Thursday, July 21, 2016

Busting the broon lagoon and solving sewage infrastructure and bathing water problems locally - get yourself up to date on what needs to be done - essential reading

Yesterday we published images of yet more spillages at the Merryton/sewage bridge - part of the problem we face with Nairn's sewage infrastructure and contamination that affects the water quality of the river and the beaches. 


More images here.

Anyone in Gurnshire interested in these matters may wish to read the information below that has been forwarded to the Gurn by one of our regular readers. It is the text from  a note prepared by Nairn Residents Concern group for the recent stakeholders' meeting and submitted/circulated to SEPA, Scottish Water and the Community Councils and local Highland Councillors. The Gurn understands that this paper has been accepted as an agreed framework for future action by the major players in the working group set up to deal with the recent bathing water quality crisis.

Keep yourself informed folks and ask questions of your local representatives - especially the Highland Council ones, you may see a bit more of them between now and the local elections in May. Now for a wee read, have that cuppa or pour that dram...


NAIRN BATHING WATER – SEPA STAKEHOLDER GROUP Notes for meeting, Wed 13 July1. This note is essentially a summary and checklist. with comments and background information as necessary. It reflects local views and concerns regarding some of the key areas which the stakeholder group might usefully address. It follows earlier meetings with officials and others. This document has no formal status. It does not claim to be comprehensive or technically-detailed. It is made available simply as an aid to planning future discussion, decisions and action

Why does the quality of bathing water matter to Nairn? (local impact)


1.      Tourism. Beach-related tourism is vital to the town – indeed defines its image and reputation.  Seaside recreations, including bathing, sailing and other watersports, and a high-quality natural environment are key elements in Nairn's appeal to visitors.   The classification of the water quality at Nairn's Central and East beaches as “poor” (and the considerable publicity and reporting of this) has done immediate and significant damage to the town as a recreational destination.  A brand image, once tarnished, takes a very long time to recover. The PR challenge is not so much to disseminate information, rather it is damage-limitation.  Re-establishing credibility (especially in view of the apparent disconnect between SEPA classification, Blue Flag awards, and Trip Advisor ratings….) is an important task.
2.      Local economy. It follows that tourism is one of the principal drivers of the local economy. The retail sector, the hotel & B&B operators, the caravan park, and other service and amenity providers all rely heavily on the (seasonal) flow of visitors.  Any deterioration or questionmark over the quality of the natural environment – especially the beaches, riverside and the water of the Moray Firth  - risks leading to a decline in visitor numbers.  This directly threatens seasonal employment and potentially the viability of local enterprises (many of them small businesses) already affected by wider economic pressures.
3.      Health. The implications for the health of residents and visitors alike of contaminated bathing water, especially by e.coli, i.enterococci and other sewage-related organisms, are too obvious to need spelling out.
4.      Future development. The longer-term prospects for the expansion of Nairn, the delivery of more housing, and the promotion of business investment all depend on the adequacy, capacity and effectiveness of the infrastructure – drainage and sewage just as much as water supply, roads, telecommunications and other services.  Limited capacity or shortcomings in the drainage and sewage networks and plant become constraints on development  (as has already been signalled by the recent SW policy requirement that all the costs of future drainage/sewage provision will have to be met, upfront, by developers).



What needs to be done?  (the key objectives)
1.      The current debate was triggered primarily by the public reporting of the implementation of a 2006 EU Directive requiring by 2015 the classification – and posting of public warning signs about – bathing water quality…… which in the case of Nairn beaches is defined as “poor”.
2.      Meetings in recent weeks/months have focused on the detail of the wording on signs and interpretation of the sampling statistics which determine the classification.  This is one of the requirements stipulated in the Directive.  But it does nothing to tackle the risks, or causes, of the contamination.
3.      The key requirement is rapid action to mitigate, alleviate and prevent unacceptably high levels of contamination in the River Nairn, its outflow into the Firth, and the adjacent beaches.

What is currently proposed? (the draft improvement plans)
9. The draft plans (circulated for the meeting) are described as 'work in progress'. In summary, they identify four strands of SEPA/SW activity undertaken or under way:
                      modelling (review of SW map of output), with more modelling as a potential future action;
                      sampling (modification/variation in sampling frequency and locations);
                      talking (the convening of a stakeholder group);
                      signage (review of texts, design, and wording of signs).

1.      Given the clearly identifiable objective noted at para 8 above, this is wholly inadequate and misses the point. None of the proposed actions represent specific practical measures on the ground to reduce pollution-risk or bacteria levels.  None of the proposals in the drafts are remedial action.
2.      The draft plans address the symptoms, not the cause(s).  Sampling variations (and “discounting”) are simply ways to manipulate statistical data.  Modelling is hypothetical and only as good as the underlying assumptions (and has already been shown to have been inadequate as a predictive tool).  Signage has no effect on the levels of pollution:  its principal effect – however much explanation is provided and whatever text is used – is to deter.  Discussion meetings have value, but only insofar as they enable a two-way dialogue and lead to decisions and outcomes: meetings are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

What needs to be tackled?  (the issues that should be addressed)
12. The following checklist is not in any order of priority or achievability.  It identifies a number of issues which an action plan or improvement plan ought sensibly to address, and which merit discussion by stakeholders on the basis of relevant information.  Some call for short-term measures. Others may be long-term aspirations.  Few are unique to Nairn.  But all have a bearing on the task of improving local bathing water quality.
i. High Rainfall and Combined Sewer Outflows (CSOs). Much of the evidence so far confirms that high bacteria counts correlate with periods of high rainfall.  It is also a fact that much of Nairn relies on CSOs.  As the WHO guidance explains:
Combined sewer and stormwater overflows, which are built into most sewerage systems where the effluent “combines” with rainfall, may present the greater health risk, because water users may be exposed to diluted untreated sewage. Where the sewer does not receive surface water after rainfall, the “uncombined”raw sewage overflows present a direct health risk, contact with which should be avoided.
The   best   option  is  to  have   separate   collection  systems  for  sewage   and rain/stormwater. Although treatment is an option for combined sewer overflows often the treatment plant cannot cope with the quantity of the sewage, or the effectiveness of the treatment is lowered due to a change in the “quality” of the sewage.

Replacing the existing system with separate systems is clearly a very ambitious, costly and long term aim. But recognition of the shortcomings of CSOs, and action to minimise overflows, has to be a part of an improvement plan.
ii. Human waste v other pollutants. Much recent discussion and official comment has pointed to agriculture and ruminant waste as a source of pollution, particularly in the upstream catchment area. This may be a factor.  But SEPA's own bathing water profiles for Nairn's beaches refer to DNA testing and conclude explicitly that “mainly human sources are likely to be contributing to affect bathing water quality” .  That being so, it makes no sense to prioritise resources and effort on the agricultural dimension.  Given that Nairn is at the mouth of the river with an urban population of some 10,000 while the hinterland (catchment area) is sparsely populated with declining numbers of livestock, it is self-evident that action has to be concentrated on the principal (ie human) sources of faecal pollution.  This means an improvement plan should prioritise action to mitigate risk in the location(s) where the greatest problems of wastewater and sewage-management arise.
iii. Condition of ageing network. The network especially in the older parts of Nairn, is old – much dating from the Victorian era.  Like bridges, the pipes are no longer fit to carry the increased loads placed on them.  Like bridges, they are prone to collapse.  This is a nationwide problem. Large-scale replacement (with or without separation) is a long-term goal, and costly. But there is no alternative to the progressive, gradual replacement of ageing pipes, and an improvement plan should outline a strategy and indicative costs for this.  Meanwhile the operational problems of silting up, blockages, cracks and collapses underline the crucial importance of regular, consistent surveillance and maintenance, and joined-up action with the local authority (eg over surface runoff, roadside drain-clearing etc) to ensure that the old network is kept as robust and capable as possible.
An improvement plan should spell out the operational maintenance obligations and targets.
iv. Capacity of the network. It has been officially recognised that the Nairn network is already under stress.  This has implications for planning for future construction development and for the expansion of the town.  It follows on from the age and condition problem:  for example, older pipes are generally smaller, and routes and access points have been modified (or blocked up) over the years.  An improvement plan ought to include proposals for the expansion of drainage/sewage network capacity with indications of cost and funding sources (eg developer-funded).
v. Effectiveness of WWTW. There seems no major concern over the plant's designated capacity.  Recent issues have been technical failures/malfunctions (the 2014 'abnormal event') and the problems of odour.  These have reportedly been addressed, which is encouraging.  But there is a persistent concern that the WWTW is not always operating at optimum efficiency. It would be useful to see in the improvement plan some indication of the level of reliability of the plant.

vi. Direct discharges at peak times.  It is recognised that in certain “emergency” (?) circumstances raw or partially treated sewage is discharged, or overflows, directly into the River Nairn.  This is regulated by SEPA through consents/licences.  Ideally there should be enough marginal capacity in the system for this never to occur. The frequency, and “acceptable threshold” of authorised discharges, is not widely known.  An improvement plan should look at what alternatives there might be to licensed discharges;  and what scope there might be to raise the threshold either temporarily (to allow bathing water recovery - a “blitz” measure?) or as a specific and measurable objective to be attained progressively over a period of time.
vii. Unmonitored/authorised discharges. Two particular aspects.  The improvement plan should spell out the management and monitoring regime for septic tanks (both urban and rural), the number of which appears not to be known.  The other problem, specific to the town, is the discharges of chemical toilets and associated waste from campervans, either into the river or into drains.  This threatens the WWTW processes.  It is seriously polluting.  It is illegal.  Since campervans are an inevitable part of the tourism sector and will continue to visit the town, a strategy is required (largely involving the local authority, not the utility companies) to deter the practice, and also to devise acceptable alternative disposal provision (whether public or 'commercial'). Prosecution may be a costly last resort, and it appears sensible for an improvement plan to indicate possible alternative options.
viii. Flooding – especially of Fishertown. The Highland Council is committed to delivering a flood management plan, although the timescale/priority appears to have slipped.  The flood risk in certain areas of Nairn has been designated as severe. The configuration of the local CSO network means that flooding is of sewage as well as rain or grey water, so the linkage is obvious.  Flood management is a national and regional priority.  The debate over the implications of climate change has reinforced the case for “future-proofing”.  It is noteworthy that flood alleviation works have already been delivered in Inverness (the Ness), in Forres (the Mosset) and in Elgin (the Lossie) at a cost of many millions.  All have similar catchment area characteristics,  All have comparable levels of risk.  This raises the question – which an improvement plan should address, and stakeholders should have the opportunity to discuss  – of the rationale for the absence so far of similar works in Nairn and the case for assigning such work a higher priority.
Final comments
1.      The problems are physical (sewage and waste overflows, bacteria in the water) and presentational (how best to advise and explain water quality within the rules and without detriment to the tourism message).  Dealing with them requires sustained effort and attention and a joined-up collaborative approach, accompanied by clear, factual explanations.
2.      The solutions require technical expertise (from the agencies), financial resources (from national and regional authorities), and political will.  The stakeholder group can, and should, have a role in influencing the priorities for action, exerting pressure for the allocation of resources, and monitoring the process of delivering the necessary improvements. 

Nairn is so amazing - Dolphins have something to do with that - amazing vid from Richie Main

Well done Richie, stunning video.

Nairn County versus Nairn St Ninian, 7.30 pm tonight at Station Park

Tonight's the night, Nairn County FC v Nairn St Ninian FC in the Bridgemill Direct Challenge match at Station Park, kick-off 7.30 pm.


More details on the match here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Merryton bridge still the pinch point in the Nairn sewage system

Once the rain kicks in like it did this morning the infrastructure at the bridge just can't take it. Unless something is done in this area it looks like we could be looking at appearances of the Broon Lagoon for many years to come. Surely there has to be a health and safety issue here too and not just from the jobbies out on the pavement - imagine bumping into that heavy manhole cover in the dark, blown up out of its position by the power of sewage/water pressure. Images will enlarge. 







Local SNP branch now named "SNP Nairnshire" after Culloden activists form their own group.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Delnies please not Nairn South - anyone? Golf course, hotel, and 300 homes to start within a year?

According to the Press and Journal: 

"Work on a long-planned £70million Nairn golf and 300-home development could finally get under way next year.

Plans for the project have been on the table for almost a decade, but now Cawdor Maintenance Trust have revealed they hope to start work late next year or early 2018.

Critics of the proposal are adamant, however, that vital infrastructure to support it is not in place.

The development is planned for land north of the A96 Inverness-Aberdeen route at Delnies, and features an 18-hole course, a luxury hotel, a tourism and heritage centre, equestrian centre and housing."
Would the sewage have to go to Ardersier though given the state of the local infrastructure? Plenty more in Iain Ramage's article here with comment from some of the usual suspects.

Missing Cat - Jack has been missing from his home in the Beech Avenue/Wyvis Drive area of Nairn since Sunday evening (17 July)

Update 0800 19th July - we hear he's home :-)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

River CC leaflet areas they think will be affected by South Nairn development

One of our regular readers Murd Dunbar has sent us a copy of a leaflet he received through the door today. Murd lives in Queenspark one of the areas that could be impacted severlely by development at South Nairn. 


Murd doesn't go with the thinking on this one though and still continues to plough a minority furrow with his views on all things South Nairn. This is what he told the Gurn:

"There is A saying. IF IT AINT BROKEN DON'T FIX IT
Well in my opinion and that of ALL I have spoken to have expressed. 
Station brae system is not only broken but DANGEROUS
I have suggested REMOVING THE islands from the brae install three way traffic lights at the Balblair junction something that works at Moss-side on to the A96. This would make using the brae safer.
River C.C. appear to be more focused on stopping Nairn South than making the brae safe for those who have to use it at the moment.
Never have I heard any what I would consider a sensible suggestion for making the brae safer from any of the meetings I have attended. 
Surely people's safety in the community is more important than trying to stop houses being built.
At the moment there is no infrastructure for housing but THE BRAE IS A DANGER TO ALL WHO USE IT.
Why try to stop any thing that would improve the brae?"

Here at the Gurn we are still of the opinion that the Station Brae is a very unpleasant area for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike and it's no good the council saying there is no money to do anything, something has to be done to make that area safer. As for more development, until a credible solution (a flyover, or a tunnel perhaps?) comes up we feel that the idea putting hundreds more houses up there borders on insanity. Let's get building badly needed houses on Sandown first, it's town land and we can invest the profits in more housing and amenities for the community. There's enough room at Sandown to get going on affordable public housing, private housing, self-build, eco-exhibition, tepees - you name it let's do it and just forget about South Nairn!

Sandown wild flower display - pictures Morton Gillespie

Morton sent us these remarable pictures taken recently in the south field at Sandown. Morton added that the flowers have sadly been cut now but it does show nature's ability to give us a remarkable display if we give her the time and space to do so. Pictures will enlarge if you click on them. 





Friday, July 15, 2016

Meanwhile over on the Gurn twitter account

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. You don't have to have an account to look at tweets either. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Giant Kites are back in Nairn today.

The giant kites have arrived on the Links, it's a fantastic day to get a wee picnic together and go and sit on the Links and watch them fluttering and swaying gently in the breeze. 

Some images of the giant kites at Nairn today here.

Hopefully they will be back on the 27th July and the 24th August.

Missing black and white collie dog in Nairn near the Jubilee bridge

UPDATE
Bessie has been found near Whinnieknowe and is safely back home.  Thanks from Murd to everyone who kept an eye out for her.

Bessie, a black and white collie dog, has escaped her human near the Jubilee bridge in Nairn around about 11.45.  She has a collar with a name tag and phone number but if you find her please ring Nairn 452630, not the number on the collar.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Peter Ord Charity 7 a-side Football tournament, Farmers Showfield, Nairn, Saturday, 16th July 2016

Footie fans, missing the Euro's? Well get yourself down to the Farmers Showfield in Nairn this Saturday, 16th July 2016, where Uncle Bob's annual Peter Ord Charity 7 a side Football tournament will be taking place.


There are currently 12 teams who are ready, willing and chomping at the bit to take part, and while you might not see the silky skill level of Ronaldo or Gareth Bale, you will be guaranteed entertainment and fun! Entries are still being taken up to 11.30 am on Friday 15th, if you can get a team together and want to take part you still have time. Entry fee is £10 per team and teams are asked to contribute a prize for the raffle which will be drawn after the tournament. The first match kicks off at 12 pm and each match lasts 10 minutes. 

Money raised will go to the Special Baby Care unit.

For more details and information, please contact Heather at Uncle Bob’s on 01667 453064.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Black cat missing in Fishertown

Missing in the Society Street area of the Fishertown since around the 6th July, Toby, a one year old, short haired, predominately black cat - although he does have a white patch on his tummy and a few flecks of white under his chin.  

Toby is a very friendly, handsome boy who likes his food.  His family are missing him terribly, especially his twin brother, Blue, as they were always together.  

You can see Toby's white patch in this picture. 

If you live in the Fishertown and you have seen Toby please contact Andrew on 451090?  Could you also please check any sheds, outhouses, bunkers or garages, etc, in case Toby’s been shut in somewhere?  

It was worth the wait for Nairn County fans.

Nairn County FC have finally appointed a new manager so it's out with the old and ......in with the old!  Welcome back Sharpie, we're all really looking forward to the future now.

More details on Ronnie Sharp's appointment here.

The High Street gets a spruce and polish from local volunteers

Council cut backs mean that, like it or not, there are a lot of things which were done in the past that are now no longer guaranteed or not done as frequently as they might have been. The High Street may not seem to be as litter and weed free as we’re used to and, whether this is down to lack of cash or manpower, who can tell.  



On Sunday morning a small, but determined band of local volunteers, led by Sheena Baker and including members of ANB, business owners and some of their staff, hit the street armed with brushes, mops and buckets and during a two hour period pulled up weeds, swept up rubbish, pressure washed pavements and paths and polished and washed the outside of some High Street premises.  

A small start maybe, but it shows what can be done in a short space of time if the momentum is there. Will we be seeing more of this in the future?

More images of the clean up here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Nairn Rocks 2016 and the rain gods are kind.

Yesterday saw the very first Nairn Rocks event which was organised by Laura Munro and her willing band of volunteers. The rain gods were indeed kind and waited until the event was packing up before the heaven's opened.


A great time was had by all in what was a very relaxing, old fashioned, fun filled, family orientated day.


Well done to Heather Stevenson of Uncle Bob's who received the very first Nairn Rocks Star award, a very worthy winner.

More images from the day can be found here.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Anyone rocking in the Showfield tomorrow? (Sat 9th July)?

A reassuring performance at Station Park in the friendly against Caley Thistle

Sunshine at Station Park last night as a decent sized crowd enjoyed some summer football. 

"COUNTY fans have grown used to seeing top Highland League stoppers turn out for their club and they may have another one on their hands in Dylan Maclean, writes Graeme Macleod.


The likes of Michael Rae, Jim Calder, John Campbell, Callum Donaldson and the recently-departed Calum Antell have thrilled the Station Park crowds in recent years and young Maclean showed he has the potential to be mentioned in the same breath if he can continue his development.

The young stopper made a string of impressive blocks during a 70-minute appearance against Premiership opponents, Inverness CT."  Full report on the Nairn County website here. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

If anyone in Gurnshire has a little spare cash...please consider a donation to "The Bill Logan 2016 West Highland Way challenge" fundraiser

Please consider making a donation to the "The Bill Logan 2016 West Highland Way challenge".

Alistair Nicol said on the popular Nairn Rocks social media page:

"To anyone who knew Bill Logan you will understand why I have decided to do this walk in his memory. An amazing guy who always put others before himself.
Looking to fund a memorial bench close to Nairn beach as well as support the local museum in Nairn where Bill was a patron and finally the Scottish guide dog society where he spent a large part of his life working as a dog handler."

This observer had the privilege of walking the West Highland Way back in 2014 with Bill and other County fans, that fundraiser raised nearly £10,000 for the Nairn County Fans Ground Improvement Fund and Bill, a lifelong County fan, was very active in other fundraisers for the club too and many other deserving causes had the benefit of his considerable support and talents.

Many of you will have known Bill, he was an exceptional man. If you are a Gurn reader and have a pound or too to spare please consider making a donation that will honour his memory. The online fundraiser page is here. 

Here's Bill speaking after he finished the West Highland Way in 2014. ( 54 seconds into the video).

 

You can see Bill and the other walkers from 2013 in the set of images below too. Individual images here.

 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau and Trading Standards set to expose tactics used by scammers

Cold calls, high-pressure sales tactics and automated voicemails asking for people’s details are just some of the tricks scammers are using to rob people of their hard earned money, says Gill MacLean, Manager of Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau.

The organisations are launching Scams Awareness Month on 4 July to help stop people falling prey to scams by following a three-step rule - get advice, report it, and tell others about it.

Fraud victims pay a heavy price, losing billions of pounds every year. Scams targeting people by phone or post alone cost people in the UK an estimated UK £5 billion each year.

Informing the authorities and warning others is the only sure fire way of stopping scams, but people can be hesitant to even tell their friends and family.

Gill MacLean said:

“Scams come in a variety of guises and we see new ones emerging all the time.

“However, there are common hallmarks to every scam and we’re keen to show people what to look out for so they don’t fall prey to a fraudster.

“Reporting suspicious offers and incidents of fraud is vital to getting scams closed down. If you think you’ve been contacted by a con artist or have been the victim of scam, seek advice and report it to the authorities.

‘’Scams are more common than most people realise and every day we hear from people who have lost money to a con-artist. 

“Some scams are one-offs that persuade you to part with a lump sum, while others go after your personal details so they can access your money or copy your identity.

“We’re asking people to help us tackle scams in Nairnshire by getting to know the common signs, warning others, and reporting incidents to us so we can investigate.”

What to do if you have been scammed

Get advice and report it to Trading Standards through your local Citizens Advice Bureau or through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

Sainsbury's staff community activity improving the look on the eastern approaches to the town.

New era for County and a new name for the superb new enclosure - "The Davy Johnston Enclosure"




Local author and journalist Donald Wilson who wrote a book on the legend that is Davy Johnston said later on the fans social media pages:

" I am absolutely delighted that Davy's contribution not just to Nairn but the Highland League has been recognised. I am sure there will be be many former
opponents and team mates who will be delighted by this recognition and the absolutely joy on Richard Konczak's face when the poll was announced last night told it all "

There was another huge turnout of fans at the meeting in the Legion last night and the determination that Nairn County Football Club makes it through the lean times ahead was palpable. A difficult period ahead but a tremendous community feeling amongst the fans.

On Thursday night 7th July, at 7.30 Nairn County take on Caley Thistle in a friendly match. 

Monday, July 04, 2016

With the cuts kicking in - grass cutting, doggie jobbie, weeds and litter anger hit the headlines.

Head to a newsagents near you to get the latest from the Leopold Street
Thunderer. Yeah folks, does look indeed like the cuts have gone too far now – things are noticeable. What shall we do?  Time to take a few more consultants on the books?  An emergency survey might help? Take all your woes to the service point as a local Highland Councillor recently suggested instead of raising them in public?  

Here at the Gurn cynicism levels have gone into overdrive – too many workers have been paid off and it all looks broken now and our local councillors should put their hands up and admit this. It all seems about an endless circuit of talk and good intentions with nothing ever getting sorted and the outlook is only for even more of the same. On Sunday local business folk and others are going to do a High Street Clean-up - maybe this is the template for the future if we want anything put right?