Wednesday, July 01, 2015

1st July in Nairn - what's happening in pictures

Time for a bit of Decadence. 
The premises formerly known as Harley's gets a rebranding. 
It's 25C in Nairn but we are a tourist town with a paddling pool that is shut. 
Kites are back on the Links. 
The third day of near gridlock as the repairs to the hole on the A96 near Rosebank School continue. 

Very large attendance at Cawdor crisis meeting to discuss the 18 tonne weight restriction for the White Bridge.

Prior to the meeting we had a wee blether with one of the Highland Council representatives for Cawdor, Roddy Balfour, about the situation and what has to be done next. 

It was a large meeting and there must have been perhaps 150-200 people in the Cawdor School gym on one of the warmest nights of the year. The ventilator had to be turned off too to reduce the noise to enable converstation. On the top table were Cllrs Roddy Balfour and Kate Stephen and the Highland Council officials William Gillfillan and John Taylor. Here are a few notes that this observer made during the meeting:

Kate Stephen opened proceedings stating how the Cawdor Community Council had not only wanted the meeting to be for Cawdor but for other areas that would be impacted by the weight restriction. She stressed that the meeting was a first response and not yet a full professional response, a first chance for the community to voice their concerns. 

Roddy spoke of the history of the White Bridge and the developments in recent years that have led to the current situation. The White Bridge is the oldest bridge in the Highland Council area dating from 1749. You can also see the wee blether we had with Roddy prior to the meeting in which he details some of the background and recent situation. Roddy said that the Highland Council have a duty of care to make the bridge safe and thus the weight limit. It appears that buses will not be affected by the 18 tonne restriction which will be good news for Cawdor Castle. Roddy went on to explain how due to extreme urgency the bridge would now leap frog up the capital programme. He thought that a temporary Bailey Bridge might be installed by the council possibly with army help. The route had become an alternative A96 in the last few years according to Roddy. 

It was then left to John Taylor to be more specific about the damage to the bridge. He told everyone that the bridge had a number of defects associated with repeated heavy loading, including: separation of the spandrel walls from the arch rings; cracking of the arch ring stones and outward leaning of the walls.

The bridge has to be repaired but achieving this presents difficulties too, it emerged that only certain repairs can be carried out while the bridge is busy, a closure and diversion would be necessary for more the more difficult repairs. Extra passing places might be necessary on alternative routes and it also emerged that the bridge situation had come into the public domain a bit sooner than the council would have liked due to a timber transport issue that had to be resolved. 

Cllr Kate Stephen explained the difference between consultation that was part of a process that was going ahead anyway and the type of consultation where nothing had been decided – it was a good move given the large number of people present not au fait with the language and mechanics of local government. There was also an explanation about a recommendation being in fact a fait accompli when it comes to the condition of the bridge. 

Cawdor Estate’s Steve Connolly asked if there was a timescale for a decision on a temporary or permanent replacement. William Gilfillan told him that there were problems such as land negotiations and environmental issues but if it went clearly then it would be about a year but otherwise “your guess is as good as mine”. 

Willie Lean was angered by the situation and he rounded on the council representatives, urging them to take quick action. Those on the top table made an effort to explain all the things they were obliged to do which there was no magic way of avoiding. Kate Stephens herself expressed her frustrations with some of the procedures that they had to follow. 

The starkest example so far of what the weight restriction would mean to the local community came when Daniel Walker, a local farmer with land on both sides of the bridge told the meeting that he had cut 700 tonnes of silage during the day and if he had had to take a 26.4 mile detour due to an 18 tonne weight restriction that would have cost his business an extra £4,000 –“for today” he stressed. He added that his tractors filled with silage weighed 22 tonnes. 

Lynn Forbes, who farms at Little Kildrummie, spoke of the effect making the road from the Howford to the Croy Road an alternative route would have. She said that there were 12 families living along the route with only three passing places. Her views were supported by Billy Macintosh who drives that road four times a day and explained the dangers he sees. 

It became evident just how concerned the community is as the meeting went on, there is a feeling that bit by bit Cawdor is being cut off; concern was expressed that if sufficient traffic was diverted via the Howford Bridge then perhaps that too might end up deteriorating and might need a weight restriction – a domino effect. 

There are going to be more consultation meetings to come about the bridge and alternative routes that will have to be consideredand you can submit comments yourself if you wish. Details of how to do that at the bottom of page 1 of this document here. This isn’t going to just affect Cawdor but folk elsewhere too where traffic might be diverted – worth paying a little attention now and then perhaps.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hole lot of trouble on the A96 through Nairn

The dip in the road by the Rosebank School just kept getting bigger and bigger and now it has turned into a hole. Yesterday it was quite efficiently made safe by the installation of a temporary traffic light and barriers. This morning a squad of contractors have turned up so perhaps the additional hold-ups will soon be resolved. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The week ahead - an important meeting in Cawdor Tuesday evening.

Tuesday night is a big night for meetings in Nairnshire. Cawdor CC will be holding an emergency meeting to discuss the effect the 18 tonne limit on the White Bridge will have on the local community. There will be an impact on Nairn as the heavy traffic that takes the unofficial Nairn bypass through the village will have to go via the A96 once the restriction is in place. Perhaps some of the usual suspects might make their way up to Cawdor Community Centre tomorrow night at 7.30 pm. 

Also on on Tuesday are meetings of the West CC and Suburban CC in Nairn. Not the change of venue to the Community and Arts Centre, starting at 7.30 p.m.

Thursday sees a Scam Awareness event in Nairn which Gurnites might find interesting. 

Slides and slopes - a different attitude elsewhere

A picture above from Dave Shillabeer. He tells the Gurn: 

"Popped down to Cummingston yesterday to take a few snaps when I noticed this in the children's play park. No health and safety issues here. Just different attitudes by different local authorities."

This observer still regularly hears people complaining about the removal of the big slide. The feeling that this was a massive "fail" from our councillors still persists.

Call for Alton Burn flood risk management plan

Nairn Suburban Community Council have written to the Flood Team at Highland Council’s Development and Infrastructure unit backing calls for a flood risk management plan on the Alton Burn from the railway line to Altonburn Road. The plan would involve all private owners/occupiers and Highland Council. 

The Subbies cite a recent event where a blockage was cause by children from Tradespark and Cranloch who made a dam with logs and branches. In a letter they say that one resident has spent a lot of time building up and stabilising one part of the west bank of the burn but that children have continually dislodged boulders and stones on the bank to create stepping stones. 

The Subbies continue in their correspondence:

“Upstream of the Muircote Road pedestrian bridge a lot of rubbish from gardens and bags of household waste does end up in the burn and causes blockages under the bridge. Our local TEC Services team quickly clears the blockages if local householders cannot deal with it.”

The CC states that this sort of waste has ended up in gardens of properties downstream and has led to culprits who have left identifying information in the rubbish being interviewed and warned by the police.

The Alton Burn - looking upstream from the Muircote Road Pedestrian Bridge

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Now you can put more items in the blue bin.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Driver said to have verbally abused children sought by police

Nairn River Enterpise: "That smacks of the kind of gossip that went around about us..."

As we stated in a recent article Nairn River Community Council’s Nairn River Enterprise off-shoot (a social enterprise venture) has been in the doldrums since a 12.5K ceiling  on any Community Challenge bids to take over the grass cutting was thrown at them from Highland Council. Article here. Nairn River Enterprise was allocated £10,000 from the Highland Council’s Deprived Area Fund in October of 2014 and so far they have spent £5,000 in contracting a consultant following their main aim of taking over the grass cutting in their area. 

They formed a sub-committee that enjoyed the membership of three of the town’s Highland Councillors (Laurie, Liz and Colin) plus other citizens and initially things went forward in a very positive atmosphere. At the time this observer imagined that with three local members on board, who facilitated a cash injection from the Deprived Area Fund, the River Community Councillors would see Highland Council come to invent a vehicle to transfer the town’s grass cutting back to local control, in a sort of fast-track community empowerment pathfinder mission – an extremely naive reading of the runes given what has or perhaps what hasn't happened since then. 

Further details of the current position of Nairn River Enterprise were given in the AGM report. Gurnites can read that from page three of this document here. 

At the regular meeting of River CC, immediately following their AGM on Wednesday the 17th of this month there was considerable discussion about the ongoing prospects for Nairn River Enterprise. Also present was Highland Councillor Michael Green and he was highly critical of the Community Council’s becalmed social enterprise set-up. He said:

“I feel reservations about this because it seems to be a sort of scatter-gun approach and it seemed to be focussing on doing the grass cutting cheaper than the Council. Maybe that was the primary objective but that was what seemed to be coming back is that you would provide services cheaper than the Council. [...] I never actually saw the sustainability, I never saw the social benefits of these things. There may be other things about recycling in other areas that you have alluded to but the focus about the money as far as I can see that has been spent on has been exploring the possibility of doing a service cheaper than the Council.[...]

My real concern with this is taking money from the Deprived Area Fund, we know that it is one in four children in Nairn that are in poverty. So that money could have been used...I would have preferably seen it gone to the Citizens Advice. [...] What I would have said, this is the way I would have approached this. If there was a body of work to be done and it is only now that we have employed a consultant we’re finding out this cap of twelve and a half thousand. Now I don’t know with thirty meetings, I don’t know what actually has been generated or what has actually come back out of these thirty odd meetings and everything else that has gone on but if I had been addressing it; if I had been in charge of it, I would have carried out.

There’s a body of work that needs to be done here and I and I would have done that before I went and got consultants in; because I would have done that myself and then I would have given them a specific brief. Having teased out however from the Highland Council to say well this is it, the total revenue available, this is what is achievable if we go down the grass cutting route. 

So that’s my concern I think that we engage the consultants that I would take in as an absolute last resort only where you can’t provide the expertise yourself. If you can’t do it yourself and somebody has got specific skills I would get them. Other than that I would do the work as I do with my own projects myself.”

Simon Noble of River CC responded:

“Thank you, well that’s fine, I think that’s your opinion but I think you are misinformed on a number of things. In terms of cheaper, it was never the intention to be cheaper. That smacks of the kind of gossip that went around about us setting out to put Highland Council employees out of work. Neither of those things were ever in any part of our objectives; either as the community council or as things transpired in terms of the project...”

Tommy Hogg, chair of River CC then interjected: “Actually it’s the story that’s still going around Simon.”

Simon continued: “Well it is the story that is being promulgated by comments such as those that Michael has made because we have never, ever said anything about putting people out of work.”

Tommy added: “I know that, you know that.”

Simon again: “Exactly, we know that is not the case and the report spells that out again and each time we have had a community council meeting we have spelt it out. So if people choose to continue to spread that about then they have other interests in their mind rather than listening to what is being said. [...] It’s easy to take shots at consultants and it’s easy to talk about how you would have done things yourself. Michael, you are a comfortably off man, you run your own business, you have time spare to be able to do that. But members of the community council are honest engines who either don’t have the expertise or don’t have the time to do all this work. 

When you go to Highland Council and invite them to make an award you don’t actually put their arm up their back and you are very clear, as we were with them, that what we were intending to do with the funding was to employ someone who would do the work that we did not have either the capacity or the expertise to do. That’s what we have done.”

Tommy again: “That was stated at the very first meeting we had, we had got the actual project here to carry it forward and we needed help in getting it set up and running and we were assured that we would get all the help necessary, no problem, and that was one meeting, I think it was January and the last we heard was last month and that’s the first communication we had from them in nearly six months.”

Simon continued: “There are a couple of things you could say about why it has taken Highland Council so long to come up with the answers that they did. One of them might reasonably be that Highland Council is so thinly stretched because they have so few managers able to spend time on work such as this that that is why they never got to the point of informing us but my question would be, if that’s the case: how is a local council going to be able to overcome that difficulty?

The other point being made was about lots of meetings. Well, again it’s a very easy thing to say what’s happened, what’s all this meetings and so on. Michael I’m sure you’ve been to twenty meetings in the last ten days, never mind our consultant together with other members of the community council going to this number...23 odd meetings [...] over a period of nine months. It’s easy to throw these stones but actually they don’t hold water.” 

The discussion on this topic continued and River CC decided to hold a workshop as soon as possible to decide their next steps with their problematic social enterprise progeny. They may seek to pursue their other aims of creating local employment through recycling initiatives and "riverside regeneration". 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Kingsteps gate access case legal costs to date £23,297.77

Back in January the Highland Council abandoned their case against Alexander Brodie in the Court of Session over the Kingsteps gate access row. The council stated that there were more cost effective options open to them - more details here. 

Highland Council did indeed opt for another route and achieved success recently in the Sheriff Court. 

Murd Dunbar has been following the case(s) with interest as he was of the opinion that there was a moral connection here with the access issue he has been campaigning for some years on at the Firhall Bridge. Murd believes that if the Council were prepared to go to court to obtain access for cars to the Kingsteps car park then they should have been equally proactive in securing imporved access to the Firhall Bridge by providing a ramp to the bridge. With that in mind he has been trying to find out for some time the cost to the public purse of the Kingsteps Court action. Today he received a reply from Highland Council which stated:

"The total cost of the legal expenses incurred for the Kingsteps, Nairn to date is £23,297.77."

Murd told us: "It is a pity that a compromise couldn't have been reached that might have saved a lot of money. Then they would have had a spare £8,000 for the survey on the Firhall Bridge to go ahead which would have enabled the army to install the ramp."

Flashback to December 2012 and Alexander Brodie installs the gate at Kingsteps

Scams awareness month coming up - National Campaign Launch in Nairn


A national campaign is to launch in Nairn. Scams Awareness Month will run from July 2nd, kicking-off with an event on Nairn High Street that day. 

The Scotland-wide drive will see consumers reminded that scams ‘come in all shapes and sizes’ and affect everybody. Nairn has been chosen by Citizens Advice Scotland for the launch due to its outstanding past campaigning record in this and other areas.

Campaigning materials will encourage the public to ‘End the call, trash the email, rip-up the letter and close the door.’ Further, those who suspect scams are being asked to spread the word, with the hope of protecting others.

Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau manager Gill MacLean said: “People who have been scammed shouldn’t be ashamed. Many scams are extremely clever, and scammers convincing. They hit everyone, from teenagers online to pensioners at the doorstep. Scammers don’t care about feelings, and that’s why we’re sending out a clear message: hit the ‘end call’ button, bin the email and the letter, close the door.”

From 11am until 3pm at Academical Square, CAB staff and volunteers, Trading Standards representatives and Police Scotland will be available to chat over free coffee, tea and cakes. At 11.30 and 1.30, short talks will be given on topics including the history of scams and how trading standards deal with scammers. 

Gordon Robb, Trading Standards Manager at Highland Council said “We are delighted once again to be supporting Scams Awareness Month, in partnership with local Citizens Advice Bureaux. The launch event in Nairn on July 2nd is the first of a number of events to be held across Highland, during the month of July, to raise awareness of scams and how to prevent them.’

Gill MacLean continued: “We hope it’ll be a relaxed, informal affair but with interesting and serious messages. We also want the public to know that Nairn CAB can help with this type of thing, as can the Citizens Advice consumer service line [03454 04 05 06]. Scams can also be reported to Action Fraud [0300 123 2040].’

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Community Council meetings 30th June change of venue

The West and Suburban Community Council meetings due to be held in Nairn Academy on Tuesday 30th June will now take place in the Community and Arts centre. The meetings will begin at 7.30 p.m.

White Bridge weight limit " unlikely to impact on this summer’s tourism season traffic"

From a Highland Council press release:

"The Highland Council is to consult the public on its intention to introduce an 18 Tonne maximum gross weight restriction at White Bridge on the B9090 Loch Flemington – Clephanton – Cawdor – Nairn Road.

White Bridge, spanning the River Nairn, is one the oldest bridges maintained by the Council and is a ‘Category A’ Listed structure. It has a humped vertical alignment and carries single file traffic in both directions, subject to traffic control signals.

The weight restriction is required following the recommendation contained within a recent structural assessment of the bridge.

The bridge’s condition is deteriorating and until the Council is able to identify, and be in a position to allocate significant amounts of funding required for repair, the bridge needs to be protected. At the same time, the bridge requires to be available to most traffic normally using this route.

The introduction of an 18 Tonne maximum gross weight restriction will minimise the number of heavy axle load vehicles crossing the bridge, regardless of whether or not they are laden. The only exemption will be for emergency service vehicles attending an emergency.

In order to affect the weight restriction a formal process is followed which includes public consultation on the impact of the proposed weight restriction and alternative routes for vehicles affected.

It is anticipated that the consultation and traffic restriction order process will take some months and is therefore unlikely to impact on this summer’s tourism season traffic.

The Council is also currently reviewing alternative bridging locations of the river adjacent to the White Bridge which includes identifying the necessary funding for a replacement bridge.

The Council will publicise details on any public consultations in due course."

Gurn thought for the evening. Where will an organisation that has to make cuts totalling £46 million over the next four years find around the money to repair the White Bridge or build a new bridge alongside it (a figure of £2 million has been suggested for that)?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All points of the compass will come to Nairn for the World Orienteering Championships on 1st August - picture

This year Keeping Nairnshire Colourful has made a design of an orienteering compass, and in collaboration with TEC Services this was planted up in carpet bedding on the circular bed near the putting green and crazy golf at the Leisure Park . 

This themed flowerbed, together with 18 hanging baskets which are to be installed along Marine Road, are part of a KNC-organised scheme to make Nairn look attractive for the World Orienteering Championships opening at the Links on 1 August. The Nairn Ward Discretionary Fund and local businesses Wetherby House B&B, The Sunny Brae Hotel, The Braeval, Robertson & Bailey Interiors, Havelock House Hotel and Howdens Joinery have all contributed to funding this special floral display.

White Bridge proposed 18 tonne weight limit crisis meeting Tues 30th June 7.30 p.m, Cawdor Community Centre

Cawdor and West Nairnshire Community Council have organised an emergency meeting to discuss the threat that Highland Council's proposed 18 tonne weight restriction on the White Bridge will pose to the rural community. Details in the poster below

The B9090 route from Gollanfield to Auldearn via Cawdor has long been the unofficial Nairn bypass route for many large vehicles. Obviously there will be a serious impact on Nairn too as vehicles go back to the A96 or seek to access the trunk road via Nairn instead of the White Bridge. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday night miscellancy

An interesting front page splash in the Nairnshire tonight. Like a bolt out of the blue Highland Council are going to impose an 18 tonne limit on the White Bridge, a Cawdor transport lifeline, from mid-july. Anyone that knows that road will appreciate what that will probably mean for lorries, farm vehicles and coaches that regularly use the B9090. Get yourself a copy of the Nairnshire Telegraph and catch up with the latest. 

We took a few pictures of the first competitors coming in on the Nairnshire Challenge yesterday but gave up as things got wetter and wetter – a few images here. 

Murd Dunbar has been picking a riverside path grass cutting bone or two with a Highland Council official. He is particularly concerned about  getting both sides of the path cut down from corner of the former Millford Hotel site to the main riverside paths (for some reason only one side has been attended to up to now), this is a major thoroughfare for walkers coming out of Queenspark. Murd is concerned that there has been insufficient maintenance of the reconstructed path over and above the grass cutting, he told us: “it was a path that was reconstructed to a D.D.A standard of 1.500m and now reduced to less than 500mm.”
The state of the Millford Path up from the Riverside, causing concern to Queenspark Resident Murd Dunbar
Echoing a sentiment made by Michael Green at a community council meeting recently Murd says: “ our money should all support a viable model that delivers enhanced value for money and better services.” Murd would like to see improvements to the riverside path cutting regime. We have asked the official dealing with Murd’s observations for comment. 

Meanwhile the thermometer drops below 10C again on another midsummer day – and an aurora alert is promising too but you’d have to get above the cloud cover tonight to get a look at the Northern Lights if they turn up.

Update: Tues 18.00. Murd is delighted the path has been sorted. 

Armed Forces Week starts in Nairn with a ceremony at the Legion - pictures Murray MacRae

Individual images here. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nairn County Legends v Supporters - action from the Riverside yesterday - pictures Donald Matheson and Kenny MacLeod

The game between the Wee County legends  and the supporters down at the Riverside yesterday and the quiz afterwards in Uncle Bob's raised £1295 for charity. The Gurn understands that it could become an annual event too.

Donald Matheson's individual images here.  

Kenny MacLeod's individual images here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nairn Councillor calls for Council Tax to rise

Another day and another article in the Press and Journal about the depressing financial problems at Highland Council. Nairn member Michael Green is mentioned in dispatches:

"Nairn member Michael Green said: “Seven years on, we must increase it. If the Scottish Government cares about maintaining services, this is the most obvious way.” "

Saturday morning thought: What will Nairn's "fair share" of the Highland Council Cuts apocalypse look like?

Recently we have featured Michael Green's optimism that Nairn could more or less break away under a beefed up Nairn Area Committee set-up and enjoy its fair share of local government funding. Article here and more in this article about Wednesday night's River CC meeting.  Michael's initiative and aspiration will be very popular with many gurnites. 

Fast forward to yesterday however and a Press and Journal Article and any aspirations we might have as a community of getting a better deal from Glenurquhart Road have to be seen in the bleak midsummer crisis light of the cuts express special hurtling down the tracks: "Highland Council facing “massive cuts” as budget deficit trebles".

"The crisis could lead to jobs being axed and education services being put in the firing line after the level of savings needed from 2016-19 rocketed from £13.3million to £46.3million.

The biggest challenge is next year – when more than £21million of savings need to be found."

And here's what one of the new Independent ruling group chairs had to say to the Courier:

 "We are going to have to look at everything," he said. "Things that were sacrosanct will no longer be. Everything is going to have to come into the picture." More here. 

We might get our fair share of cuts and more. Maybe we will get the chance to participate in a renewed local democracy but will it be amidst the smouldering ruins of what we once took for granted - and you have to remember that a lot has already left Nairn in the direction of Inverness over the past 20-30 years.

Friday, June 19, 2015

NHS Highland to end Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool contract

NHS Highland has decided not to renew its contract with the Nairn Hydrotherapy pool and has instructed the Nairn Healthcare Group to stop referrals for patients from 01 July this year.

Funding for this project is not being withdrawn, but reinvested in exercise and pool access within the Nairn area. This reinvestment will increase the opportunities for a wider group of patients to access the benefits of such treatments. 

The decision comes after nearly three years of discussions between NHS Highland and the Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool Trust to agree a revised contract from 01 April 2015, however no agreement has been reached: NHS Highland had requested that the Hydropool broadened its activity protecting it from a reliance on NHS funding.

All periods of therapy that have already been requested by the Nairn Healthcare Group will be honoured until 31 October this year, allowing sufficient time for the Trust to ensure all sessions are completed.

NHS Highland area manager (south) Jean Pierre Sieczkarek said: “The decision to bring our contract to an end with the Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool is based on the need to utilise the financial resources connected with the Pool in a fairer way, allowing increased access for a larger group of patients to exercise and have water-based therapy.

“There is a small number of patient groups accessing the Hydrotherapy Pool, and upon reviewing this, we would like to encourage a wider access to therapies.

“We are in negotiation with High Life Highland to look at alternative wellbeing activity.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lively stuff at the River CC AGM Wednesday night.

There was a good turnout at the River CC AGM in the URC hall last night. Good to see some younger people too and by that this observer means those below the 45-50 range. There were also two people there that looked definitely below 30 years of age to this observer. With this renewed interest perhaps we will see a crowded ballot paper for the Community Council elections this November? Mabye some citizens energised into politics by the referendum last year (YES and NO folk alike) might put themselves forward for election.

Should the drift towards localism signalled by the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill get some serious wind in its sails then a fair amount of gravitas could attach itself to these august but, presently, basically powerless organisations. Well, powerless but if you have something you wish to bring to the attention of the wider world then the Community Council is a good place to head to. So it was last night, for example, with yet another Lochloy resident turning up with road adoption and amenity area grass cutting problems.

Anyway the Chair, Treasurer and Secretary are all back in but the later, Stephanie Whittaker, has signalled that she will be standing down in November. We would urge all gurnites to read the report she prepared and delivered to the meeting last night – there’s too much in there to be selective and it outlines all the work and issues that the River Community Council have been involved in in the last year. These folk that give up their time for free have been busy on our behalf. Copy of the report here.

Chair Tommy Hogg then introduced Cllr Michael Green who spoke in some considerable detail about what he is convinced will be significant events that will return real power to Nairnshire. His double whammy included Highland Council functions and also Health Care. The Gurn spoke to him recently on how he sees a new Nairn Area Committee being formed soon and delivering real power back to the Community – article here. On Health issues he said:

“There’s a lot of changes afoot and I intend to see that Nairn is in the vanguard of these changes. Basically community empowerment made an awful lot of difference. The genie is out of the bottle and its actually looking to return the services to under local control because I think that model really, really works. I want to just announce one or two sort of ideas and suggestions and then get the feedback from folk and they can question some of the ideas that I’ve got. To a large extent as has been evidenced this week: James Arbuthnot came out in the Glasgow Herald and said we are facing very austere times ahead. There’s more cuts coming. We can argue who is causing that, what is happening, but we are where we are and there are cuts that are coming.

We have to manage the services better. The sort of delivery of the services that we have just now is ineffective and there has to be a new model. Now if you look at Health and Social Care there are going to be some very exciting announcements coming out shortly which is all about Nairn being a sort of pilot area for the sort of commissioning of services locally. What that means is that you will get enhanced value. It means it won’t be filtered through Raigmore and all the administrative costs, all the management costs, all the tertiary costs that are taken out and what we are left with in Nairnsire is our disposable income is severely reduced to deliver the front line services that we want. If you are commissioning services locally, you can buy in the services that you want. You can buy in the services that you can’t provide locally, for instance if you need from Raigmore and there are statutory obligations and that will have to be covered but to a large extent your discretional spend will be increased dramatically. If Raigmore can’t provide that you go somewhere else. We want to support Raigmore but we don’t want to subsidise Raigmore. [...]”

Michael continued on how such a health settlement could benefit Nairn. He then moved onto planning and the Nairn South fiasco and the difference and the effort that local people put in fighting the Highland Council planning department. He called the Highland wide plan dysfunctional and compared the difference between the number of houses Highland Council state need to be built over the next 20 years and the much lesser figures from Scottish Government sources; 1900 as opposed to 600.

Michael came in for considerable questioning from the floor about how a pathfinder health service area could save money when it too would have to be administered. It seemed to all have come as a bolt out of the blue to some but Michael seemed to be convinced that it was all coming down the tracks. The Q&A session was eventually wound up by Tommy as Leslie Boulton threw in a political spanner into the conversation by asking how things could be paid for without raising the council tax (he believed freezing council tax was a doctrinaire policy). A good point to stop perhaps as things moved off piste.

It was a lively session – a pity it wasn’t webcast as there are many gurnites out there that would have perhaps liked to have watched. Time doesn’t permit us to write it all up but the Leopold Street Courier will perhaps include a fair bit next week. Also lively was an exchange between Simon Noble and Michael Green over the performance or lack of it from the Nairn River Enterprise body that seems to be in the doldrums just now. The River CC members are to shortly have a workshop meeting to see what they should do next with the nascent social enterprise vehicle. 

There was a fair bit on AOB too including reports that displacement of traffic from Harbour Street has meant that the speeders and bad drivers have been going through other parts of the Fishertown. Andrew Purkis was worried that there might be a serious accident.

Chair Tommy Hogg told the meeting that there were 13 applications planning applications that he had looked through and didn’t see any problem with any of them (River CC are statutory consultees) and his fellow councillors were content with that. The meeting closed closer to 10 pm than half past nine. 

And don't forget, get a cuppa or pour a dram and have a read of the River CC AGM report, good reading. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nairnshire Challenge 2015 - this Sunday June 21st

The 2015 Nairnshire Challenge takes place this Sunday (21 June). Held annually since 1997, it has become a well-established event in the Nairnshire calendar. Participants are bussed to Auchterteang on the Ferness-Carrbridge road at the south end of the County. They set off at 10am, covering the 12.3 miles on foot over the Cawdor Estates to Drynachan, where they pick up their bicycles and make their way by road over 17.7 miles to the Links in Nairn.

The first to finish is expected there just after noon and the best view for spectators will be as the cyclists come through the town, and when they finish at the Links.

Bill Robertson, the Challenge Co-ordinator, is at pains to stress that it is not a race, “It’s a personal challenge to each participant. Those who do it quickly miss out on this unique opportunity to see parts of Nairnshire not readily accessible.”

The numbers taking part this year are disappointing low. At 170, this is the least there has been in the event’s history. Bill explains that this trend is shared by many other similar events. “It’s either that it has gone out of fashion or that there are so many held each week. When we started in 1997, we were one of the few.”

The event has been organised annually by the Rotary Club of Nairn and the funds raised have allowed grants to be made to support many local voluntary groups, as well as national and international causes.

“The Challenge relies annually on the generosity of so many different organisations and people,” says Bill. “Lord Cawdor and his staff continue to be fully involved in making it possible, as have the many groups who man watering stations and steward the route. We are so grateful to them all, and I’m sure that together we will make this another memorable day.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Talkin' bout a revolution" with Michael Green 2 - "I want the people of Nairn to engage as they did during the referendum"

We have been meaning for some time to catch up with Michael Green to get down to the specifics of how he feels local democracy could be restored quickly to Nairnshire. He told us earlier today:

“These are austere times and we are facing more cuts. The current set up does not deliver on any of the services. The top down centralised approach does not work and we need localism from the bottom up. 

He referred to current Community Empowerment proposals going through the Scottish Parliament and quoted the theme from a 2009 Scottish Goverment Community Power Action Plan:

‘Community Empowerment is a process where people work together to make change happen in their communities by having more power and influence over what matter to them.’ Michael is convinced that that can happen through the existing powers available to Highland Council via a restored Nairnshire area committee with input from the town’s community councillors plus the four Highland Councillors.

Michael complains that Nairn doesn't get its fair share and to give an example he bemoans the largesse that other communities seem to receive from the powers that be an mentions the Forres area Community Trust that secured £175,000 in 2011 to employ two full time development officers. Michael subscribes to the theory that the present 32 council arrangement in Scotland was set up for ideological reasons and finds himself in agreement with those that feel that this was the time that Scotland moved from local government to more remote regional government. He feels that the momentum is there for change and that somewhere down the line there will be a new set up and he wants to see a new Nairnshire Area that will lead the way using existing structures and resources to create the new structures that can take our community forward and release the positive energies of people - energies that are presently so often taken up fighting a rear guard action against initiatives that are imposed on Nairn.

He says that the current area committee of Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is too large and has no powers. He told us that Nairn needs a devolved fair share locality budget. He aligns his thinking with that of the likes of Lesley Riddoch who is keen to see the Nordic model of local government introduced to Scotland where the administrative units have populations of around 14,000. To Michael Nairnshire with Cawdor returned or Ardersier added on or both would constitute a workable unit of local government with control of planning, development and housing as well as roads and health and social care.

That is the vision and Michael thinks the new minority Independent administration will be able to deliver a package for Nairnshire at a time where he sees community empowerment legislation coming down that tracks that is telling councils to get on with it and create new structures anyway. He has faith in Margeret Davidson the new leader of the Council and her commitment to localism; new area structures with better delivery of services and decision making powers. There would also be a review of the partnership agreement with NHS Highland and renewed emphasis on moving the balance of care into the community. (more on this in another article when time permits).

He believes opportunity also presents itself with an enlightened Chief Executive Steve Barron who Michael says has challenged councillors to come up with new structures and who knows that there is no “one size fits all” and will support a viable model that delivers enhanced value for money and better services.

Michael says that he will be going round the Community Councils (including Cawdor and Ardersier), starting with River CC tomorrow night (Wendesday), getting their feedback and answering questions they may have. He will also go to the Rotary and the Association of Nairn Businesses, the CAB and other groups and organisations that need to be part of the new structure he envisages for the Nairnshire Area.

He returned to a quote from a speech he made in the Council chamber recently:

“As the Great and the Good from across Scotland depart for Westminster, to be followed by the Brightest and the Best to Holyrood next year, I can’t help but think the Revolutions, the Real Game Changer in Community Provision is happening not in London, not in Edinburgh, and maybe not even in Inverness, but in Nairnshire.

Michael finished with an appeal to the Community:

“There is a lot to do over the coming months and I want the people of Nairn to engage as they did during the referendum and lets all work together to get the Nairn and Nairnshire that we all want.”

Lost dog Archie found

Relief for Archie's owners tonight. They are on holiday in Spain, yesterday
was day one of their break and their family getaway was shattered with the news that their dog was missing in Househill woods. He's been found apparently almost 36 hours after he went missing. Nice happy ending for a Tuesday night. 

Tonight a delighted owner said on the Highland Dog Blog facebook pages:

"Thank you all so much everyone... As you all know being guardians of such loving souls we have been heartbroken thinking the worst this last 24hrs"