Monday, May 02, 2016

Michael Green “Wheels turn slowly but they do actually turn.”

Historical issues concerning the Nairn Common Good were discussed last week at the regular meeting of Nairn West/Suburban Community Council in the Community Centre. Michael Green said:

“We dealt with the Sandown fiasco. We got that partially resolved. We got money back. We’ve now got the current scenario surrounding the fishing lease and a report will be coming back in the next two or three weeks to the ward and then we’ll release it out at the next area committee. That is the sort of time scale we are talking. The Highland Council Legal Department, at their expense I should point out, have been going through the records, have been looking at this and they will come back with a position which we can discuss and take action, and if we’re due money then we will get the money. It’s similar to the paddling pool, things happen slowly, processes go slow, they don’t go anywhere near as fast as you would expect or would wish but they do happen. The paddling pool was resolved, that was a Common Good issue, we go through process. The Fishing Leases will be resolved, it’s not sustainable for us to be going on paying 9-10 thousand pounds a year. ” 

Bill Young was dissatisfied with the speed the issue was moving forward however, he said that he didn’t see why it would take to next December to decide that.

Michael Green said: “Wheels turn slowly but they do actually turn.”

Friday, April 29, 2016

Wild bee rescue Nairn April 2016 - video

On Wednesday afternoon (27th of April 2016) local beekeepers responded quickly when alerted to a fallen tree that contained a large colony of bees close to one of the riverside walks in Nairn. More information in the video made by the rescuers themselves.

Like many other river walkers this observer has walked past that tree thousands of times and was unaware of the presence of bees. Ann and her colleagues had been monitoring the bees however and now they are happily settled in their new home.

This just goes to show that wildlife makes just as much use of the dead and decaying trees as the live ones and they have their  place in the wonderful ecosystem that we enjoy along the riverside. Well done the Nairnshire beekeepers!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Power over potholes returns to the Courthouse

A Highland Council press release:

The budget for Road Maintenance for 2016-17 is to be distributed between the eight Local Area Committees to enable greater local decision making in line with the Council’s localism agenda.

The budget for road maintenance contains four main and distinct activities. These are:
Revenue for Winter Maintenance
Revenue for Cyclic Maintenance, which includes pothole repairs, surface patching, road markings, traffic signs and verge cutting
Capital expenditure for early intervention to extend the life of the road surface
Capital expenditure for larger resurfacing and major bridge refurbishment works

"51% of Scots think the local council operates in the interests of the people who run it, as opposed to 26% who think the council is run in the interests of local people"

Just been having a wee browse of a recent Electoral Reform Society report, it says

"In a poll carried out in April 2016 by BMG market research for the Electoral Reform Society, 76% of Scots felt they had no or very little influence on council spending or services. This is a worrying number for democracy; the fundamental claim of a democratic system is that the people have a say. If this claim is not felt to be true, then trust in the system itself is undermined. This is borne out by another figure from the same survey: 51% of Scots think the local council operates in the interests of the people who run it, as opposed to 26% who think the council is run in the interests of local people"

This observer thinks that figure would probably be spot on for Nairn too, many of the serious students of local government matters will tell you that local wishes have been ignored by Highland Council for years. The report does go on to offer crumbs of comfort and hope however such as:

"For example, 30% of people think their councillors work hard compared to only 12% who don’t. Perhaps the most heartening thing is that people want their democracy to work better. Contrary to the ‘anti-politics’ narrative that is so often heard, Scots want more local representation. 78% of people would like more councillors if they were community volunteers and even more surprisingly, 68% want more councillors even if they were to be paid as they currently are."  

Readers may remember that Provost Laurie Fraser was recently criticsed for calling for more councillors. This research would indicate that he is in tune with public opinion. 

The report is a quick read if you have a few minutes to spare and will certainly chime with many of our readres, Here's another snippet:

"Democracy is about distributed power; structures which centralise or ‘suck it up’ feed a growing distrust in those past promises of freedom, democracy and equality. Across Scotland there are many examples of successful community action and self-managed local projects—but instead of getting the encouragement and support from state structures that could help these things become the norm, they are currently exceptions that have to overcome intimidating systemic barriers. This makes the lack of trust in existing democratic institutions even worse. But people doing things for each other and for themselves with sufficient resource and support is often the best way to rebuild democratic trust, and the most effective way of running the services communities need to thrive. It’s not hard to imagine that involving more local people in running their community will lead to improvements."

The Electoral Reform Society Report can be read here - have a look at what they think is the problem and what can be done in "Re-making Local Democracy". 

Delnies Ghost Island proposal refused by Highland Council

Regular readers may remember the application by Cawdor Maintenance Trust which sought to replace the proposed roundabout to service the Delnies development with a simpler, ghost island priority junction. That application has been refused by Highland Council. The application received a number of objections including submissions from the Community Councils and the Residents Concern Group. 

The decision states on the Council's e-planning site:

"That the proposal is contrary to policies 17 and 28 of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan in that the proposed ghost island does not provide a satisfactory access to the Delnies site as the benefits the original roundabout to local residents and the wider population will not be achieved, thereby having a detrimental impact on community residential amenity."

18 tonne weight limit on White Bridge starts Saturday

From Saturday we will see if the White Bridge weight limit has a discernible effect on levels of traffic on the A96 through town if drivers followed the preferred diversion route through Nairn. Below is a Highland Council press release.

"From Saturday 30 April 2016, The Highland Council will introduce an 18 Tonne maximum gross weight restriction at White Bridge on the B9090 Loch Flemington – Clephanton – Cawdor – Nairn Road.

A preferred diversion route has been identified by the Council via the B9090, A96, A939 and B9101.

White Bridge, spanning the River Nairn, is one the oldest bridges maintained by the Council and is a ‘Category A’ Listed structure. The weight restriction is required following the recommendation contained within a structural assessment of the bridge.

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."

Crispy start but frost lifting quickly in the sun

An anxious morning for many gardeners who will be wondering if any of their more tender plants and shrubs that have shown foliage already will be affected by the overnight frost. The frost is lifting quickly as the sun rises but it may have done some damage here and there. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Top of the SNP list in Nairn today - Maree Todd

Maree Todd was in Nairn earlier today and on the High Street with local SNP activists. Maree is the top candidate on the Highlands and Islands list for the SNP on the 2nd ballot in the forthcoming Holyrood election and could be on her way to the Scottish Parliament after the votes are counted. 

Safety versus Parking on Leopold Street - four parking bays to go?

Readers may have noticed that after the resurfacing work the parking bay markings in Leopold Street were not fully reinstated - four of the bay markings have now gone. This doesn't seem to have bothered local motorists however who are still using the spots they have been accustomed to parking in over the years. Double yellow lines could appear however, in an effort to improve safety on Leopold Street. 

At the regular meeting of Nairn West/Suburban in the Community Centre on Monday night Councillor Michael Green told the meeting that there would be a period of consultation over the conflict between the safety issue and parking.

"There are traffic orders for double yellow lines which would be back from the A96 but that would mean the loss of four car parking spaces but the other thing is there is the safety element because there is a real choke point, a bottleneck and folk are going up onto the pavement and the traffic slows very, very slowly – it’s a kind of “who dares wins” – the scenario with two into one and a half and it’s difficult. So, the Council is going to wait and see how it pans out on the one hand it’s safety and traffic speeding an awful lot quicker through the town centre, it is a plus, but then on the other hand we’re losing four parking bays. So we've just got to wait and see how local opinion feeds back on that."

Dick Youngson the Chair of West/Suburban CC told Michael Green that there should be a disabled bay on Leopold Street.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A few snippets from the Nairn South debate on Wednesday in the Courthouse - 2) Michael Green - consultation

One of our Highland Councillors is as cynical about "consultation" as many of our readers are. On Wednesday at the Nairn Area Committee meeting Michael Green said: 

"I’m pretty cynical about consultation and that is based on experiences. We had a massive response to Nairn South, I would suggest the level of response which  was received for Nairn South was unprecedented in the Highlands. The Inner Moray Firth, and this really caused problems with me, the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan stated that whilst the overwhelming response was against Nairn South they had to take into account the views of those that did not take part in the process and then they did take the rather Machiavellian view that they were of the opposite opinion to the majority. Now I don’t know what that would do to encourage folk to take part in the consultation process but unfortunately that is the sort of legacy that that process has had."

Putting Green Charity Challenge

Saturday, April 23, 2016


A bit of activity in Nairn today....Leopold/High Street Corner is obviously the best pitch.
Here's the SNP stall
In the afternoon some Scottish Labour activity too but not in the High Street
John Finnie was also in town today

Planning applications 2. 71 High Street Nairn - Change of use to Cafe

A planning application for change of use to Cafe has been published on the Highalnd Council's e-planning site for 71 High Street (Eilean Dubh Fine Foods, formerly known as Brown the Butcher's). The details, including plans can be seen here. 

Planning Applciations 1. Former Harbour Street stores change of use from Retail Unit to Dwelling

A planning application for change of use from Retail Unit to Dwelling has been published on the Highland Council e-planning site for 20 Harbour Street Nairn. The details are available here.

Bids invited for Nairn Harbour dredging contract

"The works involve the draining and dredging of the inner harbour basin of Nairn Harbour at postcode IV12 4NX. Approximately 12,000 cubic metres of accumulated silt, mud and sand is required to be excavated and transported to the nearby foreshore for disposal using dumpers."   

Friday, April 22, 2016

News from Murd - the Firhall Bridge - a puddle too far - plus one other matter.

At the recent meeting of NRCC Murd asked Stephen Fuller how things were
progressing with the issue of the large puddle at the bottom of the Firhall steps bridge. At the March meeting Murd had asked if anything could be done to fill in the very incovenient puddle (picture right). Stephen Fuller had been to see the puddle and took up the issue on Murd's behalf. Nothing had been done however and the problem seemed to be that an official was not answering Stephen's e-mails. Gone are the days when somebody could be dispatched to sort a wee problem like that the next morning? 

Murd is also campaigning for something to be done about what he considers to be two dangerous trees close to the riverside footpath on the Househill side of the River as you approach the Firhall Bridge.

Scottish Rock Garden Club 47th annual Highland Plant Show in the Community Centre on Saturday 30 April

Local Rock Garden Clubber David Shaw told the Gurn: "The Scottish Rock Garden Club will hold its 47th annual Highland Plant Show in the Community Centre on Saturday 30 April. The show is organised by the local Highland Rock Garden Group and was originally staged in Inverness, at various venues, until the new Nairn Community Centre opened and has been at this venue ever since.

This is the first flower show of the year in the area and the largest show of its
kind in the north of Scotland. It has proved increasingly popular with local people who come to admire some well grown examples of hardy perennial plants, bulbs and small shrubs. In addition to the show there is a large plant sales area with trade stands from Rumbling Bridge in Fife, Ardfearn at Bunchrew and Askival in Fort Augustus, all selling locally grown hardy plants. In addition there will be the Highland group’s members stand with an eclectic range of plants kindly donated by members. If you want to try to ‘grow your own, why not have a rake through the hundreds of packets of seeds available at a very low price. Soup, sandwiches, bakes, tea and coffee are provided by the sports club.

The plant sales area will open at 1030 and the show just as soon as the judges finish their judging which will be as soon after 12 noon as possible.

Why not come along and enjoy your Saturday with us and then spend Sunday planting out your purchases."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A few snippets from the Nairn South debate in the Courthouse today – 1) Michael Green – housing

At the Nairnshire Committee meeting this morning the Highland Council planners latest paper on Nairn South was considered. Michael Green, in the chair, analysed the document section by section and then asked his colleagues to comment and the officials gave further responses too. The first item he raised was the 20 year housing requirement figures for Nairn as outlined by the planners those figures were contained in a table entitled “Nairn Housing Market Area Housing Land Requirement”.

He said: “I really welcome this because this is a chance to put on record exactly our opinions which I think are representative of the views of local people as regards this master plan’s proposals. Now in 2010 there was a requirement was for 2,500 houses. We all thought that was incredibly high. In 2015 it’s now come down to the low estimate which is 1,097, the high is 1,514. There are factors put in there to explain why that figure has come down. There are also additional current figures, there are tens of thousands of job losses in oil and gas. There is the failure of Whiteness, that was going to provide several thousand jobs. Highland Council are cutting hundreds of jobs and that’s a process that looks likely to continue for many years

I would suggest the real scenario, the requirement for houses is probably about a thousand. Let’s not forget that we actually do want development in Nairn. This is the important thing to remember here we do want development. The perception that is out there is that we are anti-development. We are not anti-development, we just want development at places we wish to see it occur. There must be priorities. So I would look and say if you include Sandown, if you include Delnies, Lochloy existing permissions and factor in which your refer to as the windfall factor in Auldearn and Cawdor. It’s round about a thousand. The point I really want to make is I don’t think there’s any real requirement for development at Nairn South. So we have got I think we have got on the books enough capacity to cater for the next 10 years for Nairn. Again I’ll say we want development and we want to be able to prioritise where it occurs.”

Nairn South saga continues – controversial issue to return to Nairnshire Committee in September

Not a spare seat on the public benches in the Courthouse today as Nairn South was again discussed. The transport appraisal produced by the planning Department's consultants will be made available for public comment and consultation but following that there will be a significant change in procedure which chimes with the ascendancy and growing power of the area committees at Highland Council

Michael Green, the Chair of the Nairnshire Committee, proposed the following Motion:

“Following public consultation the transport appraisal will return to the Nairnshire Committee on the 21st of September 2016 for consideration and recommendation as to whether or not to progress with the preparation of a new Nairn South master plan. In the intervening period all work on the new draft Nairn South master plan will be deferred.”

The motion was supported by Cllr Stephen Fuller and would have been opposed by Laurie Fraser but he had no seconder.

Cllr Liz MacDonald could not vote, she had left the room at the start of the debate on Nairn South; she had said at the beginning of the meeting at the point of the declarations of interest that she would do so because she had “land allocated for housing within the Inner Moray Firth Development plan.” This situation has prevented Liz debating Nairn South matters for some time now.

Some interesting comment by members of the committee today. More later if time permits. 

Cinema Nairn celebrates its 100th Film!

Cinema Nairn celebrates its 100th screening on Friday 22nd April with Indian film ‘The Lunch Box’ (PG) . 

To mark the occasion, the film will be preceded by free Indian nibbles from 7pm.   

Set up by a group of enthusiasts in 2009, Cinema Nairn’s aim was to use the
facilities of the new community centre to return regular local cinema to the town.

Programmes concentrate on quality films past and present with the emphasis on lesser known gems which may have slipped beneath the radar. This approach has won a loyal following with evening audiences of up to 110 people, and the four matinees held each year with tea and bakes included are equally popular. It’s a lovely afternoon out especially for those who can’t make evening showings.

‘The Lunch Box’ tells the story of an unlikely romance conducted through messages popped into the lunch box of a lonely widower, and was BAFTA nominated as well as winning many Asian film awards.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An important day tomorrow morning at the Courthouse (Wednesday 20/04/16) - please get down there if you can.

Gurn Opinion: It's a major decision for the Nairnshire Area Committee tomorrow on the latest South Nairn proposals from the planners. If you are concerned about what the traffic proposals could mean please contact our four local councillors to inform them of your views and/or come down to the Courthouse to lobby them and observe proceedings tomorrow morning at 10.30 am if you can. 

Please see articles below for further information. Any readers who might have missed any of the Nairn South goings on in recent years may wish to read this recent letter that was sent to Highland Council's Chief Executive by the town's two Community Councils, it will give you the historical perspective. Some images from September 2013 here, a video here.

An interesting moment tomorrow - the return of real local democracy and the new Nairnshire Area Committee making a giant leap forward or simply more of the same?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nairn South back with a vengeance and going before the Nairnshire Area Committee again on Wednesday

Gurn opinion:  What part of "No" do Highland Council planners not understand? It's an important day for Nairn on Wednesday at 10.30 in the Courthouse. Will the Nairnshire Area Committee stand up to the planners again or will they allow their "consultation" to go ahead? If they cave in the principle of development at Nairn South will be accepted. Please read the following and if you can get yourself down to the Courthouse on Wednesday morning to lobby Councillors Michael Green, Stephen Fuller, Liz MacDonald and Laurie Fraser please do so. Will Nairn South finally be consigned to the bin, thus enabling the community to move on and agree sensible development elsewhere (such as the Common Good Land at Sandown where the community could control all aspects of  the site) or will Nairn get well and truly stuffed? Is it to be real "Localism" or more of the same and control from Highland Council planners?

Regular readers will recall this article from January "Born again Nairnshire Committee stands up to Planning Department’s Nairn South Sledgehammer" 
 At the time Michael Green said: "“To sum this up Nairn said no, the PIE committee said no, the reporter said no and I’m pretty sure the man from Del Monte would probably say no. "

Well it looks like the Highland Council bureacrats have sent it back to the new area committee again and this is the item for the agenda. Will Michael, Liz, Stephen and Laurie tell them once again where to go or will the planners get their way this time round?

"6. Future Development in Nairn

Leasachadh san Àm ri Teachd ann an Inbhir Narann

There is circulated Report No N/10/16 dated 8 April 2016 by the Director of Development and Infrastructure which presents background evidence for future development proposals in Nairn and more detailed transport analysis to inform the preparation of a revised draft masterplan for the Nairn South development. The Delivery Strategy for Nairn confirms the capacity of local services and infrastructure to accommodate development across the wider town and outlines the current status of sites allocated in the Development Plan. Alongside, a Draft Transport Appraisal has been prepared which sets out the transport mitigation requirements for development of the Nairn South site. The Transport Appraisal is presented for approval for consultation to allow any comments to be considered. Members are also asked to agree how to proceed with a new Nairn South Masterplan following the recommendations of the Examination Report to the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan.

The Committee is invited to:-

i. provide any feedback on the Delivery Strategy for Nairn;
ii. note and agree the Transport Appraisal summary document enclosed at Appendix A and agree to make it available for public comment; and 
iii. agree to prepare a new Draft Nairn South Masterplan for public consultation as outlined in section 4 of this report"

Serious students of these matters might like to read the full document going before the Nairnshire Committee which details the Transport Appraisal and shows drawings of what would happen to the Cawdor and Balblair Roads. Go to this Highland Council page and click on item six to download the full document 

It looks like traffic lights for the Station Brae folks and if you look in the documents you will find drawing indicating that Balblair Road is to become a largely single track Road, the Highland Council document states:

""1.1.4 Cawdor Road/Balblair Road junction and Nairn Station Railway Bridge Traffic signal control of the junction provides traffic management over this section of Cawdor Road - and is required from the outset. This includes advanced stop lines for cyclists on all three approaches. Footway width provisionshall be 2.0m below the arch bridge widening to 2.3m either side. A pedestrian phase is required within the traffic signal sequencing. Pedestrian storage provision adjacent to the rail station steps is also required as indicated in Drawing 60446943-SKE-C-102 in Appendix A. This also allows for a right turning refuse vehicle from Balblair Road to Cawdor Road south."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The future with traffic lights on Station Brae and 320 houses at South Nairn?

Picture will enlarge 

Information going before the Nairnshire Committee on Weds April 20th in the Courthouse includes the following suggestion for Station Brae:

"1.1.4 Cawdor Road/Balblair Road junction and Nairn Station Railway Bridge Traffic signal control of the junction provides traffic management over this section of Cawdor Road - and is required from the outset. This includes advanced stop lines for cyclists on all three approaches. Footway width provisionshall be 2.0m below the arch bridge widening to 2.3m either side. A pedestrian phase is required within the traffic signal sequencing. Pedestrian storage provision adjacent to the rail station steps is also required as indicated in Drawing 60446943-SKE-C-102 in Appendix A. This also allows for a right turning refuse vehicle from Balblair Road to Cawdor Road south."

UPDATE: one of our readers points out that the actual situation will be much worse than this, at the point where the Range Rover is parked the road will be reduced to 3.83m so a good part of the road on the brae will effectively be single track. 

" and nothing ever happens "

Missed the gig, no room left in the Bandstand for the beerfest masses. Still became an opportunity to try the ciders in the big tent. Mystery performer liked Nairn it seems. See tweet below.