Wednesday, March 04, 2015

A Brewery at Balmakeith

Thanks to our regular reader who sent us this link to the Wooha Brewery web page. 

Sandown Common Good Land discussions coming up - “...the need for housing, the market and who we’d like to produce all the property for...”

At last week’s meeting of the Suburban CC in Nairn Academy Dick Youngson (Chair of the Subbies) told those present of new protocols that Highland Council are insisting of for decision making when it comes to the like of joint meetings of Nairnshire’s Community Councils. More on that later when time permits. Dick had something interesting to say about the Sandown Lands however:

“When we were at these meetings Liz Cowie also invited us to, and afterwards, to have a meeting with the ward councillors about the Common Good land at Sandown to try and perhaps thrash out a workable model to look at the need for housing, what we need and the market and who we’d like to produce all the property for. Because at the moment all that we hear is that there is a waiting list of whatever it is – 500 – but we don’t actually know what sort of people they are. What they want and what they require.”

Michael Green then said: “There is a housing requirement review coming forward in May which will address exactly what is actually required in Nairn.”

Dick replied: “I think we are going to meet with you before that, probably quite quickly to look at, not a master plan for Sandown but community ideas[...]”

Gurn Opinion – given the previous history of Sandown development issues and the ongoing community sensitivity regarding Common Good affairs the Gurn believes that any meetings between the Highland Council and Community Councils concerning the Sandown Lands should be open to the public and the press.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Local Democracy - " Direction of travel"

Quite a lot of things were discussed at the meetings of the Westies and Subbies Community Councils* last Tuesday night in Nairn Academy. Due to pressure of things beyond Gurning matters impacting this observer is now only getting round to examining some of the interesting material generated by the CCs. So here goes with another wee bittie.

Michael Green was the only Highland Councillor present (Liz had sent her apologies however). Making a comment on local democracy during the Subbies Meeting Michael said:

"The direction of travel, the way things are going to devolve down to district levels; we are seeing that with the Area Committee. The Area Committee has been going now for 18th months and I don't think it's been a great succes. I think we need to devolve that possibly away from Badenoch and Strathspey down to Nairn. It's all very well to devolve it but unless you have got the powers as well it's kind of pointless. So you devolve, yes the administration, but you've also got to be given additional powers to do things which is budget, which is possible planning, which is licensing. We know these are the discussions and this is what we will be advocating for. Local control and a local council actually in Nairn. "

Many Gurnites too are hoping for similar via the combined efforts of the SNP led Highland Council administration and the forthcoming Scottish Government's Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill. A new deal for Nairn and otheon the horizon by the time we all go to the ballot boxes in May 2016 for the Holyrood elections?

*Nairn Suburban and West Community Councils. 

Anyone seen a wee Jack Russell on the loose in Nairn tonight (03/03/15)

UPDATE 22.26: dog safe and well Mashy reports handed in to police station by couple out walking their dog. 

Anyone seem Mashy's dog out there tonight? The following message was posted on facebook around 20.30. 

March makes an effort at bringing winter to Nairn

The first rays of the morning's sun spread out from above Broadhill to brighten the thin layer of snow on the town centre roof tops. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Damage to Golf Vehicle at Nairn Dunbar Course - Police appeal for information

Between 1800 hours on Wednesday 18th February and 0800 hrs on Thursday 19th February 2015, a petrol golf cart was removed from Nairn Dunbar Golf Club, driven for a short distance then subsequently abandoned elsewhere on the golf course, causing irreparable damage to the vehicle.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or has any information is encouraged to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Nairn 10K and Fun Run 2015 - images and video

Individual images here and it was such a beautiful day today for the run it's well worth trying the full screen slideshow here. 10 minutes video of some of the runners returning to follow later.
And also some images from Murray MacRae here and from RG_IV12 here

UPDATE: 10 minutes video of some of the runners returning here.

Highland League Cup - Nairn County 2 Lossiemouth 1 - pictures from Kenny MacLeod

 Individual images here. Full Screen slideshow here.

Highland League Cup - Nairn County 2 Lossiemouth 1 - pictures from Mashy Young

Goals from Alan Pollock and Adam Naismith put Nairn into the semi final against Wick. It will be a tough one up at Harmsworth Park on Sat March 21st - Contact Uncle Bob's Bar for details of a 50 seater bus that will be running or put your name down on the bus thread on the Facebook "We Believe" pages. 

Individual images here. Full Screen slideshow here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nairn Beach stars in Easy Jet Magazine

One of our regular readers Stuart, wrote to tell us, "I noticed this article in the
February edition of the EasyJet in-flight magazine. It was a feature on beaches and included some pretty exotic locations, of which Nairn was of course the most salubrious :-) The postcard was also included in the front cover montage."

Stuart is not sure about the title "Nairn Beach, Inverness" but is happy to see his home town getting exposure in the airline's magazine.

Interesting that the "Insider Tip" says "Nairn itself is lovely. Be sure to look around the old harbour or visit the town for a slection of cafes." Intersting to see ourselves as others see us isn't it?  Nairn is lovely and perhaps we need to up our game here and there but basically we have a good product for holidaymakers and quite a few Easyjetters must have eye-balled this small article. Maybe some of them will make a detour in the future? 

Friday, February 27, 2015

The “missing link” coastal path between Inverness and Nairn – Highland Council accused of no action over last 18 months - a project with potential economic benefits going nowhere?

Here on the Gurn we have detailed many times how we believe that “the missing link” coastal path section between Nairn and Inverness would bring benefits (not just for residents' recreation, but for visiting hikers, cyclists and other tourists and thus the local economy). We believe, like many of the town’s community councillors, that this is a doable project in a time of austerity and perhaps even more so now given the economic boost it would bring. 

With the “missing link” in place Nairn would then be part of a long distance path network extending west beyond Inverness and into the Great Glen way and the West Highland Way beyond that. Also eastwards to Forres and Findhorn and into the Moray and Aberdeen Coastal paths. Anyone who has attempted long distance walks will know that an infrastructure to support walkers with food, accommodation etc grows up around these trails. We wouldn’t of course get numbers like the many tens of thousands that walk the West Highland Way but this observer believes that many walkers trying the Great Glen Way could be tempted to take an extra day starting or finishing in Nairn – after all Inverness doesn’t have a beach – to say nothing of the local residents and holidaymakers who would be willing to spend a day on the walk.

Walkers using local facilities in Milngavie  before setting out on the West Highland Way - if the "missing link" coastal path between Nairn and Invernes were to become reality then such scenes could become a regular sight in Nairn.
What we need now is for the Highland Council as the local authority, to take the lead in negotiating with landowners and co-ordinating bids to potential funding sources such as the Coastal Communities Fund. They are best placed to administer and deliver the missing Link. Sadly they seem to be very lethargic in this direction however. At the meeting of West Community Council on Tuesday night in Nairn Academy, Brian Stewart chairing the meeting for the Westies made reference to Dick Youngson’s efforts for the Suburban CC on local rights of way and stated:

“All of us in different ways have been pushing on the Coastal Path because it is the so-called missing Link between Findhorn and Inverness and it is something that has quite a substantial impact [...] For anybody who lives and anybody who wants to visit or everyone who wants to watch birds or cycle along the coast. It is something that will contribute to tourism and visitor numbers and therefore to the economy of the town in a way that is important. 

We last raised the question of the Coastal Path with Highland Council officials about 18 months ago and there was a very specific agenda to that because the plan is already there - and just for your collective information we followed up recently and asked what further action there had been over the last 18 months because there are particular things the local authority has to do like talk to the landowners and things like that. A copy of the letter we sent is available and more to the point the reply we got, very quickly, from the Highland Council official concerned. That the summary of the report of what has happened over the last 18 months is no action, no progress and no prospects – now that is pretty bloody disappointing[...]."

Brian said he made common cause with Dick over his bridle path efforts and also with Murd and his colleagues who want to see improvements to the riverside paths and crossings, he went on:

“This is a portfolio; this is an area of work where we already have assets. What we have got to do is make sure they are in good shape and where possible improved and enhanced. We have a core path strategy; we have an official in the Council who is directly responsible for delivery. Over the last eighteen months zero has been delivered. [...] We need to see a slightly more proactive approach, it isn’t fundamentally about money it’s about engaging and doing the necessary work. Whether it is negotiating with landlords, whether it is putting up signposts or whether it is just getting tech services to clear shrubbery. There are a lot of things that can and should be being done. They don’t require reports to Council and they don’t require written updates or action plans, I’m a great one for action plans, but the plans are all there. It is about delivery.”

The Gurn supports the Community Councillors who are pushing for “the missing link” footpath between Nairn and Inverness. It seems we need our four Highland Councillors to shake the corporate tree a little and ensure speedy delivery of the Coastal Path. We are told that money is not available but as Brian Stewart states, a lot of the work has already been done. It is now about the will to do this and the implementation. Are our Councillors up to the job to deliver this for our community? When our four representatives really want something to happen then they can find the cash, manpower and spur officials into action. Witness the costly disappearance of the Big Slide on the Links and the money spent recently on the abortive Kingsteps access issue that went all the way to the Court of Session.

We would urge our Councillors to act and act quickly. Perhaps also our representatives at higher political levels and any Westminster parliamentary candidates or their aides and supporters that might be reading this might wish to make an intervention to support a project with such obvious benefits to the community.

For those Gurnites that wish to support local efforts to see the missing link Coastal Path implemented, please click the read more tab to see the text of the letter from the Westies to Highland Council and the e-mail reply from the official concerned.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Entries are now being invited for the 2015 Nairnshire Challenge

Entries are now being invited for the 2015 Nairnshire Challenge to be held on Sunday, 21 June, this year. Organised annually by the Rotary Club of Nairn since 1997, this 30 mile biathlon on foot and bicycle has attracted many to the County over the years and a similar response is hoped for again.

The event continues to receive generous support, both from Lord Cawdor who allows access to Cawdor Estates, and from the many local voluntary groups who, on the day, ensure that all participants enjoy safe progress from Dava Moor at the southerly end of the Countyto the Links in Nairn. 

The Challenge annually attracts well over 300 participants who face a 12.3 mile track on foot through the grouse moors of the Cawdor Estates, changing to bicycle at Drynachan for the 17.7 mile ride through marshalled back roads to the finish at the Links. Inevitably, many will be racing against the clock to achieve their personal best. The fastest usually takes around 2hours 30 minutes, but the event is not intended to be a competition. It is primarily designed as a personal challenge, no matter how fast or slow the individual chooses to make it. Bill
Robertson, the Challenge Co-ordinator, says, “Seeing Nairnshire ‘from top to bottom’ is surely worth taking the time to enjoy this unique experience, so look what the speed merchants are missing!”

Entry is open to everyone aged 16 years and over, singly or in teams of 3. Full details are available on the Challenge web-site at Additional information is also available on Facebook, with comment from previous participants.

The Rotary Club organises the Challenge, which is recognised as the third most important annual event in the County, primarily to raise funds to support local, national and international good causes. A total of over £1/2M has been raised over the years and much has gone in grants to local voluntary groups. This year, however, primarily because the event is taking place on Fathers’ Day, and in conjunction with many other Rotary Clubs in Scotland, some of the proceeds will go to Prostate Scotland. Hopefully, this will encourage sponsors of all the participants to donate generously.

Another new feature this year will be the identification of a main local sponsor for the event. The name will be announced in due course. 

Bill Robertson has confirmed that planning for the event is well under way and a good level of support is expected.

Danny makes a cake

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sainsbury's Nairn store supporting 20th anniversary of Fairtrade with local campaigners

Last Saturday (21st Feb) to mark the 20th anniversary year of Fairtrade,  Ladies from the Church of Scotland, Cawdor/Croy parish went to the Nairn Sainsbury’s store to talk to shoppers  about the benefits of purchasing Fairtrade products. The activities involved children from local schools completing quizzes and drawings to assist with their understanding of Fairtrade as well as a taster of  Fairtrade chocolate. 

Pictured left to Right are Catriona Soutar from Sainsbury’s Jenny Moore, Jane Crowe, Rev Janet Mathieson from the Church of Scotland.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service attend kitchen fire in Nairn

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was today called to attend a kitchen fire in Nairn's Albert Street around midday (25 February 2015).

Three appliances, including one each from Inverness, Nairn and Forres, attended the incident.

Firefighters in breathing apparatus used a main jet and two hose reel jets to extinguish the fire, which was so severe it had destroyed the kitchen and spread throughout the house and into the roof space of the two-storey detached house.

Two people were in the house at the time but they had self-evacuated prior to the arrival of the fire service. They did not require medical attention.

SFRS Group Manager Phil Green, who was at the scene today said: "We still have to establish the cause of this fire, but I would like to issue a general reminder to members of the public about the importance of kitchen safety.

"Many kitchen fires happen when people are not paying attention or they leave things unattended but there are several things you can do to prevent fires in the kitchen.

"Don't leave pans unattended and take them off the heat if you have to leave the room. Fire starts when your attention stops. When you have finished cooking, make sure the cooker or oven is turned off. Avoid using chip pans if possible and use a thermostatically controlled deep fat fryer.

"We also want people to take action to prevent fires from happening in the first place and the fact is more house fires start in the kitchen than anywhere else. Fire can cause damage not just to your property, but more seriously can put family at risk."

He added: "SFRS crews routinely conduct free home fire safety visits to help householders identify risks and take the simple steps needed to reduce the chance of fires.

"People can arrange a free home fire safety visit and join Scotland's fight against fire by calling SFRS on the freephone number 0800 073 1999 or by texting ‘FIRE’ to 80800, which is also free of charge. Alternatively, visits can be arranged via the SFRS website”

Today's news from Nairn - all out there on Twitter

The P&J has a picture of a fire crew at an incident in Nairn.  Scottish Water are stating some customers in IV12 Nairn are experiencing disruptions to supply. A picture of  a work from Black Isle Bronze has appeared online - the Dallas monument to Adam Smith apparently and Scottish Baker of the year is about to be launched in Nairn it seems. Finally a local resident has made a complaint to Scotrail about mess in a station car park. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Councillor Michael Green: "we will learn from the mistakes that were made surrounding the slide"

Earlier tonight the Westies (Nairn West Community Council) discussed the “Links/Leisure Park/Crazy Golf/Playground” area at their regular meeting in Nairn Academy. The only Highland Councillor present was Michael Green although Liz MacDonald had sent her apologies. The discussion did move onto the contentious subject of the removal of the Big Slide by the local authority, we will present the conversation more or less as it happened however because given the sensitivity now that surrounds anything that might happen in the future to that area there was plenty of other information that may be of interest to our regular readers. 

Brian Stewart, chairing the meeting in the absence of Rosemary Young said that he was splitting the topic into two: “One is the specific discussion of the proposed donation to refurbish the crazy golf, we can almost wrap that up now, and I want to go on separately, if we can, to talk about other ideas, other priorities that have surfaced in the context of our discussions about the Links park, the equipment and whether or not or how and who should spend any money and on what.” 

Brian told the meeting that Rosemary hadn’t had a positive reply from Highlife Highland who are directly responsible for the crazy golf but the letter had said that there were wider plans being discussed in Council for refurbishment or overall of the entire area. Brian then said that there then followed an exchange of e-mails after a meeting and that out of that came the suggestion that if Nairn West wanted to contribute money to facilities like the crazy golf then why didn’t they contribute some money to creating a path too and around the new machines that are in front of the swimming pool – so that disabled people could have access to these.

The Westies consulted the Access Panel and then decided not to contribute because all but one of the machines were unsuitable for people with disabilities. Brian Stewart said:
“The idea of paying money to enable disabled people to have access to machinery they can’t use seemed a bit perverse.” 

Brian added: “This has led us into a wider debate which coincidently has overlapped with a lot of public discussion about how it is decided what should be provided and how it should be paid for across the whole of that recreational area. The new gymnastic machinery beside the swimming pool appeared without, as far as I am aware, without any public reporting, any public discussion or certainly any discussion with the community councils. Apparently it was a bargain deal which Highland Council officials managed to get hold of. Jolly good for them and I’m sure nobody complains about the fact that the equipment is there. But it kind of underlined the wider point which has subsequently come up over the public furore in connection with the children’s playpark and the slide and it’s really three things:

1) Why isn’t there consultation before decisions are made?

2) How and where could there or should there be input from the Community Councils, each and all and any of them into decisions that are made about facilities and amenities that are provided?

3) What is the strategy? What is the budget and what are the priorities? "

"Because at the moment, on the exercise equipment, on the idea of a path being built down to it, on the slide, on the roundabout and on other things that are provided or installed, the pattern has effectively been of rabbits out of hats, fait accompli. People woke up one morning to see machinery there or woke up one morning to see the digger hacking away at the slide. So I think there is a wider issue which we as community councils need to be looking at. [...] To look more widely at whether the arrangements are working and if they are not working to the satisfaction of ourselves and local residents and users then what can we do about it."

Michael Green then made some points in response:

“The policy that we’ve had year by year is that we spend money on the Links on play equipment. That is a priority, the Links, the harbour, the swimming pool area, is a priority and we spend money as we see fit. Yes we consult with our experts and they put forward various options and I have to say that the fitness equipment has been a fabulous success, there have been many other groups round to copy it and to look at replicating that. I have to say that is a success. 

"The second point on my list as regards to Rosemary’s very kind offer about the crazy golf. Yes we very much appreciate her upgrading the crazy golf but I have to point out that that possibly may or may not be a stop gap approach in the sense that we have been looking at, and that is the four Nairn councillors with officials, with the various folk who know about playparks and other options that we can look at for the Links. We’ve been doing a feasibility study to see what sort of options there are. We will come back with some ideas and we will consult, we will learn from the mistakes that were made surrounding the slide and I would say mistakes with the way the consultation was carried out. It’s not perfect. Let’s face it, gee whiz, the uproar over that, I agree with the sentiments expressed from many people. 

"We will learn from these lessons and we will carry out full consultation. We have got a vision for the Links, from the harbour right to the swimming pool. We have identified several sources of funding which could potentially be open to us. So we’ve got some ideas which will be a starting point for discussion.Then we will have widespread consultation and we’ll take that forward. One of the actual things that we are looking at is enhancing the putting green to go down the Himalayas route and we’ve got a lot of work done on that and that is Ritchie Ewing from Nairn West, the head green keeper there put forward some very detailed breakdowns. That will be fed back in. That may result in the crazy golf being seen as redundant but we will take widespread consultation[...]."

The debate on this matter continued for another two to three minutes before Brian Stewart, under pressure of time allowed in the Academy, moved things on to the next topic.

By-election for Colin Macaulay's seat on Highland Council will be on the same day as the General Election

A Highland Council press statement reads:

"Following the resignation of Councillor Colin Macaulay (SNP), a by-election will be held to elect a Member for Ward 19, Nairn Ward.

Nairn is a four-member ward. The other members are Laurie Fraser (Independent), Michael Green (Independent) and Liz MacDonald (SNP). 

Councillor Macaulay stands down with effect from 15 March 2015. The notice of election will be published on 16 March 2015.

The by-election will be held on 7 May 2015."

The by-election campaign will be dwarfed by the General Election activities running parallel to it and this might hamper any "Independent" candidates that might like to put themselves forward. This observer wonders if the other political parties might put candidates up though as supporters of all parties will be heading to the ballot boxes on that day anyway. 

"The public sector are supposed to be our servants, but they have become our lords and masters."

Big Slide rage continues, anger with Nairn's four Highland Councillors is still being expressed (both online in the digital domain of the "Nairn when you were a bairn" facebook site and now into print on page four of this week's Leopold Street Thunderer. 

Nairn West Community chair, Rosemary Young, is quoted: "The public sector are supposed to be our servants, but they have become our lords and masters. Instead of asking us they just do things."

Liz and Laurie are saying in the NT that there was consultation however. Tonight the West Community Council (Westies) and the Suburban CC (Subbies) both have meetings in Nairn Academy. Item B on the Westies agenda is listed as "Follow up on on Links/Leisure Park/Crazy Golf/Playground."

Will tonight provide another focus for the considerable anger that has been expressed so far (see comments on this previous Gurn thread)? Issues concerning the Links have had the ability in the past to create considerable upset and perhaps our councillors should have seen this one coming. Anger is now compounded by the fact that a team of workers have taken away the hill that the big slide rested on. This observer spoke to two citizens watching the JCB at work down by recently and they were outraged that money was being spent on such work at a time of austerity, they maintained that the slide could have been fixed for a fraction of the cost. They felt that removing the hill was just the Council symbolically "rubbing the community's face in it". 

The anger of a considerable section of the community (perhaps the majority) is very real and has momentum. This is the sort of thing that voters remember. Iain Bain occupies himself with this subject in his editorial this week. he states:

"It seems our local politicians do not learn much from the lessons of history. Nairn Links and the quality of the the Links is engraved deeply into the local image of what Nairn represents. Generations have used the play area and it is perceived as a vital part of the appeal the Links has, not just for locals but for visitors. The paddling pool and the equipment in the play area have all aroused debate and argument when the local authority has sought to make alterations. The current work might have been expected to arouse comment." More in this week's Nairnshire Telegraph and online at Nairn when you were a bairn, also previous comments on this Gurn article.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nairn Common Good issues in the light of the forthcoming Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill

Last week we had a look at how local planning issues might be affected by the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill (CERB) going through the Scottish Parliament and specifically the detail in the MSPs report on the contents of the Bill so far at Committee Stage. Now we turn to another contentious area covered by the coming legislation - The Common Good

As Gurnites will appreciate Common Good affairs have been notoriously complicated due to historical reasons and neglect in the past. This as not only been the case in Nairn but elsewhere in Scotland. A look at the report by one of our regular readers suggests the following: lots of heavyweight analysis in the report itself, and some cogent comments from the public in the attached summary. It looks at the transfer of CG assets, alienability, the need to have proper asset registers. There is a very good point from Selkirk, quoted in para 382 of the Report, about the distinction between "title" and "beneficial ownership" which echoes directly arguments in Nairn. The report goes on to Paras 381-4 where it address the issue of community groups using, managing or leasing a CG asset or land.

The managing or leasing of Common Good Lands or assets (this observer remembers one of our councillors stressing that Sandown is a Common Good asset rather than land) will be very important for the Community Councils should Suburban and West proceed with their plans for a wetlands project on Sandown and also for NICE should they ever proceed with some of the projects that were mooted beyond the former social work buildings initiative. A good moment to point to para 382 of the report and something that usual suspects have also stressed in recent times in Nairn:

"382. Dr Lindsay Neil of the Selkirk Regeneration Company pointed to the issue of community benefit of common good assets. He contrasted this against the role of local authorities holding the title to assets and the importance this has for common good—

“A fine distinction avoided by many people is that the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 did not confer to local authorities the entire ownership of common good funds. It transferred the title, not the beneficial ownership. The beneficial ownership remains with the citizens as a form of power and, in the present day and age, they have very little say indeed in what happens to their common good fund.”259"

Para 384 states: "384. Responding to the transfer of common good assets to community groups under Part 5 of the Bill, the Minister stated— “there would be no restriction on a community body using, managing or leasing such an asset—transfer of ownership or disposal is the issue—as long as that fits with the use for which the property was acquired.”261" "

One could be forgiven for seriously wondering about the details in the para above with regard to Sandown. What was the original purpose of Sandown when it was acquired (if that is the same as an asset being given to the fund)?

So will the CERB make any difference to the current situation in Nairn when it becomes law? Readers might wish to delve into the MSPs report themselves to aid them make that decision - it's very complicated stuff but surely the Scottish Parliament will translate public concern into a mechanism that will change the situation in localities across Scotland? The CERB (Common Good section) Committee report is here.  It will be worth keeping an eye on this legislation as it passes through the parliament.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nairn as seen from above the Showfield - video

Another stunning video from David Clark. If there is a part of Nairn you would like to see filmed form above then David is taking requests and provided it is possible he will try to oblige when he can. Previous videos from David available here on Youtube. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Schoolboy assaulted on bus Friday 20 Feb - can you help the police?

Police in Nairn are appealing for witnesses following a report of a schoolboy having been assaulted whilst travelling on a bus on Friday 20 February 2014.

The 12 year-old boy was travelling on the Stagecoach No. 11 (Inverness to Elgin) bus; which is also used as a school bus, when at around 15:40 hours as the bus approached Auldearn, he was reported to have been both verbally and physically assaulted.

The boy's attacker is described as between 20-30 years of age, white, 5ft 6in tall, slim build and a pointed nose. He was wearing a beanie hat, a green hooded top, and camouflage trousers. He was also believed to have been carrying a black bag.

The boy received minor injuries as a result of the incident.

If anyone has any information about the incident they are encouraged to contact Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Community Empowerment and planning in a Nairn context - more thoughts

That article has prompted some interesting comments. It also inspired Highland Councillor Richard Laird to comment on twitter: “Community planning is different from development planning. Development planning isn't covered by the bill”. This observer replied that he did not think he was alone in thinking that the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill would cover planning issues as we understand them in Nairn. An understandable mistake perhaps and then slightly ironic that the subject that has perhaps most contributed to a feeling of disempowerment in Nairn in recent years (until Nairn residents took to the streets) would apparently not be covered by the community empowerment mechanism going through the Scottish Parliament. We decided however, to put it out to Gurn think tank members who are serious students of these matters for their thoughts. 

After some research from our team the Gurn would respectfully suggest that Richard is partly but not entirely correct. What follows might seem esoteric to some and perhaps a bit of an indulgence but we hope some of you interested in these matters might find it interesting. We would suggest:

The Community and Empowerment Bill is aimed at enhancing and empowering communities across the piece, in accordance with the principles of local democracy. So the CERB is about local involvement in all decisions on each and every aspect of the functions and operations of local government. That's why it has, for example, a section on Common Good, a section on the Right to Buy, and even a section on Allotments! All these are, as it happens, directly associated with "development planning".

Community planning at a conceptually level is largely about planning the delivery of public services. Its role is embodied, and articulated (see here especially about halfway down the page) - in the "Single Outcome Agreement" (SOA). The text is available off the HC website It sets out a list of subject areas, or 'outcomes' which both local and national government are committed to delivering. Some are of course to do with childcare, health, public safety, and the elderly. BUT there are two areas (or 'outcomes') in particular - Economic Recovery and Growth, and Environmental Outcomes - which relate directly to development planning.

It therefore follows that an effective Community Planning Partnership ought to (a) address all the areas covered by the SOA, including those two; and (b) that a CPP should, as the MSP report says, have effective mechanisms for consulting communities and getting their input. 

So while Richard is right up to a point in suggesting there is a difference between 'community planning' and 'development planning', this is a largely semantic distinction. Community planning embraces everything which the local authority does with and for (but hopefully not just to) its constituents. So it includes the infrastructure, facilities, housing, and the range of public amenities which development plans are supposed to deliver (see for example paras 2.5 and 2.11 of the SOA and also elsewhere such as 3.5.1 and its tables, which are dressed up in the jargon of "building successful places"). Hence community planning is not the same as, but includes, development planning.”

Here in Nairn we would contend that it is all about a joined up approach and that means communities having an engagement at all levels of Community and Development planning. We would suggest that those who are working locally to try and develop a more Nairn-friendly mindset (especially from the local authority) see great potential in the the CERB and believe it is a tool which could put Nairn back into decision making processes in a meaningful way. At the moment we would suggest that the community is often bypassed on the simplest of decisions such as playground slides as the recent controversy on the Links suggests.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Airborne videos - Old Bar and Kingsteps and also Sandown and Tradespark from David Clark

More stunning videos from David Clark

1) Old Bar and Kingsteps

2) Sandown and Tradespark

Planning issues in Nairn - will the Community Empowerment Bill have a significant effect?

Regular readers will have seen the odd reference to the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill in some Gurn articles in recent times. There are those in Nairn that are hoping that this Bill will do what it says on the tin and that with this direction of travel that could benefit and perhaps reverse some of the Invercentralism of the last 20-30 years? 

There has been a period of public consultation on the bill in the latter half of 2014 and then the bill was looked at by the Local Government and Regeneration Committee of the Scottish Parliament. That committee has made some serious recommendations. One of our regular readers has pointed us in the direction of specific parts of that report and in this and future articles our intention is to highlight some of the report in a context which might reflect on some of our local scenarios. You can access the report yourself here. In this article we look at how the Bill may change the way communities are involved in the planning process. Gurnites will need no reminding that planning issues and the way they have been implemented by an Inverness based Highland Council have been to the forefront in recent years and even saw local people taking to the streets to demonstrate. 

The report into the bill highlights Community Planning partnerships In Section 2. If you have the time it is worth a read in its entirety. Para 109 explains the current situation. 

“109. Part 2 of the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 places a duty on local authorities to initiate, facilitate and maintain a process called community planning by which public services are provided, after consultation with such community bodies and other bodies or persons as is appropriate. This is undertaken by Community Planning Partnership’s (CPPs) of which there are currently 32 in Scotland, one for each local authority area.”

We have been consulted in Nairn over the years but there is a perception that we get consulted and then you get what the authorities in Inverness wish – this would be borne out in recent years by the the many planning stushies such as South Nairn. The community’s relationship with the Highland Planners perhaps found its nadir in the demonstration when Highland Councillors came to Nairn to see the South Nairn site for themselves. The report goes on to detail some of analysis of problems, here’s another extract:

“112. A range of reports have criticised the development of community planning since its introduction, including the Christie Commission in 2011. In March 2013, Audit Scotland published a report on Improving Community Planning in Scotland (Audit Scotland 2013), which concluded that—

“Partnership working is now generally well established and many examples of joint working are making a difference for specific communities and groups across Scotland. But overall, and ten years after community planning was given a statutory basis, CPPs are not able to show that they have had a significant impact in delivering improved outcomes across Scotland.

“Our audit work in recent years has found shortcomings in how CPPs have performed. These are widespread and go beyond individual CPPs. Community planning was intended as an effective vehicle for public bodies to work together improve local services and make best use of scarce public money and other resources. Barriers have stood in the way of this happening. All community planning partners needs to work together to overcome the barriers that have stood in the way of this happening. For example, shifting the perception that community planning is a council-driven exercise, and not a core part of the day job for other partners.”

Nairn's planning future - more conflict or real consultation and compromise?
Again this observer would venture to suggest that it is not an ideal planning world that we live in locally and our local community councils might be inclined to think that there is no partnership with Highland Council and a distinct lack of compromise on planning issues. 

There are worries that the Bill doesn’t go far enough:

“130. Overall the most common written comment was to express disquiet as to the extent to which and indeed whether the provisions in this part of the bill empowered communities. There were two main strands of concern covering the role of the community, namely the extent to which consultation with communities was undertaken meaningfully as well as the timing of their involvement.”

There is also a remarkable quote that we extract from the report “doing things to people as opposed to with people”. Sadly many people in Nairn will feel that that is the story of the recent past. Are we on the cusp of a different more Nairn friendly future when it comes to planning? Back to the report and some suggestions from the parliamentary committee for the Bill:

“Community Involvement

172. There is a considerable difference between engagement and empowerment. We would like to see some of the various engagement requirements under this Part translated into empowerment. It is important that powers are exercised at the lowest possible level. We look forward to seeing the promised amendments from the Government at stage 2.

173. We remain concerned local communities are not sufficiently and directly involved with CPPs. The Bill should require CPPs to seek involvement and input from a level below that of community representatives. It is for the Scottish Government to suggest how this be done, and as importantly, how it will be assessed.

174. There should be an explicit requirement on all CPPs to include community capacity building in local plans and to report on progress along with setting out future plans in every annual report.

175. As a minimum we would expect the Bill to require annual reports from CPPs to comment on community involvement across the area, including setting out the steps taken to consult with and involve individual communities, and to report on successes in this area. CPPs should also be required to report on how they have developed contacts with local communities over the previous year and the steps they are planning to take to extend and increase involvement of local communities in the coming period.

176. Overall we are not convinced this Bill goes far enough to move CPPs from their current top-down approach and recommend further statutory provision is made to ensure this is both clearer and measurable.”

If you are still reading this then well done. We could be accused of indulging in the jargon filled esoteric world of government but if Nairn is to be able to define its own future in any way then there will have to be real community input and into the planning process and eventually a measure of community control. The language of government at any level can be daunting and interestingly the Committee convener, Kevin Stewart MSP, told Holyrood magazine

“During our consideration of the Bill we heard expressions used like ‘third sector interface’ and ‘partnership-framework’ when taking about community  involvement.
“Language like this can act as a barrier for people getting involved. For the Bill to truly empower, public authorities must avoid ‘gobbledygook’ phrases which cannot be easily understood.”  Well said that MSP!

Citizens locally have involved themselves in agitating for a better deal and hopefully will continue to do so. We all have a right to have a contribution into how our built-up environment is shaped – who should have more say in that exercise, citizens or Inverness based planners? Sadly it has looked like one way traffic up to now – as we ask earlier in this article, could we see change soon? 

The Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment Bill may soon offer a measure of hope for communities like Nairn in the future when it comes to planning issues and it will be worth observing to  what amendments are proposed to strengthening the Bill as it proceeds to the next stage. More of a look at the CEB and how it might have an impact on Nairn issues soon.