Friday, August 10, 2018

115 houses for Kingsteps - Nairn Residents Concern Group slam decision

An NRCG spokesperson told the Gurn:

"The decision to grant planning consent for the Kingsteps site is deeply regrettable. Once again Nairn has had a development-planning decision imposed despite overwhelming local opposition. The consequences will haunt the town for years to come."

And they are extremely critical of the planning officer's report, they go on to claim:

"The planning official's report was flawed, inaccurate, misleading and complacent. Informed discussion – at the site visit and committee – was prevented or cut short. The official report, and the developers' assertions, were inadequately scrutinised."

We were also told:

"The fact that the committee was evenly split (5 votes to 5) demonstrated that members had serious doubts about the merits of the application and the quality of the planning assessment. To have the decision railroaded through by the casting vote of an Inverness Councillor backed by a colleague from Badenoch simply reinforces the impression that Nairn's interests are being overridden by representatives from elsewhere."

Tom Heggie comes in for a blast from NRCG too:

"But the sense of betrayal is most acute in relation to the only other Nairn member with a vote on the committee. Cllr. Heggie owes the community an explanation for his extraordinary failure to speak up for, and reflect the views of, those whom he claims to represent."

The group had more to say:

"As it is, the people of Nairn will pay a lasting and heavy penalty for this ill-judged decision. Traffic congestion, flood risk, environmental disturbance, and pressure on infrastructure, services and amenities will all increase.

The only winners in this lamentable story are Springfield, the developers, who will be able to walk away with even more massive profits; and Councillor Liz MacDonald the landowner, who will become very rich indeed."

Again the theme of local democracy or the lack of it as perceived by NRCG and others in the town raises its head once more, the NRCG said:

"Three years ago the Community Empowerment Act (CEA) gave the people of Scotland the right to determine the needs and priorities of their local place. Had this right been implemented by Highland Council, the outcome of the Kingsteps application may well have been very different and more aligned to the priorities of Nairn.

Nairn was stitched up and the only way to stop this happening again, and it will, is for Highland Council to implement the Community Empowerment Act within the spirit and intent it was legislated and not some watered down and restrictive version drawn up by officers of the Council.

Nairn is more than capable of making its own decisions and when it did so it thrived."

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The planning committee councillors come to Nairn to see the controversial site of the Springfield proposal for 115 houses at Kingsteps - videos

At the time of writing this article it seems the application has been passed according to reports on social media. Democracy in Nairn amounts in the final analysis to a minibus full of councillors coming to town then to go away and decide what is good for us back in the chamber of their HQ at Glenurquhart Road.

We live in an age where "localism" and "community empowerment" are the spin buzz words. Here at the Gurn we think there has to be a better way to decide how Nairn grows and where housing is built. Decisions have to be made by the community and not by others that don't live here.

Here are some videos of how the site visit went, questions were asked but some were not allowed under the terms of the purpose of a site visit. Have a look at them if you have some spare time and decide for yourself if this is an adequate system for deciding our town's future.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Murd Disappointed with Fergus over Firhall Bridge

Murd tells the Gurn that he came back from holiday to an e-mail from MSP Fergus Ewing in which Fergus tells him: "...having now met you at the site, and having had a better take on other peoples diverse views, I cannot see how this project can be taken forward at this time."

Regular readers will recall that there was a meeting at the Firhall Bridge recently with Murd, Fergus and members of the access panel present. In his e-mail Fergus details a number of reasons why he feels he cannot support Murd. Murd in his indefatiguable way has responded to them all. 

Murd tells us that Fergus seems to be  influenced by the attitude of the Access Panel and quotes Fergus in his e-mail: "Third, I have formerly asked you for evidence that the local access panel support the project. It is for the Panel to speak for themselves. However there are practical objections to what you propose and these cannot and should not be ignored. Some indeed were expressed at the site meeting."

Murd tells the Gurn that there are parts of the Highlands where finance seems to be available to improve bridge access and points to this example here in Fort William.  He told us that despite his bitter disappointment with Fergus Ewing he will continue campaigning for improved access at the Firhall Bridge. 

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Cricket on the Links tomorow (Sunday 5th) - The finals of the 2018 Reserve T20 competition

Magnus tells the Gurn
The finals of the 2018 Reserve T20 competition will take place this Sunday at The Links, Nairn. Match 1 - 10.30 hrs: Nairn vs Northern Counties Match 2 - 13.30 hrs: Loser of Match 1 vs Buckie Match 3 - 16.30 hrs: Buckie vs Winner of Match 1. Many thanks to everyone at Nairn for hosting the event and best of luck to all competing teams.

Community groups have prepared briefing document for Planning Committee members who will make site visit to Nairn Lochloy on Wednesday morning

The document begins:

"This note [prepared and agreed by Nairn River Community Council, Nairn Residents Concern Group and the Kingsteps Residents Group] is a checklist and aide-memoire intended to assist members of the South Planning Applications Committee undertaking a site visit to South Kingsteps (site NA2) on 8 August.

It is not an attempt to summarise all the 100-plus objections raised to this application. 

Rather it identifies eight simple but key questions which Councillors might like to raise and discuss - or have in mind – as they undertake the site visit.

Those key issues are:

the impact on the Kingsteps neighbourhood 
housing density and overdevelopment 
relationship with Lochloy/Meadowlea 
access and road capacity 
political sensitivity and 'windfall' benefit 
water, drainage and sewage issues 
environmental concerns 
wider cumulative impact on the town" 

Anyone wishing to get up to date with all the major issues (as seen from those community groups opposed) concerning the controversial Springfield application for 115 houses on Liz's land may wish to read the document here.

The Lochloy Planning controvesy - Podcast on P&J site looking at past and present including Springfield application

The Springfield planning application for 115 houses out at Lochloy on Liz's land comes up for analysis on a very interesting Podcast that looks at past and present issues at Lochloy and how Nairn folk feel ignored by Highland Council.

What's going wrong with so called localism?  Loreine Thomson and Morton Gilliespire interviewed in the P&J podcast by the paper's Susy Macaulay.  More here (once there head down the page a littel for the Podcast). 

Friday, August 03, 2018

Springfield applicaiton for 115 houses on Liz's land – Kingsteps residents raise issue they feel has been ignored so far.

Kingsteps residents feel that the planning department have sidestepped the fact that Kingsteps has always been considered a rural hamlet in it's own right rather than part of Nairn and that now the planning department have been ignoring or sidestepping this. One of them told us:

"We will be going to great lengths to demonstrate that Kingsteps is historically and always has been a separate rural settlement and should be treated as such for future planning."

They point to pervious deliberations that show this. All this is quite aside from other infrastructure, wildlife and other issues that are contained in objections from the Community Councils and others. 

The planning committee of Highland Council will make a site visit to the Lochloy area on Wednesday the 8th of August at approximately 09.30 and objectors are encouraging all those with concerns on local housing and planning matters to attend that site visit to lobby councillors with their views.

Individual images here

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Vandalism to cars in the Fishertown area - Nairn BID offer £500 reward for information leading to the conviction of those involved.

Save the badgers poster and others appear on Lochloy Road in advance of Highland Council Planning Committee visit on Weds 8th of August

Local residents and others that have strong concerns about the Springfield proposal for a large number of houses on land owned by Cllr Liz MacDonald have today been making their views known by displaying a number of posters in the Kingsteps area. More pictures soon. 

Social housing in Nairn - should we insist on Council and developers building more accomodation for single people?

Regular readers will no doubt will have seen the articles concerning "affordable housing" here and here. There is also a remarkable ongoing conversation on Nairn Rocks facebook page where local people are showing tremendous interest in this issue and some quite interesting comments have been made. It all comes against the background of the impending site visit by the Highland Council Planning Committee to the highly controversial site on Lochloy road where Springfield wish to build a large number of houses on land owned by local Councillor Liz MacDonald. That visit will take place on Wednesday 8th of August at approximately 9.30 am and Lochloy residents are encouraging all those with concerns on local housing and planning matters to attend that site visit. 

Whilst reading the conversation on social media we came across an analysis of the numbers of  those on the local council house waiting list.  We made inquiries and the information on the facebook page comes from a River Community Council meeting back in January of this year. We went back and had a look at the minutes of that meeting and here's what we find interesting, it is Lochloy resident Loreine Thomson speaking to the meeting:

"Forres Road plans propose ‘affordable’ housing rather than social housing with no allocation for social rent from Highland Council mentioned, These ‘affordable’ houses are offered for sale by part purchase from Albyn Housing, and do not add to local ‘social housing’ stock in the long term. 

Also the mix of housing types proposed does not represent needs of the 305 Nairn households on current Highland Council housing waiting list. 20% of these are transfer requests( mostly downsizing) 235 (61%) seek a 1 bed house 24% a 2 bed house and only 10% 3 bedrooms. If the 29 affordable homes on offer by Albyn Housing at Forres Road reflected local demand, the mix would be 18x1 bed, 8x 2 bed ,and 3x3 bed. Instead it is 8x1 bed, 11x2 bed and 10x3 bed. The Highland Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) proposes only 31 social homes for Nairn out of a total build of 213 with none due before 2020 and the 2nd lowest allocation in Highland. LM also noted that Forres Road site is not in either of 2 Local Development Plans."

There we have it folks, it seems that 61% of folk on the housing waiting list just want a one bedroom home. It makes sense when you think about it, just how do you get started as a young person if you wish to move into your own home? There are suggestions too that more of us are chosing to lead a solitary life too. Should Highland Council be insisting that developers change their priorities. 

Also folks keep further up todate on this issue by reading the letters in this week's edition of the Nairnshire Telegraph. More on this social media thread too. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Affordable Housing" and Liz's recent comments published in the local paper - The text of a response from Edward Andrews

Edward Andrews has made available to the Gurn a copy of his letter to the Nairnshire Telegraph in response to comments on housing matters made by Liz MacDonald and reported in the issue of 24th of July in the local paper. It certainly is a thought-provoking letter. 

"Dear Sir.

I was interested in reading Cllr MacDonald’s comments in the “Nairnshire” about the need for Affordable Housing in Nairn. Does she in fact mean “Affordable Housing”, or housing which people can afford?

There is a difference. So I thought that I wold look at the “Shelter” definition. They give a rough guide tending to say that the cut-off for what’s affordable is 35% of a person’s net household income ( income after tax and benefits). Any more than this and it’s likely that they will have to cut back on something else or will have to borrow or will fall into arrears.

Helpfully Cllr MacDonald tells us that there are almost 400 people on the waiting list for houses in Nairn, what we cannot know is what the economic situation of these people are, and whether or not they can afford to buy from a developer even at an allegedly affordable price.

It is generally accepted that the most socially destructive action of the Thatcher Years were the sale of Council Houses, and this is being reversed by the present Scottish Government with no fewer than 5,992 council houses built in the last parliamentary term. Of the 50,000 affordable houses planned until 2021, some 35,000 or 70% will be for social rent. It is unlikely that these will be built by developers reacting to the invisible hand of the market, and the interest of the shareholders.

Were Nairn to become a no go area for developers, as Cllr MacDonald suggests, this would mean that the demand for land would fall as would the land prices and it might be possible for the community in one form or another to work to meet the needs of the almost 400 people on the housing list, that they would have the kind of houses which they need rather than the £200,000+ houses which seem to be being built by developers.

As Cllr MacDonald says, this area is under delivering significantly on its local quota. The answer is to move on from the failed system where developers build a few “Affordable” houses as part of their building mix, but that the needs of the least able to find housing at the moment is prioritised.

I remain 
Yours faithfully
Edward Andrews"

There will be a site visit by members of the Highland Council planning committee to the Lochloy area on August 8th to see the area (owned by Councillor MacDonald) where a housing development company wishes to build a large number of houses.  The councillors will also meet local residents to hear their concerns about infrastructure, wildlife and other issues. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

For many Nairn folk the building will always be "The Rocking Royal" but a new sign displays its role in this new millennium

And across the road it looks as though the accomodation above the former Brown the Butcher's shop (now Lorenzo's) has been given similar signage. Pictures of the Royal Guest House here on 

Time to re-brand Dalcross as Nairn Airport?

Inverness Airport are doing some twitter research.
Our Gurn backroom staff have been doing some research and according to Google Maps (the font of all cartographical knowledge in this new millennium) it is 9.4 miles from Inverness to the airport but only 9.2 from Nairn to Dalcross. It's a mere 22.6 miles from the airport to Loch Ness according to Google.

It's a no-brainer folks it is Nairn Airport!  More on the Inverness Airport re-branding strategy here on the P&J site.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sandcastle competition Nairn Beach - pictures

A great event down on Nairn Beach this morning folks but it nearly never happened because of bureaucracy. However local businesses and organisations stepped in to help out. Here's what the Courier had to say:

"A SANDCASTLE competition set up by a mum looking for free things to do with her child during the holidays was almost scuppered by council red tape.

Nairn’s Dawn Cowie-Mcinnes (41) was shocked to receive a letter from Highland Council warning her that she needed official permission to host the event on the town’s beach.

She feared there was no way she could complete the lengthy application process in time or find the £559 required for a public entertainment licence. She said: "Everything for kids is so expensive nowadays, I thought we could have some good old fashioned fun on the beach and bring a few families together."

Nairn Yes blogger back

In the old days, before the massive ascendency of social media there used to be quite a lot of blogging in Nairn but these days that has quietened down considerably, we still have a feed in the side bar that has the sites or blogs that put out a regular news feed in the area (the ones we know of anyway and if you have one out there that isn't included please let us know). Back on the scene now is "Yes voter in Nairn".

Friday, July 27, 2018

Library car park traffic lights not working

The lights are still out this afternoon at the time of writing this post (13.15).  Not much fun if you are trying to get out and get your car on the A96 and even worse if you are a pedestrian trying to cross the trunk road. Thanks to Doctor Grigor for the picture below.

August 8th - site visit by Highland Councillors on planning commitee to see site of Springfield housing application on Liz's land

The Gurn understands that preparations are well underway by objectors to receive the planning committee when they arrive in Nairn by bus on Wednesday the 8th of August to see the site and the infrastructure etc. One of the objectors told the Gurn that they would like to see anyone who thinks the Lochloy development is inappropriate to go along and join them on the morning of the 8th in the Lochloy area. 

The Highland Councillors will be here to see an application that has proved to be very controversial locally with both the town's community councils and many others consider to be inappropriate given the current state of the sewage, roads and other infrastructure in the area. 

The Gurn understands that there have been new developments in correspondence on a significant wildlife matter too. 

This week also saw impassioned comment from Liz (that's Cllr Liz MacDonald to anyone that is not a regular reader of these pages) on the subject of housing reported in the Nairnshire Telegraph. Liz is reported commenting on the Morganti Land application on the Forres Road and also on the Springfield application. She takes a pop at the Community Councils too.  More in this week's Nairnshire Telegraph. 

Gurn comment:

No one can deny that there is a lack of social housing in Nairn and once again we have to say that we are concerned that there has been no effort to build any on the Sandown Lands yet, that is land that the town owns in the form of an asset on the books of the Common Good - surely that could facilitate things. Remember we were asked for our views on what should be built on Sandown in a "charrette" at the Courthouse back in 2012. The experts employed for that came up with a few plans (pictures here on the Gurn Flickr pages). Six years on and nothing has happened, it was meant to be done in five year phases - an opportunity for social housing lost?  Why all this emphasis on development out in the east of the town?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Too many Highland Eggs still in the tourism basket?

Overnighting at Nairn Harbour
Earlier this week we noticed the comments of David Richardson of the Federation of Small Business when he made reference to an article in the Scotsman that examined on the increasing numbers of visitors to the Highlands and Islands. 

Here in Nairn perhaps we would still like to see a bit more of that tourism here and the nearest we perhaps get to mass impact is the nightly line of camper vans down at the harbour. Here, close to Inverness we are in a part of the Highlands with a more mixed economy and the options for employment extend beyond tourism for many. Witness the weekly advert from the carvan site operator Parkdean for a range of positions they seem unable to fill this year.

Again David Richardson is concerned about the inability of some businesses to recruit seasonal staff. on this matter he said on twitter “Has many implications, all of them negative.” And Chair of the Association of Nairn Businesses Michael Boylan, also on twitter, said:

“I'm of the opinion that seasonal workers and the ability to recruit, retain and house them is one of the Highland tourism industry's biggest risks. You can't maintain high service levels with less people in the service industry.”

On tourism matters too this week, John Finnie MSP was calling for a tourism tax such as you often have to pay in other countries. The tax would help fund local authority expenditure. I think a lot of Nairn folk would be very worried about getting their fair share of that spent in the area too. Would be a good idea perhaps if we had local accountability restored in the form of something resembling the former Nairn District Council?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Appeal after cars vandalised in Nairn

Police in Nairn are appealing for information after several vehicles were vandalised in the Fishertown area of the town.

At least nine cars have been damaged overnight from Sunday, July 22 into Monday, July 23 and it is suspected that a small number of others parked in the area may also have deliberately damaged.

Incidents were reported around the King Street and Links Place areas.

The damage included various scratches being made to doors and bodywork.

Sergeant Steven Maclennan said: "This has been extensive act of vandalism causing entirely needless inconvenience and financial impact to those affected. 

"Acts like this won't be tolerated and I can reassure the local community that enquiries are ongoing to identify the person or persons responsible.

"Anyone with information is asked to contact police in Nairn on 101, quoting reference NM2172/18 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if you would prefer to remain anonymous."

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Quite a lot going on in the Nairn twittersphere these days folks, we'll post anything interesting we see here via the Gurn twitter page

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 boxie 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.