Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hill 99

Iright goes to the Culbin and reports for the Gurn
I'm not always a fan of structures being built in remote places and have even been known to utter 'who on earth gave that planning permission' as I pass a monstrosity built in the middle of a wild idyll, but the observation tower built on Hill 99 in the Culbin forest meets with my approval. The tower lets you climb above the tree canopy and allows for splendid views across Moray, Nairnshire, and north across the firth. I have to confess that I sometimes find some forestry walks boring after the first few hundred pine trees but Hill 99 gives the walk a definite purpose with a goal at the end. The walk itself is two hours in length and to add interest to the acres of lichen and trees the path snakes it's way in an indirect line (Personally I would have been quite happy with a straight Roman like road!)
The platform itself is not visible from the forest until you are almost upon it. It is built from steel, wood, and old car tyres and as you climb you quickly realise the amount of shelter which the trees give at ground level. Worth the journey to experience the views. For further details see

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Flashback: Capercaille at Nairn Harbourfest 1992

"Fosgail an dorus" / "Nighean Bhuidhe-ruadh" (Open the Door / Russet-Haired Daughter.) sung at Nairn Harbourfest 1992
Tapadh leat gu Uistman air Utube


Picture from Joe Telfer, Joe comments that it seems like another bumper year for seagull offspring, even if they find the changeable weather a little annoying.

Nairnshire orthographic conventions contravened?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Somerfield 'Just pushing to the last minute every single time' says Liz

Last night's Suburban Community Council meeting up at the Academy was, as usual, a lively event with many articulate comments coming from concerned residents on local planning matters. Subjects discussed were the Sandown Lands, the A96, the Cawdor developments, the Pettifer Development and the Somerfield Development Plans. The Gurn noted that there was considerable scepticism that the Somerfield development might never see the light of day. Provost Liz MacDonald was in attendance and she helped clarify the actual situation on the Somerfield application as it stands. Her remarks are indeed a good summary of the situation. She said, ' From the time that they signed the missive they had six months to get in their outline planning application and they got it in just in the last week and then they had 30 working days to put in their full planning permission, which they missed, they had to get 10 days notice from the council and they got it in. They're pushing it to the last date necessary. From the date that they got their full planning permission they then have six months to start knocking down the derelict buildings and clearing the site for the car park. So they are just pushing it to the last minute every single time.'
That's how it is then, The Gurn suggests that if Somerfield prevaricate any more the community should tell them 'to go and raffle themselves' (to the highest bidder if they like) and throw our lot in 100% with Sainsbury's and ease the path to the construction of their store in any way that we can.

Zombie hogweed rises from the dead!

It had looked pretty promising up at the granites but now the Hogweed has just picked itself up after the spraying and is getting on with life, admittedly with a stoop in its step but behold the seed head is forming. Be careful if you go up there alone at night.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nearly Nairnshire

Although just over the border in Moray many Nairnites would think of Brodie as an honary Nairnshire Castle.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Meanwhile the new suburbs head towards Forres while the photographer contemplates 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues'

This evening looking over towards Nairn from the new (today anyway) outer limits of the town. There are a whole new system of paths up from the what used to be the old quarries at the bottom of the brae, an area where old vehicles and shed and caravans had long succumbed to nature. Now it has been cleaned up (but not too much) and there are a series of paths leading up to the new schemes. It occurred to the editor that he had no idea of what the new streets are called or even if the this newer part has a name other than the all-encompassing 'Lochloy'. Anyway on the way back into town the lyrics of a certain song came to mind:
'Up on Housing Project Hill
It's either fortune or fame
You must pick up one or the other
Though neither of them are to be what they claim '
Enjoy the song and happy midsummer to all the Gurn's readers :-)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunset on the longest day

RNLI annual fundraising stall

The first £200 that is raised this year will have to go to Highland Council, that is the sum they will be charging the local fund-raising group for the erection of the stalls! Up until this year the Highland Council have found a way to avoid charging the charity but have insisted on a charge this year. Maybe Nairn Charities should investigate the cost of purchasing their own stalls?
Click on the image for a larger view.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

News on the war on Giant Hogweed

A co-conspirator believes that he has seen a spraying team of three moving towards Auldearn along the burn, and furthermore there are rumours of spraying at Cawdor. Have you seen or heard of other efforts to eradicate the alien menace? Please forward pictures to the Gurn. Native lands for native species! (apart from the  odd mature Wellingtonia, and even sycamores are nice after two or three hundred years, daffodils too and even potatoes are useful and...). The Gurn has nothing against alien flora, well what would our gardens be without them but we just can't stand Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed and Himalyan Balsam (even if it is a relative of the bizzie lizzie), why can't they all just go home and leave all the good jobs along the riverside to the native species?

What next? Giant Hogweed gets bail?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nòs ùr: Eden Court Saturday 21 06 08

Nòs Ùr (meaning ‘new style’ in Scottish Gaelic) is a new song competition in the Celtic and Scots languages which will act as a regional final for the pan-European minority languages song competition – Liet Lavlut, held on 18 October 2008 in Lulea, Sweden.

Languages accepted: Scots, Ulster Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Breton.

On 21 June 2008 two acts will be chosen (one jury vote, one public vote) to represent the Celtic and Scots languages/regions at the Liet Lavlut competition in Lulea, northern Sweden.

You can of course go yourself but the event will be live on-line


You can listen to all the entries here (just scroll down and wait for the tunes to load) and read the lyrics (with translations) here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

One more picture from the festival 'Time and Tide Installation' last night.

'The answer is blowing in the wind,'
Any chance of a bit more of that for Midsummer's Day please?

Giant hogweed suffers a giant set-back

Looks like someone has administered something fancy to the Giant Hogweed up at the Granites. Well done whoever sorted that massive clump out, plenty of Japanese Knotweed nearby begging for some of that!

Grey skies as midsummer approaches

After the spell of good weather we move into a more uncertain period where the light seems to vanish a lot earlier than it should do at this time of year.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Firhall bridge leak and other matters

At last night’s River Coummunity Council meeting Highland Councillor Graham Marsden was once again on hand to answer questions from the Community Council and the general public. He had some interesting information concerning the Firhall Bridge water pipe leak. It has emerged from his discussions with Scottish Water that they are of the opinion that the leak only amounts to one or two pints a day. (a conservative estimate to say the least?) and soon they will be breaking some of the concrete coverings to locate the leak, this of course would have an impact on people crossing the bridge during the work.. One member of the Community Council expressed his fears that if anything were seriously wrong with the bridge then he doubted whether funds would be available to repair it considering the recent history of the Bailey Bridge. Let’s hope it’s nothing too serious because if the Firhall Bridge had to be closed it would certainly ruin many folks’ daily round trip of the river.

On the subject of a by-pass, there was some debate about the coming traffic survey on the A96 through town and in a nutshell Cllr Marsden then indicated that it was perhaps time for the entire community in Nairn to take a more proactive part in a campaign for a by-pass. The Gurn thinks he’s right, some of us keep complaining to our councillors and MSP’s etc but it might indeed be easier for them to convince those with their hands on the purse strings if there was more physical evidence of the will for a by-pass such as car and window stickers, maybe even protest signs in the fields leading into town? People would have plenty of time to look at them as they sit in the jams, then drivers from elsewhere that are delayed in Nairn could agitate with their representatives too when they eventually got home.

As usual there was wide ranging debate on many subjects, ranging from parking difficulties in the Fishertown to the cleanliness of the High Street and even how the current position of the Nairn Business Association might cause tension with Nairn consumers, and of course there was the chance to ask a Highland Councillor, Graham Marsden, any question you like. If you have got something that you would like sorted out and seem to be getting nowhere with it, why don’t you go along to the next meeting of your local community council, usually there is a member of the local press there too and you will have a chance to put forward your views to a democratic forum that may be able to help you.

Tranquility returns to the Courthouse

The Courthouse yesterday, exactly one week after the bedlam of the historical planning meeting that gave outline planning permission for a Sainsbury's store in Nairn. The courthouse was open as part of the Nairn Book and Arts Festival.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lord Cawdor's vision for the West side

'The plans include 300 homes as well as tourism facilities such as an 18-hole championship golf course, an equestrian centre and a hotel.' More here.

Elsewhere today Danny Alexander MP is agitating for a rail halt at Dalcross airport. Among his arguments on the P&J website are.

“There is no funding assigned at all, and no plan to begin work.

“That is totally unacceptable when the A96 is already the most congested road in the Highlands.

“The delays faced by people travelling between Inverness and Nairn are only set to become more serious.

It would make sense to dual the track all the way to Nairn and increase the level of services in the longer run wouldn't it? Then we could have a few more halts and maybe branch lines when/if new communities spring up. Just a thought, just a wee gurn because that is the level of investment that will be needed if there is to be an alternative to the roads.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Will Sainsbury's use a little Gaelic?

Yes, they've got to get their store up and running first but it would be nice if they did, as they will be the first supermarket inside the Gaidhealtachd for those visitors approaching from the east. Just imagine for a moment...

Nairn has a thriving Gaelic choir, just about 200 gaelic speakers according to the last census and now the Gaelic unit at Millbank school. Sainsbury's and Pettifer estates have promised that they will consult widely on the details of their scheme so that presents a chance to lobby for some Gaelic signage at the proposed store.

An offer to deal with our Japanese knotweed plus a five year guarantee

The Gurn has received an interesting message and we would only be too glad to forward the details to the local authority or any other interested party. We certainly need to do something about the problem, the Gurn has been tireless in raising this increasing problem. Just scroll down for more details.

Anyway here is the kind offer:

'Dear Sir/Madam

We have read on your blog that you are having problems with Japanese knotweed. We are a Scottish weed control company called the Invasive Weeds Agency with over 30 years ecological experience, including several years of advising many of the large weed control companies.

We offer weed control and ecology at competitive rates; notably 1 season Japanese knotweed eradication with a 5 year insurance-backed guarantee. If we can be of any assistance then please do not hesitate to contact us.
Kind regards'

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Iright tries hard to get a haircut.

Our co-conspirator writes again for the Gurn:

'A heady mixture of warm summer weather and my long locks flowing down my neck made me seek out rescue via a Nairn barber this afternoon. But alas in a pre out of town supermarket mode all such shops with the red and white poles outside were closed, what is happening? Saturday used to be ‘the’ day for a trim, something for the weekend, and a tip for the three o’clock horse somewhere.I am not a victim of fashion so haircuts tend to be far and few between for me. I actually like the process and just like being on a plane during take off find it very relaxing. This does not make the process easy for the hairdresser, as I tend to be drifting off when s/he says ‘and where are you going on your holidays this year?’Maybe the current vogue for men to have short hair means that I am the only male in Nairn without a pair of clippers to enable a DIY haircut and it is just too long since I tried to get my hair shorn in Nairn?I did try a couple of ‘women’s’ salons but it seems you need to make an appointment months in advance even though you are not wanting the blue rinse, drier, dye, conditioner, nails, wet cut thing. Maybe I will just go native!?'

Festival time

The site is here

Japanese Knotweed - now we shall have to fight it on the beaches!

'Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) grows much larger in Scotland than it does in Japan and can burst through tarmac and on occasions can penetrate houses, as well as outcompeting almost all other vegetation. The extensive root system is very difficult to eradicate,' advises the Scottish Government.

Not content with its current takeover bid on the River Nairn, Japanese Knotweed has now established a beachhead here too. This frightening picture was taken this evening. Advice to the local authority: take a good look at the Japenese knotweed Alliance site, take a few deep breaths, drive down to the Links, set phasers to stun and advance.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Thank-You to the Residents of Nairn form Sainsbury's and Pettifer Estates

The Gurn can publish the text of a thank you message from Sainsbury's and Pettifer Estates to the residents of Nairn.

"Many thanks to the residents of Nairn who took the time to attend the Planning Committee meeting which approved the plans for Sainsbury’s and adjacent units.

As we said at the meeting we will take account of the views expressed and consult widely on the details of the scheme.

It is our intention to have the development open as soon as possible and will keep you informed as to progress.

Once again thank you Nairn!"

Andrew Stanley Jeff Wilson

Regional Director Town Planning Manager

Pettifer Estates Sainsbury’s

Criticism of this week's Inverness Courier leader ' Did councillors think of planning consequences?'

The Gurn had a wee gurn about the Courier leader below in the previous post but we have decided to post two comments the post received in their own right. We believe that these two comments will reflect much thinking in Nairn at the moment. Read the Inverness Courier Leader first and then the comments. 

First up is another blogger from Nairn Bill.

'I just posted a comment in the Courier website on its editorial about the Sainsbury's planning decision (also the similar decision a while back for Asda). The whole tone of the editorial seemed to be that Councilors should ignore their electorate's views and instead always defer to the recommendations of unelected officials. I'm not sure if the Courier understands what democratic accountability is all about.'

And then our veteran correspondent and co-conspirator: Iright

'Damned if you do, damned if you…
Invercentric is a strong word and one that should not be used lightly, but the leader in this week’s Inverness Courier seems to demand that this word be applied once again to our near neighbour’s broadsheet. Throughout the Highlands Inverness is seen by many as the town (Sorry City) that always gets the money, the jobs, the housing, and the say etc.
Here in Nairn we have waited years to get a half descent supermarket and if we all stick with the Local Plan that could just happen in 2020 (Maybe?).
The IC leader speaks of the Plan protecting ‘the attractive town centre and preventing it becoming a graveyard of boarded up premises and charity shops’. Maybe Inverness folk don’t get through to Nairn too often but our attractive high street already has the blight of empty shops, this is the reality of many towns throughout the UK in 2008 not just Nairn. Our Plan has for many years stopped an out of town supermarket but patently it has not saved our shops, so is it a good plan?
A plan is just that – a plan. If the world changes then you need a new plan and our councillors this week did just that, heard that the great majority of Nairn wanted the Sainsbury’s store here and voted for it. Common sense for once prevailed and the representatives we voted for listened to us, how democratic is that!
We are talking in the main here about a store to give us our basic need that of good food, not a DIY store, burger chain, hotel etc. Hopefully it will mean a fleet of supermarket lorries driving through the Local Plan to get to Nairn, and on the flip side should also mean thousand upon thousand of car trips are not made by Nairn folk each week to neighbouring towns in order to get their weekly shop and give them our money.
Maybe the editor of the Inverness Courier will not find it necessary to jump up and down waving the Local Plan at Nairnites for too long before he finds something else out with Inverness to pass judgement upon!
Many thanks to all those who were brave enough to support what I dub our new Local Plan, long may you make such fine decisions'

Have you got any opinions on that Courier leader or the Sainsbury application in general? You can tell the Courier on that leader link or us or both.

Spelding where are you, where's your report? Hurry up or your P45 will be in the post!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Somerfield starts gurning about Sainsbury's

Message updated 1709 more info on the Courier opinion poll at the bottom of the post...

Events in Nairn make it onto the front page of the Inverness Courier this morning (as the secondary article, however). Somerfield are not too pleased but are they perhaps in denial about how people feel about supermarket facilities in this town? They trot out the same old arguments about the danger of shop closures and how the councillors are going against their planners' advice. 'We certainly hope the application will be called in by the Scottish Parliament,' is a quote from a Somerfield spokesperson. There is a picture too of the proposed supermarket - sorry but the Gurn doesn't think it will be a very flattering addition to Nairn's architectural line-up but admittedly it will be better than the present mess that we see on the site. Have a look at the Courier yourself and see what you think. Also mentioned is the proposed buy-out of Somerfield by the Co-op.

The Courier has a leader too that criticises the Councillors for going against the local plan: ' Disrepute is a strong word and one that should be used sparingly. But after another decision which drives a fleet of supermarket delivery lorries through a local plan, there is a strong case for using it to describe the state of Highland Council's planning policies.'
The leader continues to analyse the decision and it is very interesting reading but does anyone outside Nairn really realise just how far we have to go for a decent choice of food? Anyway the Courier has a fair bit to read about the planning decision and if you don't normally buy it perhaps this week might be the exception.

The Courier also promises a vote on the decision on its website but as of yet nothing is up about Sainsbury's in Nairn.

Update 1709: Artist's impression of the new Somerfield store here and your chance to vote on the topic of Sainsbury's coming to Nairn here. ( you need to scroll down a bit to get to the vote itself on the right but at the top of the page the Courier wants your comments.

So far this evening the scores on the doors are as follows...

THE BIG VOTE: Was approval for Sainsbury's the right decision?
Yes 74%
No 23%
Maybe 3%

Thursday, June 05, 2008

More comment on the Sainsbury's application to come.

Spelding was at the meeting too and our regular correspondent has also promised to do a write-up of events when time permits.
The Gurn speculates whether things will ever be the same in Nairn after the vocal people power victory at the Courthouse on Tuesday morning. Are we passing into an era where increasing numbers of citizens will take an active interest in local politics and start demanding of the council what they want instead of settling silently for what the Highland Council want for the town? The Gurn hopes so.

Back to other matters: Fly-tipping on the Crook Rd

It is amazing that people will go to great lengths to drive out to the countryside to dump rubbish when there are adequate rubbish collection services in the town. Must be the thrill of it all?

Evening sun catches the side of the Classroom

Click the picture for a larger view

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Democracy: the best show in town!

From the previous article you will be able to understand what a unique occasion was experienced by all those present at the Nairn Courthouse today. It is hard to say if all those that wished to attend the planning hearing were able to do so, some may have gone home in disgust given the long queue trying to get into the debating chamber but sometime into the process members of the public were even allowed into that part of the courthouse where those that used to dispense justice used to sit. The Gurn will never forget the sight of local man Stewart Bisset and others standing behind the Chair of the committee and his team of officials. The public was well and truly present to see that justice was done one more time.

There was a time at the beginning of the meeting when disgruntled members of the public nearly took control of the proceedings in their demands that the meeting should have been moved to a bigger venue. The chair stood his ground but our four local members looked distinctly uncomfortable at this stage as public anger at the inadequate venue mounted. The Gurn maintains that if the committee had decided to vote against the Sainsbury’s proposal, then they would have needed a police escort to leave the building.

The representatives from Pettifer Estates and Sainsbury’s were very warmly applauded. The applause continued despite the chair informing the throng in a head-masterly fashion that they mustn’t applaud. The people were having none of it, they had had enough of having to go out of town for a choice of food and they were there to have their say even if they were not allowed to speak. Jean Tolmie of the River Community Council was allowed to speak for the proposal, having been invited to do so by the applicant and she too, was warmly received when she stated that local people would never forgive the Highland Council if they turned down the application.

With all the big guns that the Nairn Business Association possess it was left to David Brownless and his colleague Jan Rob to speak against the proposal and often there was much laughter at times from the assembled Sainsbury supporters as the opponents tried to articulate their argument with points of view that didn't go down too well. John Taylor speaking on the behalf of residents that would be affected by the proposal wasn’t ridiculed however when he mentioned that a building 6 metres high and 72 metres long would soon be blocking out their sunlight especially in the winter months. Jan Rob perhaps attracted the biggest laugh of the proceedings when she asserted that Nairn already had a supermarket. Later in response Sainsbury pointed out that they wished to be good neighbours and things could be changed. Convenor Sandy Park was very interested to find out how members there were in the Nairn Business Association and how many were present at the recent AGM, 50 and 20 came back as an estimated response. To be fair to the opposition they put their case with courage and were perhaps a little unfairly treated by the majority at times but such was the frustration felt by many consumers that attended the meeting.

And then it came to the members to speak, starting with Sandy Park who gave a potted history of the last 8-10 years. Years of frustration for Sandy as the plans never transformed themselves into action. It was a confident polished performance from Sandy and it is interesting to see how far his political skills have developed since he became the Convenor of Highland Council. If he continues in this vein is there a danger that he might rise to higher levels one day and even perhaps enter the Scottish Parliament? He pointed out that Nairn doubled in size during his 40 years of experience in the retail trade but High Street trade has stayed at the same level. For him it was time to move on and he supported the proposal. He pointed out that although the site was zoned for industrial use, up to now no one had asked for it. He believed that there was now a precedent with other retail uses having been allowed onto the industrial estate. Liz MacDonald backed the Convenor and pointed out that a supermarket had been proposed for Culloden. She went on to say that the proposed roundabout would be a benefit for users of the industrial estate across the road. Graham Marsden too was for the proposal and stated that Nairn as the second largest town in the Highlands needed the development desperately. Laurie Fraser was passed over in favour of Cllr Roddy Balfour who whilst worried by the development harked back to the days when Nairn was a vibrant shopping centre 30 years ago and Invernessians came to Nairn to shop. Today he said that people from Croy and Ardersier even went as far as Elgin to shop. Then Laurie who cheekily remarked that he would be delighted that his wife would no longer have to go to Inverness and shop and would be able to do it in Nairn. Laurie stated that he wasn’t afraid of competition. And then more debate from other councillors. It culminated in a vote for an amended motion from Provost MacDonald which would centre on landscaping screening and perhaps reducing the number of retail units. The vote was 12-2 in favour and the applause was deafening.

Ever the polite diplomat, Mr William Gilfillan, the area corporate manager stood by the main door downstairs as the public left, apologising personally to everyone for the inadequacies of the venue. A damage limitation exercise that was no longer necessary given the result of the proceedings but a welcome touch all the same.

The successful application is against the local plan however, and will have to be called in by the Scottish Parliament for scrutiny. If the current administration in Edinburgh wished to completely lose their support in Nairn then they could turn it down but that would be hard to imagine. One seasoned observer of local government affairs in Nairn said afterwards to the Gurn that he thought it would be about 18 months before work started on the site. We will have to wait and see on that as quite a few details remain to be sorted out but outline permission has been granted and there will be no going back on that.
What now too for Somerfield? Will they go ahead with the new town centre supermarket and do many of us really care what they do now that another alternative is now on the horizon?

All in all an extraordinary meeting that will be remembered for a long time and if just a few of the multitude present retain an interest in other planning and council matters then democracy in our town will be all the better for it.

Nairn to get a Sainsbury's store

Motion approved at the Courthouse almost on the stroke of mid-day. Vote 12-2 for the motion. All Nairn Councillors voted for the motion. Massive public turn-out, a very crowded courthouse and unfortunately not room for everyone even all standing room taken up.

An excellent decision and some very impassioned debate - more later.

Update: a very highly charged atmosphere today, there wasn't a seat to be had in the Courthouse well before 10.00 am and the situation became critical by 1015 when members of the public were soon standing all around the tables set out for the members and the applicants and objectors. With a queue still trying to get in. There were calls for the meeting to be moved to a more suitable venue. These appeals were rejected but the councillors looked very uncomfortable with the situation. Obviously a large crowd was not expected. The crowded conditions created an intimacy between the members and the public however and at least one councillor admitted at the end that he had been swayed by the power of public opinion.
Resounding applause for the applicants and their supporters that spoke and laughter for some of the comments from the objectors. Then the debate and, surprisingly for some, all of Nairn's councillors indicated their support for the Sainsbury's store but with reservations. We will bring you more on this debate later. It was a remarkable occasion to witness and perhaps marks a turning point in local peoples input into the deomocratic process in the town. Well done Nairn's four councillors 'The Fantastic Four?' for having the bottle to go against the planners and side with the public!

When the motion was passed the applause would have been heard down at the bottom of the brae.

Monday, June 02, 2008

We'll know the answer shortly..

Other articles on this subject below, especially the excellent article by Spelding.

Will the councillors vote for the Sainsbury planning application or not? Will the will of the people be answered or will the chill wind of  supreme folly be felt in the Courthouse today at 1015am? Be there or be square!

A reader forwards his letter to councillors to the Gurn

There are plenty of other articles and news items on the Sainsbury's planning application in the posts below this one.
Here's a copy of a letter sent to our four councillors by a citizen who wants to see Sainsbury's coming to Nairn:

'Whats your view on the proposed Sainsburys supermarket in Nairn ? ...I would like to know.
I believe it's time we had more choice in Nairn and should be taken out of the dark ages as far as shopping is concerned.
I no longer have a car and would like the option of getting some good choice, as people do in Forres Elgin and Inverness.
The local shopkeepers who fear a supermarket are misguided and short sighted, because keeping locals shopping in Nairn is the key to preserving their trade.
If the ever growing population of Nairn keep driving to Forres Elgin and Inverness, that is what will do away with the small shops ! is also bad for the environment, as well as people's petrol bills !'

One of the Courthouse's silent sentinels awaits tommorrow morning's meeting - one of the most important in Nairn for many years?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Why Spelding supports the Sainsbury's planning application

The Gurn has received this article from Spelding, for further articles and news on the Sainsbury's planning application please read lower posts.
How many businesses within the High Street area would be directly affected by the arrival of Sainsbury’s (or any other large supermarket)? Aren’t they all being hit by the constant competition and ‘leakage’ to various stores within a 10, 16 and 22 miles area anyway? Would it not be better to have the ‘leakage’ on your own doorstep? Who knows, having a larger, big named store might actually reverse the leakage and encourage consumers from Inverness, Forres and Elgin to come to Nairn.

Let’s have a look at the current make-up of the High Street. What does the ‘vitality and viability of Nairn town centre’ consist of, in fact, what the hell does it mean? A quick search at . ' Vitality is a measure of how lively and busy a town centre is and viability is a measure of its capacity to attract ongoing investment, for maintenance, improvement and adaptation to changing needs.’ Another quote from the same site ‘Out-of-Centre locations, for example stand-alone food stores, should be considered only if it can be demonstrated that all town centre, edge of town centre and other commercial centre options have been thoroughly assessed and discounted as unsuitable or unavailable; that development on the scale proposed is appropriate; and that there will be no significant adverse effect on the vitality and viability of existing centres.’

So how is the ‘vitality and viability’ of our town centre? A rough breakdown shows that there are approx 122 retail and business premises within an area starting from Cawdor Road Post Office at the top to Friar Tuck’s Chip shop in Harbour Street, also incorporated are Leopold Street, Church Street and St Ninian’s Road. (Please note this is a very rough analysis and is not meant to be scientific in any way, merely some musings on a dull, overcast Sunday afternoon.) Categorising the premises as follows (again, no scientific basis):

Banks/Finance/Insurance/Estate Agents/Solicitors/Offices/Local Govt 19
Bars/Off Licences 8
Bookies 2
Bridal 2
Butchers 2
Charity Shops 3
Chemists/Pharmacies 2
Clothes Shops 4
Electrical 2
Empty 9
Fruit Shops 2
Gift Shops 7
Hairdresser’s/Barber’s/Beauty Shops 9
Opticians 2
Paper Shops 2
Pet Shops/Services 4
Other* 18
Restaurants/Cafes/Takeaways 19
Supermarkets/Multinationals 6

*Other- consists of a variety of businesses ranging from Tattooist, Taxi’s, Furniture and Carpet, Funeral Directors, etc, etc

How healthy, vital and viable is our town centre when nearly half of it consists of Banks/Finance/Insurance/Estate Agents/Solicitors/Offices/Local Govt Offices, Bars/Off Licences, Bookies, Charity shops, Empty premises or Restaurants/Cafes/Takeaways?

It could also be argued that approx 72 businesses would not be directly affected by a Sainsbury’s (Banks/Finance/Insurance/Estate Agents/Solicitors/Office/Local Govt, Bars/Off Licences, Bookies, Bridal, Chemists/Pharmacies, Hairdresser’s/Barber’s/Beauty Shops, Opticians, Restaurants/Cafes/Takeaways, some Others).

46 Business could find some impact depending on what Sainsbury’s would sell but may well not suffer too much as they are located within the town centre and are used on an everyday basis or are specialist retailers (Clothes Shops, Charity Shops, Electrical, Empty, Gift Shops, Paper Shops, Pet Shops/Services, some Other, some Supermarkets/Multinational).

This leaves approx 9 businesses who may suffer directly a larger impact from Sainsbury’s (Butchers, Fruit Shops, some Other, some Supermarkets/Multinationals), so would Sainsbury’s really have a such an adverse impact on the current ‘vitality and viability’ of Nairn Town centre?

Apparently over 30 objections have been submitted, the majority of which come from existing businesses, but why should local people be held to ransom because of other businesses? Let’s face it, most retailers are in the business of making a profit, they are not charities, they are not in it solely to do the consumer a favour. Competition is an important part of business and the hard facts are that the current retailers within the town centre are not privy to a monopoly. It’s time the people of Nairn had a choice, we’re not some small settlement in the retail hierarchy of Inverness but according to the Nairnshire Local Plan we are a Local Centre.

The Nairnshire Local Plan contains several references to;
‘Reducing dependency on employment outwith the area and creating more locally based jobs would greatly enhance Nairnshire’s prospect economic prospects’
‘economic prospects suggest opportunities in the following sectors…..Retailing: stemming the loss of trade from Nairn;’
‘reveals major opportunities in Nairn for a Supermarket’
‘high levels of commuting and loss of trade threaten to undermine established commercial functions ‘
‘greater quality and choice in shopping’
‘The priorities include…………a new supermarket and specialist town centre retailing’

However, there is also a statement which throws a big, fat bluebottle into the ointment:
‘only one supermarket is required in Nairn, to be provided in the identified location within the plan period and there will be a consequent presumption against development prejudicial to the objective of this policy on either the identified site, or any other edge-of-centre, out-of-centre or out-of-town site in or around Nairn.’ So, in one fell swoop, by including this statement, have I destroyed my reasoning by quoting examples to support another large store in the area, I don’t think so because there is room for negotiation here as, at the very beginning of the Local Plan, it states ‘This considers the period up to 2008,..’.

For at least 5 of the 11 years since 1997 we have been teased by the prospect of a new supermarket on the edge of the town centre: the ‘footprint’ of this development has steadily shrunk from its original size 11 to a possible size 5. We’ve had the promise of Safeway’s and then Morrisions who both fell at the final hurdle and now Somerfield’s who look like they are going the same way .

The Local Plan is a document which began formal commencement in 1997, things have moved on considerably since then. The growth in the population alone surely warrants more than one big, bright, shiny supermarket (which has still to put in an appearance) and the acknowledged ‘leakage’ of the local population to other towns/city would also justify this.

So, it’s high time for a review of how things stand with regards to the Town Centre, and that time should be Tuesday! Time for Nairn to step into the 21st century, even if it is 8 years too late!