm in length at most, and you rarely see it until it flies up from amongst the crop, then it's hard to follow them to see where they land again. They have a pretty amazing "R" rate, one life cycle completing in 15-30 days so their numbers can increase exponentially! Within a week or two their larvae are decimating your Brassicas - and this includes Wallflower, Aubrieta and Alyssum, not just the edibles. The adult, if you can get hold of one, is smaller than a clothes moth, and has 4 vaguely diamond-shaped markings on its back, hence the name.

There was a fairly major outbreak about 5 years ago, and certainly in the Nairn area almost all gardeners lost their cabbages, cauliflowers, sprouts etc. The moths come in from the continent, and this lot have probably come in from Scandinavia with its warmer summers, on the easterly winds which have predominated recently. Prior to that outbreak, the internet reports a UK outbreak in the late 1980's when I was abroad, and before that in the 1950's. Notice how the first three were approx. 30 years apart, now we're talking 5 years - this might say something about global warming!

I'm not sure how this affects commercial growers of Brassicas. The moths may only infest the field margins in which case losses will be minimised. But on small plots, gardens and allotments you can expect a total crop loss if these moths continue to spread, which seems likely in the current warm weather. A change to colder or wetter weather might stop them in their tracks, and it may be that they will not penetrate far inland, but certainly all our members should be aware of the problem.

What can you do? Well, if you had already covered your brassicas with fleece or stuff like "enviromesh", all should be well. If not, it may already be too late. Pyrethroids are effective, but are probably no longer available to amateur growers. Yellow sticky traps in the crop may help trap a few hundred adults, but on current evidence there will soon be millions of these moths around. SB Plant Invigorator might have some effect if used weekly, and is organic. Other things like garlic solution, washing powder in dilute mix with water, and other home remedies might help. If you do nothing, and the moths arrive at your garden, you will lose the whole crop.

Be warned, please, and take appropriate action!


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Nairn groups united front for Nairn's recovery from Covid-19 blow to local economy

Four organisations have joined forces to create a powerhouse which will work to regenerate a North East town following the Covid 19 crisis.

Nairn Business Improvement District (BID), Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise (NICE) and the town’s two community councils believe by pooling their resources they can get the seaside town back on its feet with a series of initiatives.
Representatives from each of the groups have developed a strategy for recovery which will involve engaging with Highland Council and relevant public agencies and others to mobilise resources.

The key aims of the group are to take forward projects which will support enterprise and job creation, to retain local workforce and skills and to promote Nairn as a place to live and visit. 

Speaking on behalf of the collaboration, Bob Ferenth a member of the Nairn BID board and convener of the group said: “There are many projects that we can develop as a collective working group and have identified several that should be progressed to help revive and improve the town. By working collaboratively, we will have a stronger voice. The effects of the downturn are already evident, but the community wants to move quickly to plan for and build a more resilient local economy for Nairnshire.”

He added: “During the lockdown, businesses adapted and found new ways of operating, but these were short-term responses to the immediate crisis. The local economy now faces the threat of a substantial rise in redundancies as the furlough scheme winds down. Some local businesses are not yet confident of reopening. Guest bookings are uncertain. Almost all the major annual events that bring visitors have been cancelled. What our collective approach has done is identify key areas such as encouraging visitors, regenerating the town centre, enhancing the amenities at the Links, and improving access and travel routes into and around the town to name but a few, that will help Nairn recover from what has been catastrophic for the local economy.”
Speaking specifically about tourism, Michael Boylan, chairman of Nairn BID said: “Our collective aim is to limit and alleviate the impact of the current difficulties and find ways of encouraging the tourism, visitors and footfall which so many businesses depend on. The beach is still there as are the golf courses and there are plenty of outdoor recreational options. We want to persuade people to visit and enjoy what Nairn offers and contribute to the revival of the local economy.”

Work has already begun on a new children’s splash pad which was a jointly funded project between charity Team Hamish, NICE, Nairn Common Good Fund and Highland Council.
Alastair Noble, Chair of NICE said this is evidence that collaboration can lead to positive outcomes: “The entire community responded to the Team Hamish vision. The partnership shows that cooperation can work.  We now need to extend and reinforce that approach on a much more ambitious scale to deliver the kind of measures that will keep the local economy going and sustain local employment.”
Led by NICE, the group has already submitted an application to the Scottish Government, with the support of Highland Council for funding to restore and repurpose a historic building as a visitor centre and business hub which is intended to encourage greater footfall into the High Street.
Sheena Baker, chair of Nairn West and Suburban CC said: “We are already making waves and in this time of adversity, it is more important than ever the people of Nairn pull together. 

“We are counting on our elected councillors to join in these efforts and to back the proposals and projects which we are proposing. Public money will be needed.  

“The Council is meeting on Thursday (June 25) to consider the challenges of regeneration and recovery.  We are keen to collaborate in action which will make a real and sustainable difference to the economy, will create and protect jobs, and will enable us to find a way out of the present difficult situation.”

Nairn BID chairman Michael Boylan, Tommy Hogg, chairman of Nairn River Community Council, Sheena Baker chair of Nairn West and Suburban CC and Alastair Noble Chairman of NICE