Friday, November 17, 2017

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 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. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Shanghai to Snecky service on the draft timetables but there's other big changes that might affect you - best to have look?

This observer has been having a look at the proposed bus changes that will be up for consulatation on Thursday morning. There will be services from/to Lochloy and Queenspark to Inverness now but it looks like swings and roundabouts with less 11s and more 10s - hard to see if it is an overall reduction but it could be. If you rely on the busses to get you to Inverness and back you'd perhaps better look at the proposed draft timetables.

The 11 no longer will go to Forres and Elgin.

You can get the draft timetables on this page here (scroll down and click on Service 10 and Service 11.)

According to Stagecoach the consultation will be taking place on Thursday 16th November Nairn Bus Terminal, 9am - 12pm

Monday, November 13, 2017

Highland Council's £1.1 million unsecured loan "An appalling situation" Cllr Roddy Balfour nails it

This observer is very impressed with what Roddy Balfour had to say to the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee last Wednesday the (8th November). Sin thu fhéin Rodaidh a bhalaich, 's math a rinn thu!  Oor Liz asked a wee question too. 

Pour a big dram and watch the webcast about a wee loan that Highland Council made to Inverness Airport Business Park Ltd. Was an unsecured loan for 1.1 million pounds a good idea? Have a wee look at the vid and you decide! (after all it's our money).

There is a white start button in the centre of the embedded screen - a bit hard to see but just click on  it to get it going.

You can download a copy of the report that was put to councillors on this Highland Council page here - it's down at item 12.

Application for 31 affordable homes on Jac's former home on Forres Road is withdrawn.

Highland Council planning department have written to those who made representations to the controversial application informing them that the application has been withdrawn. In their letter the council state:

"Should any further application be received for this or a similar proposal it will be necessary for you to write again to advise the Council of any concerns that you may have as comments made on previous applications cannot be transferred."  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ship to Ship oil transfers - Fancy sending a letter to Nicola? Cromarty Rising believe there are at least two things she could do.

Cromarty Rising have a proforma letter prepared that you can print off and sign and send to Nicola Sturgeon the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament. There are two things that they are urging her goverment to do.


Dear Ms. Sturgeon

Proposed Ship-to-Ship Oil transfers in the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation

As the Leader of our Government, it is your responsibility to ensure Scotland’s beautiful land and seascapes are protected for future generations. Marine reports prepared by your Departments explicitly state that ship-to-ship transfers of crude oil could have serious detrimental effects on our onshore and marine environments.

Indeed, you stated in the Scottish Parliament (12/1/17):

“On the basis of the current information, the Scottish Government is unconvinced that ship-to-ship oil transfers can, or should, take place at anchor in the Cromarty Firth without unacceptable risk to the marine environment—in particular the European Union designated area for bottlenose dolphins.”

You also stated regarding concerned constituents:

“I assure them that the Scottish Government absolutely hears their concerns and will continue to do everything we can to make sure that they are heard by those who take the decisions.”

You allude to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, who will determine any new application. But you do not have to allow a non-elected body in Southampton to take control. You and the Scottish Government can do at least two things to prevent such potentially devastating operations in our inshore waters:

You can use your powers to refuse to issue the required licence to disturb bottlenose dolphin and other European Protected Species http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0044/00446679.pdf

You can sit down and talk to the Cromarty Firth Port Authority, and persuade them to stop this. 

You don’t have to let others take this decision. Your Government has the power to make sure people are heard. You can decide to respect the will of more than 100,000 people who have registered their opposition to ship-to-ship crude oil transfers on the 38 Degrees Scotland site.

I respectfully urge you to use your powers to prevent ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth.

Yours sincerely,

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Nairn v Forres - a double helping Saints and County entertain visitors from along the road

Friday, November 10, 2017

Nairn Festival looking for a new chairperson - could it be you?

More details here on the Festival site.

Bus consultation event in Nairn November 16th from 9 am to 12pm

Nairn Police hunt fire-raisers

Police in Nairn are appealing for information following a series of recent fire-raising incidents..

Officers in the town have responded to a number of incidents in the last 10 days, which have involved wheelie bins and rubbish being set alight.

Fires have been reported around the King Street and Mill Road areas, Jubilee Park and in grassy areas at the dunes.

Area Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: "Fortunately, none of these fires have resulted in injuries or anything more serious.

"However, it should go without saying that deliberately setting fires is reckless and irresponsible and always has the potential for serious unintended consequences.

"It is also an unnecessary use of resources for the emergency services who may be called to one of these incidents when they could be of better use elsewhere.

"I would urge those responsible to think about their behaviour and anyone with information to contact officers in Nairn by calling 101.

"Information can also be passed to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Labour regional MSP steps back into Nairn Traffic Lights row

Davie Stewart has a few things to say about Nairn Traffic Lights:

Speaking today (9/11/17) he said “In 2015, I was instrumental in trying to persuade the Government and Transport Scotland that the congestion in the town was due in part to their decision to increase the traffic lights at the A96 junctions through the town from four to eight, claiming this was as a result of the expected increased traffic from the then new Sainsbury’s store which was opened in 2011.

“I lodged Parliamentary Questions on the issue, wrote to the then Transport Minister and set up an i-petition to try and address the issue. I also lodged a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with Transport Scotland, seeking the junction collision history through Nairn.

“These details were produced and revealed that between 2005 and 2015 there was no road traffic collision at the junction of the A96 with Seabank Road, Nairn. Three slight collisions at the A96 junction with Harbour Street (2005,2009 and 2013), two slight collisions at the junction with the A939,(2007) and two serious and two slight in the last 10 years at the junction of the A96 and Marine Road Rounabout (2006,2007,2008 and 2011).

“There were no road traffic collisions at the junction with Albert Street and three slight collisions at the A96 junction with Moss- Side Road (2005,2008 and 2011).

“On reflecting on these figures, back in 2015, I said at that time ‘In 10 years, there have been 10 slight road traffic collisions and two serious collisions at the A96 road junctions through Nairn. Of course It would be best if there were not any, but I really have to ask if that is a collision history meriting an increase in junction controls from four sets of traffic lights to eight through the town?”

“ Lets take Albert Street. In a 10 year period there has not been one road collision at the junction, yet it was and currently still is controlled by traffic light signals,albeit here they are some years later now thinking of removing them!.”

“ Despite all my efforts at that time, the Government and Transport Scotland advised that surveys revealed that there was a need for this level of traffic control. Transport Scotland advised that they had reconfigured traffic detectors, improved road markings and implemented pedestrian sensors at the A96 junctions through Nairn which were all designed to address the concerns of the majority”.

“I was advised that the then Transport Minister had instructed Transport Scotland to establish a local Focus Group involving Councillors, Community Councillors, and other parties to look at the traffic management through Nairn”.

“ the Government tried to claim that the road safety statistics on this route through Nairn had improved over the previous three years (2012-2015). Strange then that on average there has been one slight road collision at one of these junctions, every year since 2005 and in the years 2012 - 2015 there has continued to be one slight road collision on average each year, so I saw no improvement there. What should have be jumping out at the Government and Transport Scotland was that fact that over a 10 years period there was no real history of road collisions at A96 junctions through Nairn, (10 slight and two serious in 10 years) so on that basis, there was no need to increase the number of traffic light controlled junctions from four to eight when the Sainsbury’s store opened in 2011”.

David Stewart concluded “ As is often the case, the Government and Transport Scotland do not accept that they make mistakes with such matters and as a result the commuters and the communities around the Highlands have to suffer. This Government body seem to at times have blinkers on. Look at the issues with the Kessock Bridge. Look at this issues with the Forres community wanting one pedestrian crossing on the A96 along the Forres bypass, to cater for the increased footfall of pedestrians utilising the increased rail service from the new Forres line and Station. These pedestrians have to negotiate the A96 without a crossing. This is why I come out and ask: why do the Government and Transport Scotland not consult with local communities, listen to their concerns and their views before making some strategic decisions which are at times contrary to what is required for the smooth steady and safe flow of traffic and other road users. In the case of Nairn, here they are, some two to three years later trialling what the majority of road users could see was required back then. I ask why does it take them so long to act?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tom Heggie fires broadside at Community Councils - get down to the paper shop and read all about it.

The front page of this week's edition of the Nairnshire Telegraph illustrates once more the divide between the town's Community Councils and Highland Councillor Tom Heggie. It looks like there is no going back now with Tom claiming:

"I am hearing voices in Nairn which are not present on the Nairn Community Council agendas. Community Empowerment is about hearing those voices."" 

He's got more to say too and there's also a reply from Dick Youngson of the Nairn West and Suburban Community Council. 

For years the Community Councils have been an arena where local folk can go and air grievances about a range of problems - often they will go there as a way of seeking help with things that do concern Highland Council, you get your issue in the public domain and quite often it will be reported in the press. The Community Councillors would argue that the way to get Community Empowerment is to get more power back to make decisions in Nairn - ideally perhaps with the reintroduction of a Nairn District Council or some similar body. Recently though we have had as a result of "Community Empowerment" legislation a body formed called The Nairn and Nairnshire Community Partnership and it seems this is the way that any "empowerment" will be delivered. There's a previous Gurn article here which examines the opportunities that this grouping may or may not provide Nairnshire:


Tom seems to be placing a lot of faith in the partnership and to be fair to them their survey on issues that are relevant to local people did receive over 500 responses - it's early days though and it remains to be seen if a group of out of town professional folk coming to meet in the Courthouse a few times a year can effectively deliver anything that will address the democratic deficit this community has suffered since the loss of the Nairn District Council. 

As we say though the Community Councils have fought their corner for Nairn over the years and many folk have been grateful that they are there. They have managed to get a few things done but are they now failing to address some concerns in the community as Tom suggests? Here at the Gurn we feel it is a great pity that a state of warfare almost exists now between Tom and the CCs - hopefully there will be a major outbreak of peace and love as we move towards the end of the year and the festivities. 

We would suggest you get a copy of the Nairnshire Telegraph and have a read (including the editorial "Drawing Battle Lines") and then have a think about some of these issues raised and then, why not get involved and have your say? If there are voices in Nairn not being heard and yours is one of them - then shout it out!

No fireworks for Friday night but could Nairn have a St Andrew's Day spectacular instead?

Last night at the regular meeting of the Nairn West and Suburban Community Council meeting the fireworks team of Andrew Randerson and Lorreine Mallison reported that although a huge effort had been made to try and comply with the requirements of event licensing they had been unable to address some safety issues that had occurred. The safety issues were easily fixable however, the meeting heard that they would have to have satisfied a licencing meeting two days before the event was due to take place in one of the fields at Househill. The uncertainty caused by this deadline had reluctantly forced them to postpone the event. 

Failure to satisfy the committee would have meant that the considerable fee for the licensing application would have been lost. With the approval of their council colleagues the CC moved that the application be tweaked with the authorities and resubmitted for an event to take place to celebrate St Andrew's Day at the end of November. A large number of local businesses have promised to support the event and some local traders had planned to attend. The meeting heard that there was still massive support from the business sector and the general public for the event to go ahead and a St Andrew's Day and general Scottish themed event is now on the cards if the re-jigged application is successful. 

Many local cybercitizens have commented on the latest twist to the fireworks efforts on threads on the popular Nairn Rocks and Nairn our Town facebook pages. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

So what's going on with the Links then and just how will we be consulted?

Gurnshire residents will remember the stushie over the decision - for which no-one admitted responsibility - to remove the Big Slide and its hill from the Common Good land at the Links [here is a page of articles that examine that situation as it developed].  Those with longer memories might also remember the fuss over the Council's failure to correctly administer the Caravan Site lease and implement regular rent increases. This resulted in a loss to Nairn's Common Good Fund, and when the oversight became public the loss was reimbursed from Council funds.  It is perhaps unnecessary to refer back to the even bigger controversy a decade ago over the possible sale of the Sandown lands to a developer.


It might be reasonable to think that, against that background, the Council would become a little more transparent in its administration of our Common Good, and perhaps more willing to consult the local community for whose benefit the Common Good exists.  But one could be forgiven for thinking that old habits die hard.  


One or two regular Gurn readers have picked up recent references to the fact that the Council is - apparently - currently conducting a study of how to develop the Common Good land at the Links and along the beachfront.  Certainly plenty of ideas have been put forward locally over the years - the Charlie Chaplin Trail, an enlarged playpark, a new paddling pool or water feature, a sculpture park, and the ambitious scheme for a new "Dr Grigor Lido".  But if the Council is looking into options for the future of the Links, some obvious questions arise.  For example:

  • who is carrying out this study?  Highland Council officials, or outside consultants (and if the latter, how were they selected?)
  • what are the terms of reference, and who decided them?
  • who is paying for this work, and how much will it cost?  Regular observers will recall that the Council decided to create a new post for an official to work on Common Good asset registers.... and to pay for this out of the CG's own funds;
  • have local representatives - notably the two Nairn Community Councils - been informed and consulted about this study, and invited to put forward their views?
  • are other relevant groups being consulted - such as the Highland Games Committee, the Cricket Club, and the Sailing Club (all of which use, and have direct responsibilities and interests in the Common Good land at the Links and around the harbour)?
  • is any wider survey or consultation exercise being carried out in the community, and if so how and by whom?
  • will the recommendations of this study be available for public discussion before any decisions are taken?  
Nairn's Common Good is one of the town's most important assets.  These assets need to be managed carefully for the long-term benefit of all.  The land at the Links and around the harbour and rivermouth is a key amenity for both visitors and tourists, and the land at the Sandown fields is enormously valuable.  Decisions about their possible future use and/or development should be subject to the widest possible debate and the most careful consideration. We feel that the future of our town's Common Good cannot be left to selected individuals, special-interest groups, or Council officials meeting behind closed doors."

Nairn 2 Locos 3 Pictures Donald Matheson



Individual images here.  Match report here. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Nairn Community and Arts Centre 10th anniversary celebrations Sat 28th October


Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau want your thoughts on an oil club



Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau are doing some research into the barriers/benefits of setting up an oil club. We would welcome input from anyone with experience or interest in this for our data collection. Contact us on https://www.facebook.com/nairncab.org.uk/ or by email: Clare.Jarrett@NairnCAB.casonline.org.uk.


Nairn Coastal Rowing Club - Skiffie folk looking for members

We are on our marks, ready to go. What we need now are Members. We would like Nairnites who are interested in helping us build our first boat and folk to row the boat once we are in the water to get in touch with us.
In case you do not know what it is all about, it is racing and socializing with other communities who also have boats that they have built and are racing, Ardesier, Avoch, Fortrose, Cromarty, Burghead, Findhorn, Lossiemouth and many others along the coast.

The boat design is based on a Fair Isle Skiff, modified to be built in kit form by an internationally regarded designer, Ian Oughtred. The build process is approximately six months on a part time basis, being built by volunteers with various skill levels. It would be great to have our boat in the water by the summer, and engage in some friendly competition with our neighbours.

Interested?

Contact us on:

info@nairncoastalrowing.co.uk

Want to know more?

http://scottishcoastalrowing.org/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=909FLChnvDI

Friday, October 20, 2017

Can you spare a couple of Alpine plants for Cantraybridge College?

What has a new outdoor classroom, a well-known soup company and a need for Alpine plants got in common? No idea? Well the students at Cantraybridge College in Croy could tell you. Cantraybridge College, near Croy, supports young adults with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders to learn valuable life and employment skills. And the College needs your help!

Funded by the George and Ena Baxter Foundation, the college recently had a new outdoor classroom built. The building was designed and built by local contractors, Whytes Sawmill, to give the 70 students opportunities to learn about the environment and how food is produced. In line with the College’s already excellent environmental credentials, the new building will have its roof planted with different Alpine plants. This is where they need your support! Do you have any Sedum, Saxifrage, Aubrietia, Primula Vulgaris, America or any small Alpine plants that you might like to split? If so, the College would love to hear from you. College staff can collect plants from you, or you can drop them off at Cantraybridge. Stop in for lunch at the College’s café if you’re dropping by between 12 and 2pm during the week. The roof will not only look stunning when planted, but will provide insulation and a great habitat for insects, in particular the college’s newest arrivals, a hive of bees.

The college can be contacted on 01667 493500 or email at admin@cantraybridge.co.uk
-->

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"'We went days without eating properly': how universal credit brought misery to Inverness" - Guardian Article

Misery from the benefit changes, the Gurn understands a few folk in Nairn have been hit too as the town was included in the Inverness Universal Credit test area. 

Read the article here. 

Community Planning "has defined communities as one voice among many more powerful voices, mainly from the public sector"

We've had a fair bit in the local press recently about how visions of "Community Empowerment" differ between the newly created Nairnshire Community Partnership and the town's Community Council's. We posted an article last month.   Is it just another false dawn that will result in Community Empowerment simply becoming another centralised service? 

We have to admit that here at the Gurn we are perhaps the most pessimistic we have ever been about the chances of Nairn ever having a proper say in its own affairs and attempting to plan its own future, rather than others coming to town and telling us what has to be done - but maybe we have just grown too cynical and it is time to leave it all to more optimistic and visionary voices out there. We won't go as far to say that "we're doomed" but feel that the present situation is not very far away from that at the moment as far as addressing the democratic deficit goes. 

Serious students of these matters may wish to read an article in the latest newsletter from the Scottish Community Alliance entitled "Let communities Shape their own future" which features an essay from Stephen Maxwell at View magazine; it really does give a deep analysis of the situation in Scotland and describes some of the forces preventing real change in this direction. Here's a wee snippet:

"‘Community' has become one of the most deceiving words in Scotland’s political lexicon. Community planning seemed to promise that local communities would take the lead in the planning of their own services. Instead it has defined communities as one voice among many more powerful voices, mainly from the public sector, in a process led by local authorities.

'Community budgeting' seemed to promise that communities would gain control of a budget of their own to spend on their priorities. Instead it turned out to be a process by which public authorities would disaggregate their spending in local communities to establish the size and bias of the overall spend; a useful ambition but not quite what seemed to be promised by the headline.

'Community empowerment' was the most deceiving of them all. It seemed to leave little scope for misunderstanding; communities were to be given the power to take decisions on their own account along With a capacity to implement them, But it turned out to mean that communities would be helped to contribute their views on local priorities and to present them to multi-sectoral structures, such as community planning partnerships,"

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Highland rail projects may now be hampered by funding cut - Statement from John Finnie MSP

Scottish Greens Transport Spokesperson John Finnie MSP has expressed concern at a move by the UK Government to change the method of rail funding in Scotland over the next five years, thus reducing the funds available to improve the rail network.

The Scottish Government was due to publish its Statement of Funds Available for railways on Friday 13th October, yet the UK Government’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t inform the government of its final offer until the day before. 

The change will mean that a long term agreement between the Scottish and UK Government’s in place since 2005 will become defunct and Scotland will no longer receive funding proportionate to the size of the Scottish rail network.

John Finnie said:

“I am extremely concerned that the UK Government has taken the decision to reduce the funding allocated to maintain and improve Scotland’s rail network. The current funding arrangements have been in place for more than ten years and ensure that Scotland receives a share of railway funding proportionate to its share of the rail network.

“At a time when we know we must reduce harmful emissions to mitigate the impact of climate change it is vital that we increase investment in rail and other forms of sustainable travel. Cutting investment in rail by £600 million is absurd and will only make it that much harder to tackle climate change.

“This cut in funding will have real impacts on communities across Scotland. Only last month the Transport Minister announced he would fund a feasibility study into the Levenmouth rail link in Fife. While there is improvement required on the Highland Main Line, the Far North Line and on the Inverness to Aberdeen route. All of these projects and others across the country may now be hampered by this funding cut.

“I hope colleagues from all parties can put differences aside and match their requests for improved rail infrastructure by joining my call on the UK government to revisit this decision and ensure that Scotland continues to receive its fair share of rail funding.”