Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow clearing in Nairnshire - time for a 'back to the future' approach with Protocols à la 1936?

Thanks again to Gurnite 'MR Archive' who has sent this interesting document. It will enlarge and shows you how Nairnshire coped in the past long before the Highland Council was ever invented. Would it be far better if the County's resources were once again put under local control with the help of volunteers?
To see the rules of engagement for all volunteers see here, to see who the good citizens that gave their time to help were please see here and here on images posted on Flickr.
The same idea could work both in the town and the County? Once we have a single Community Council for Nairn perhaps they and the other councils in Nairnshire could make this type of self-help organisation a reality once more. All we will see from Highland Council in the future will be more cuts. The people of Nairnshire are the only ones with the solutions now!
Freedom for Nairnshire! Saor Siorrachd Nàrainn!
Have a good one and see you all in 2010. Oidhche mhath a chàirdean!

Streetscape? Who needs it? Time for a 'back to the future' approach?

Thanks to 'MR Archive' a gurnite who sent in this picture from the early 70's showing how traffic managed to go up and down the High Street and still allow parking on both sides. Is it just all the wobbly bits and fancy street furniture that cause all the problems for lorry drivers and the rest of us? Is a fresh look at the plans needed before anything else goes ahead?
As Grow to sow would say, 'e-mailed in from a Granny Smith's'

Hogmany cancelled in Inverness

Nairn still up for it however. Seems things are really bad in the big city, queues miles long to get in but you can still get out however according to an eyewitness. More about the big let-down on the beeb. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brae danger - lessons to be learned for streetscape 2010?

The money spent on the brae was meant to make the area safer for pedestrians but this picture illustrates what now happens regularly. If a large vehicle is in the loading bay then quite often other lorries and vans have to mount the pavement to pass. The lorry in the bay had parked as close to the kerb as possible too. Quite often vehicles passing will not only be on the pavement but very clost to the fabric of buildings on the other side of the street. We've gurned about this before and wonder if one day part of this improvement will simply have to be ripped up and restored to the original layout?

The picture will enlarge (please note we have obscured any marks that would identify this lorry, it isn't the fault of the drivers, what are they supposed to do when they see that there isn't enough room to get by - reverse out onto the A96 and look for another route?)

Let's hope that the road will be left wide enough in other parts of the High Street to avoid this situation being repeated as the next phase of the streetscape gets started in the summer of 2010.

N.B. Previous Gurn article and comments about the Streetscape project here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuilleadh sneachd 29/12/09 More snow

Some Gurn snow pictures again, really only for those that haven't seen enough yet.

Nairn runs out of table salt - time for some 'out of the box' thinking?

The yellow gritting box in Ballark place - many of these handy boxes around town are now empty too.

This morning Radio Scotland reported that Nairn shops had run out of table salt as citizens try to keep areas close to their homes clear of snow. The situation is getting very difficult in many parts of the town and as this article is blogged further heavy snow falls on the area. The Highland Council is simply overwhelmed and, as reported in the Nairnshire, the Wee County now only has 3 gritting lorries instead of 4 and vacancies in the roads Nairn department have not been filled due to the cuts. Cuts that will only get worse in the years to come. According to Lib Dem councillor David Alston (quoted in the Sunday Times):
'Over the next three years we need to make savings of £60m. This will require a reduction in staff of about 12 per cent. We have a workforce of almost 10,000 so we are talking about 1,000 jobs.'
Elected councillors are simply reduced to the role of axemen and women. So the next time we have bad weather a lot more men and machinery could have been paid off. What is to be done as the local authority's power to help its citizens and council tax payers disintegrates before our eyes? Time for a new approach? Could a body of volunteers be recruited? A network that could be used in times of weather emergency and alerted by text and e-mail. Contractors could deliver loads of salt to designated sites around the town and volunteers could spread the salt with shovels and barrows?
What is the alternative for the future? Just give up and allow the elderly and those more vulnerable in our society to be prisoners in their own homes, with even the able bodied unable to walk safely on pavments or get their cars onto the diminishing number of roads that are open and safe to drive?
If the council is in the process of giving up is it time for the citizens to take more responsibility?

Luxury mobile phones for council staff?

'Councils run up ‘staggering’ Blackberry bill' says the Press and Journal and our local authority gets a mention:

'Highland Council has issued 141 handsets to staff at all levels since 2007, with the annual contract cost sitting at about £228 per handset. This year's total bill is expected to be about £32,000.'

Full details on the P&J site: Thousands of pounds being spent on luxury mobile phones for staff.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A mishap on the pontoons (as predicted)

Pictures will enlarge - you can see the drips on the guy on the left. The first photograph shows a gentleman, dripping wet up to the waist, who had just moved to get a better vantage point to observe the swans from another part of the pontoon and then had fallen into the water. The ice actually broke his fall and saved him from complete immersion and his three companions were on hand to pull him out. The mishap over, he retreated to a nearby vehicle and a quick change of clothing.

At the last ward forum meeting Graham Vine and Tommy Hogg had called for gates to be installed on the pontoons as a matter of urgency. Sandy Park told the meeting that he had the matter in hand. Better move fast Sandy. The guy in the picture got off with a bit of a fright and there were folk on hand to help. What if it had been a lone child with no one nearby? It doesn't look as though it would be easy to pull oneself out. Action please before there is a serious accident!


A Few more pictures from 27/12/09 here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Evening 23/12/09 Feasgar

Still cold in Nairn - Fhathast fuar ann an Inbhir Narann

Pictures will enlarge

Sandown Appeal - Letter from NRCG to Gurnites - Council's Statement of Case details now published

'The date for the Sandown appeal hearing is now set for the periods 2nd to 5th: and 9th and 10th March 2010 at a venue yet to be decided but probably the Newton Hotel. We are aware that many people (over 200- a figure verified with Highland Council records) made written objections via Highland Council concerning Deveron Highlands current proposals for Sandown;and that others made similar verbal representations at the May planning hearing.

As we approach the end of 2009 the Nairn Residents Concern Group thought it appropriate that we give the people of Nairn an update on our approach to the appeal. In addition,we would like to thank everyone who voiced objections for their continued interest in making sure Nairn gets the size and style of development that matches or betters the existing quality of the community.

NRCG have applied for, and been granted, "Relevant Person" status for the appeal process and have submitted a "Statement of Case" to the appeal hearing Reporter appointed by Scottish Government. This will be supported by further documentation being prepared in the coming months. From the 15 December 09 the NRCG Statement of Case and those of the other protagonists have been be on the Scottish Governments Directorate for Planning & Environmental Appeals (DPEA) website

We are now the only independent body representing Nairn objectors who hold this privilege within the appeal process, the local community councils while they will be making representation at the hearing in March have opted not to make a formal Statement of Case within the appeal process or to be "Relevant Persons".

The Highland Council case for rejection of the appeal will be led by a team consisting Highland Council Solicitor Miss McLeod, Cllr S Park, and an external planning consultant. At the time of writing, we believe that there are no officials from the Councils Planning Department identified on the Highland Council team.

The public should be clear however, that this is an inquiry into the planning merits of the appeal proposal. Matters regarding: undertakings associated with bid offers; the content of missives; land purchase prices; land sale; profit levels; commercial viability; reference to Audit Scotland; the alleged motivation of the developers, the council and its officers; and complaints about the council's processing of the application are not within the remit of the inquiry. Consequently, debate (and documents) on those matters will not be admitted at the inquiry sessions.

So we wish our supporters the compliments of the season and encourage you to keep asking questions of your elected representatives and community councils. We'd also ask that you put the appeal dates in your calendar now and to come along on the day to support our efforts to influence the outcome of the current Sandown proposal.'

Brian Lynch
(On behalf of Nairn Residents Concern Group)
Benview, Sandown Farm Lane, Nairn.
Tel 01667451574

Thanks Brian, Season's greetings to the NRCG too. Here's hoping for a satisfactory outcome. Brian also draws our attention to the Highland Council's statement of case now posted on the Scottish Government's website. What is interesting is the following section Appendix C of that document.
'Should the Reporter decide to approve the application, THC suggests that the following conditions be attached to the grant of any consent:'
Obviously a fall-back position for the council should they lose the appeal and standard practice. One could be forgiven for wondering how confident the Highland Council are however?
See the full document here and all other documents registered with the inquiry here.
The latest document on the site indicates the inquiry will be in the community centre. Seagulls will have to be on their best behaviour again!
The Sainsbury's inquiry proved that public opinion was a factor in the eventual outcome, we agree with Brian and would urge Gurnites to go along to the inquiry in March.

Spurtle on Sainsbury's

Posted elsewhere as a comment but brings to our attention several important points and thus worthy of top billing:

There is no doubt that the arrival of Sainbury's will do a lot to stem the leakage of shoppers away from the town. If forecasts are correct , it may even attract people from elsewhere, particularly those looking for a change from Asda/Tesco, and those whose first choice grocery shopping , prior to moving into the area, was done at Sainsbury's.

In these circumstances, there is a chance that the High Street may not be affected too badly. With the streetscape scheme and some promotion at the new Sainsbury's store, it may even benefit.

The substantial reduction in floor area of the non-food units is a sensible approach. After all, it was the thought of improved supermarket facilities that got everyone excited, not the prospect of a 'Suite Centre', or a similar aircraft hanger type retail unit on the edge of town.

I hope that the developers follow the recommendations on the details of the site from the reporter, regarding the impact of the development on those living close by. There are considerations to be made in both the layout of the site, the architecture of the buildings and the measures taken to reduce noise and light impact. Those currently celebrating this news should be magnanimous in victory and encourage Sainbury's to genuinely consider the needs of those living close by.

Anyone who has experienced the prospect of an imposing development on their doorstep knows that having the understanding and consideration of others in the community makes a difficult time more bearable (as has been recently experienced at Gurn headquarters I believe).

When it comes to traffic though, I would urge anyone thinking that the town will not be impacted by this new development to spend some time to read either the Scottish Government or DPEA reporters findings, particularly the Conditions/Appendix 1 section.

I have no doubt there is a need for a better supermarket in Nairn but,along with the new Sainsbury's and non –food units , we are going to get four completely new sets of traffic lights, one new roundabout and at least one new pedestrian controlled crossing. All of this new road furniture will be on the A96 itself. There may also be another pedestrian controlled crossing on the A939 Grantown Road. It is mentioned in the report but it may be the details may possibly be contained in the 'green transport plan' that has to be produced.

Now I don’t about anyone else but, if someone said to me –

“ Right, we’ve got a busy wee town, bit of a bottleneck on the A96. Sometime over the next 5-7 years the road through this town is forecast to reach its maximum traffic capacity at peak travel times. So , we’re going to stick in four new traffic lights, a new roundabout and a couple of pedestrian crossings.........................What do you think?..... “

Call me a maverick but I’m prepared to stick my ironic neck out on this one and say “ Fantastic, guaranteed to make the traffic flow so much better.”

The requirement for the traffic lights and other road engineering works has always been there in this application, some folks just didn’t seem to get a grasp of the potential impact though. It might actually be quicker at times for the people of Forres to get to Sainsbury’s at Balmakeith, than the people from the West end of Nairn.

So could it be that, ultimately, the greatest legacy that Sainsbury’s bring to Nairn is not one of an improved range of groceries and Jamie Oliver’s face plastered all over the town but that the need for a bypass is catapulted much nearer the top of Transport Scotland’s agenda.


Thanks Spurtle. I agree that Sainsbury's should do the maximum for the residents nearby including the bund and landscaped barrier and we will be delighted to highlight any outstanding issues the two residential objectors feel they have with the company.

For first-time readers, there has been quite a lot of comment received so far and this can be read on a previous article .

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sandy says sorry for the state of the High Street on Saturday

Regulars will have read the Gurn article posted on Saturday highlighting the dangerous state of the pavements. Ian Ramage of the Press and Journal has been investigating the issue and he reports an apology from the Convenor of the Highland Council:

“The guys were caught out and I’ve been inquiring about this. There’s no excuse, especially during the Christmas shopping period. We’ve got to get the salt out quicker. I apologise.”

Liz thinks there may be more fundamental problems however:

'“The administration are reducing the funding for winter clearance by £464,000 over two years.
“If we have a bad winter there will not be the men on the ground and it will obviously take longer to get round. That will have a big impact, anywhere.”

More on this issue on the Press and Journal site.

UPDATE 21.12 Salt on roads - Liz gets quoted on Gaelic television channel BBC Alba. On the 20.00 news programe to be precise. What she said has also been published on-line.
'Dh'innis Pròbhost Inbhir Narrann, An Comh. Liz Dhòmhnallach, nach eil an uiread air a bhith air a dhèanamh gus rathaidean agus starain a dheasachadh san aimsir.
Thuirt i gur e lùghdachadh ann an uairean luchd-obrach, agus lùghdachadh san àireimh de làraidhean salainn as coireach.'

Gurn translation follows (no money back no guarantee): The provost of Nairn Cllr Liz MacDonald said that not enough had been done to salt roads and paths in the weather. She said that it was the reduction in the hours of working and the reduction in the number of salting lorries that was to blame.

Tuesday morning local press review - Sainsbury's souvenir edition of the NT

This week’s edition of the local paper comes complete with the annual free calendar give away and is of course the de facto Sainsbury’s souvenir edition. What else could grab the front page spread this week? Inside Nairn’s main stream media outlet turns it’s attention the Streetscape issue. Jeanne Tolmie is this week’s page 3 girl and there is an article about her re-election plus the other results from the opening of the River CC ballot boxes. Jeanne of course is back again as chair. Page 3 also contains Christmas greetings ads from Liz also our Lib Dem duet of Danny and Graham. 

Continuing deeper into the Nairnshire, a major article about crime in the town and another about the retiral of Sandy Ford. The Tripadvisor survey result also features and an analysis of the Co-ops sitting on the fence over the Sainsbury’s issue.

The Editorial deals with the Supermarket issue and that of the uncertainty over the future of the area’s two RAF bases. Something that we can’t ignore in Nairn, as many servicemen have their homes in the Wee County. Lots of other articles including the usual sport and the last-minute cancellation of the Clach v Nairn game on Saturday.

A significant advertisement on page 3: Epicurus will be closing on the 8th of January as Avice will be retiring. Bad news there, indeed. Ironically one of this week’s letters in the Nairnshre urges us to ‘use the local shops or lose them.’ Sometimes you can use local shops and still lose them, take the two off-licences for example, the Gurnmeister used them both but they still went. Epicurus will be missed greatly however, especially in Gurn headquarters, hopefully another store will take over and provide an outlet for the Muskus’s locally laid free-range eggs?

The Nairnshire Telegraph ladies and gentlemen, your 40p Christmas treat awaits you.

And also today in the Press and Journal:

'Laurie Fraser, an Independent councillor and High Street electrician, said: “A new supermarket is just what we need. On a personal level, competition is good.”       More here.

While we are on the subject of local media, congratulations to the APT blog, now 6 months into its existence. For the Gurnmeister one of the virtues of the APT blog is that it delivers the local planning issues to your digital doorstep in a distilled and user-friendly manner thus alerting what you have to do to have an effective say in the process. In our opinion the APT blog has proved to be an effective tool for all those concerned with the many planning and development issues in the A96 corridor. If you have a moment over the holiday why not go over for a browse. One of the latest posts proves the usual interesting read: 'Warning, Warning! What is the point of Local Plan?'

Monday, December 21, 2009

For Nairn, the shortest day just keeps getting better.

See below for posts of breaking sensational news for Nairn. Now it's the Beeb that has caught the Nairn good holiday vibes viral news story:

'A seaside town in the Highlands has been ranked in second place on a list of the world's top five "emerging" travel hotspots for next year. '

Gaelic even gets a mention, more here: 'Nairn in the Highlands in holiday destination top five'

And of course now the Daily Mail finding out about  a story first mention here in the Gurn one week ago :-)

'With visitors including Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster and Charlie Chaplin as well as famous resident Oscar winner Tilda Swinton, the resort punches above its weight in terms of infamy.'

Infamy you say? Plonkers! We have a new slogan Gurnites. 'Nairn the town that punches above its weight in terms of infamy.' VisitScotland hold the front page! 

 Scottish coastal town of Nairn scoops coveted spot in 'top five world destinations for 2010'

It's all priceless, well done the VisitNairn team and Tilda too for talking up the benefits of our community! Nairn - best left to fight it's own corner?

(loads more on this and comments galore in two articles below)

Sainsbury's Nairn just the start - more investment coming to the Highlands - The store could be open by next Christmas!

The Gurn is delighted to publish Sainsbury's take on the good news. Sainsbury's, they're part of the community already aren't they?

Sainsbury's Nairn to herald further Highland investment
Today's announcement by the Scottish Government that they are minded to grant planning permission for a Sainsbury's store in Nairn will bring multi-million pound investment and 300 jobs for the local community.
Dougal Hartley, Development Surveyor for Sainsbury's in Scotland said:
"We are delighted with the Scottish Ministers' decision today to approve our store proposals for Balmakeith, Nairn. This will be our first store in The Highlands, fulfilling our ambition to bring competition and choice to Nairnshire shoppers. The new 25,000sq ft sales area store will offer a wide range of Sainsbury's products, along with a petrol filling station which will allow for supermarket fuel prices in the town.
We would like to say a big "thank you" to the people of Nairn for their unstinting support throughout the planning process which began almost three years ago. We would also like to acknowledge the valuable support and encouragement we have received from the community councils, from the Nairn Highland councillors and from Fergus Ewing MSP and Danny Alexander MP.
Subject to reaching the required legal agreements with The Highland Council, we would hope to begin preliminary construction work on site by early Summer with a real prospect of having the new store open by Christmas 2010.
The Highlands is a key location for us and we hope to announce further details on other exciting plans in the New Year.”

Church Street Night Club appeal

News that will not be universally popular in Nairn. The Gurn hears from a Church Street resident that the controversial night club proposal is to be appealed by the applicant. Gurnites will remember that many town centre folk were concerned with the 350 head proposal and the desire for a licence to 3.a.m in the morning. Details of the refusal available here on this previous Gurn article. The article contained several comments that detailed arguments from both sides.

Sainsbury's 'a wonderful Christmas present for Nairn!'

The Reporter wifie said no but the minister from the Scottish Government he say yes!!! Rejoice Gurnites! The Co-op can do what they like now! Nairn to get a supermarket fit for the new millennium. All praise be to the Scottish Government!

+++ Jean Tolmie tells the Gurn: ' A wonderful Christmas present for Nairn!'+++

Here's the guts of the Scottish Ministers' reasoning that allows us to have a decent supermarket:

'7. The Scottish Ministers note the Reporter's findings of fact and agree that the proposal is contrary to the development plan. The Reporter has identified five main material considerations in this case, as set out and discussed in Chapters 10 and 11 of the report.
The Scottish Ministers accept that these are all material considerations, but do not agree that the public interest in this case lies with refusing planning permission. The Scottish Ministers consider that significant weight should be afforded to the following matters which are addressed in the report, and that these material considerations indicate that planning permission should be granted:
• there is likely to be benefit to the Nairn economy resulting from reduced leakage of retail expenditure (both convenience and comparison shopping) from the town which this development is expected to achieve;
• although the proposed redevelopment of the Somerfield site will provide a larger replacement store it is significantly smaller than the proposed store at Balmakeith and therefore likely to be less effective in reducing leakage of retail expenditure from Nairn;
• public support for the supermarket by Nairn residents reflects a reasonable aspiration to have a larger supermarket and wider range of goods than the size of store the Somerfield site can accommodate;
• there is no other suitable town centre or edge of centre site which is realistically available and large enough to accommodate the proposed development;
• the site is within reasonable walking distance of the town centre;
• the recommended conditions limiting the amount and range of non-food floorspace will mitigate impacts of the development on the viability and vitality of the town centre and on efforts to regenerate it;
• a contribution towards town centre improvement works, to be secured through a Section 75 Agreement, will further mitigate impacts on regeneration of the town centre; and
• the site can accommodate the development proposed without significant detriment to residential amenity and with sufficient landscaping.'

More from their consent letter here on the Scottish Government site. And the reporter's decision presented to ministers can be accessed here.

The Gurn congratulates all those who campaigned long and hard to get this result, especially Jean Tolmie and Margaret MacKintosh and their colleagues on the River Community Council.

Season's greetings form the Gurn - leaving the typo in :-)

Wishing everyone a very pleasant Solstice, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes. 

Grian-stad geamhraidh sona dhuibh uile, Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur nuair a thig i.

Thanks for all your visits, help, support and information and pictures during 2009. Enjoy the Wintersong/Christmas period and here's looking forward to a tremendous 2010 for all Gurnites :-)

Nairn the tourist hot spot - why can't the papers get their facts straight about Nairnshire?

Yesterday Scotland and Sunday had an article about Nairn, a story incidentally that the Gurn had featured one week ago. Namely that Nairn is the 2nd top potential destination in an survey done by an influential Internet travel Company. You can see the original Gurn article here and more Gurn information and comment posted by Gurnites yesterday here.

What we are gurning about today however is the continuing lack of consistency in media reporting when Nairn/Nairnshire is referred to. Today the story is going viral in the MSM, this will create publicity for the town that will be priceless and, is in our opinion, all down to the hard work done by those in the local tourist industry to promote Nairn (plus Tilda mentioning Nairn in every interview/article she does). Anyway, Scotland On Sunday spoke of Nairnians - ever heard of them? The Sun has us in Inverness-shire.  The Times has the population at 3,000. The Guardian seems not to have made any mistakes in its small article however and the Press and Journal is playing safe by calling Nairn a 'Highland' town.  This has all prompted one of our regular Gurnites to ponder about how accurate all information in the newspapers is?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nairn wakes up to a little more snow

A little more snow overnight but with town centre pavements and roads gritted early things look good if you're thinking of heading to the High Street today. More pictures here

UPDATE: a few more pictures from a snowy day.

'Nairn as a top international destination' story gathers momentum

As previously reported on the Gurn at the beginning of last week, the prediction that Nairn will be one of the top international destination of 2010 is now gathering momentum, having been picked up by the main stream media. Scotland on Sunday are now on the case:

'CHARLIE Chaplin, Charlton Heston and Burt Lancaster were all well aware of its many charms before it faded as a holiday destination.
But the resort of Nairn, on the Moray coast, is about to undergo an extraordinary resurrection after being voted the second-most favoured global destination for 2010.'

Sandy gets a word in too:

' "We have a wonderful beach, two great golf courses and historic castles all around," said Sandy Park, convener of Highland Council and a former provost of the town. "I am absolutely delighted the town has now been recognised in this way."According to Park, Nairn – known in its Victorian heyday as the Brighton of the north – is in line for a £1 million project to smarten up the town centre.'

To read the full article head over to the Scotland on Sunday site: Tourism bible names Nairn as a global holiday hot spot. Time to paint the Regal after all?

UPDATE: According to the trip advisor information here's the winning list of a survey of 3,000 US travellers. 
'TripAdvisor TravelCast Top Five World Destinations for 2010

1. Troncones, Mexico
Boasting miles of white sand beaches, Troncones is a peaceful and secluded haven nestled between the jungle foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains and the warm tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean.

2. Nairn, Scotland
Located on the Moray Forth coast, this small seaside town enjoys one of the sunniest climates in Scotland, and is a perfect base from which to explore the Highlands.

3. El Chalten, Patagonia
Your cell phone won't work here and the town's limited capacity means you've got to book in advance -- but you'll be richly rewarded with incredible hiking in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

4. Patara, Turkey
With a 12-mile long beach (also a national park) and an abundance of Lycian and Roman ruins peeking out of the sand dunes, Patara is steeped in both natural beauty and history.

5. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
This picturesque Bavarian town is celebrated not only for its well-preserved medieval buildings and walls, but also for its unspoiled setting.'

Heres' the full press release that is attracting so much interest. Trip Advisor also have a forum facility where some Nairn holiday issues have been debated this year.  It was suggested recently on that quite a lot of this interest in Nairn may be due to Tilda's efforts in mentioning Nairn in the US media.

Note to all main stream media: Nairn is in Nairnshire not Morayshire or Inverness-shire and people from Nairn are not Nairnians but are traditionally referred too as Nairnites or sometimes more colloquially Nairnacs/ucs.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Frozen pavements in High Street area once again!

Parts of the town centre were very dangerous for pedestrians and cars this afternoon. Perhaps salting might(?) have occurred earlier in the day and maybe the temperature dropped quickly but surely someone should have been on standby to throw a bit of salt on the pavements and car parking areas of the town centre? The situation was just as bad in parts of the town centre as it was in the aftermath of Hogmany last year when Nairnites abandoned the pavements for the comparative safety of the roads.
Today was supposedly the biggest shopping day of the year, surely the town centre deserved a bit more service from the Highland Council? It was left to shoppers themselves to make the situation safer and two women were seen taking salt out of the yellow bin in the vennel between the Royal Bank and Somerfields and gritting the surface down to the High Street. Perhaps shoppers and shopkeepers are due a refund on their council tax for this?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Will Google invade the local business environment too?

Following a link from Buzz Machine, an article on TechCrunch details how Google are in negotiations to buy the IT business directory company Yelp. Yelp have a UK operation too, here's their Nairn Page. It lists 333 entries for Nairn. Yelp is an interactive site, you can leave reviews on local businesses. Individual entries for businesses give you contact details complete with a google map and invite you to review the business. Business owners are invited to claim their page. If this operation hooks up with google it could become quite formidable. As blogger Jeff Jarvis states on Buzz Machine:

'Google is ready to make an assault on local with its Place Pages and QR codes on local establishments and augmented maps and directions and mobile…. This turf was newspapers’ and phone companies’ to lose and lose it, they will.'

In a few years time, or even much sooner than that, could almost all information about local businesses come to us through a google run operation. As individual members of communities we could comment on the goods and services offered to us but would we lose a measure of control as to how we could present ourselves to the world. As a customer would you use the google/yelp pages to comment on how your holiday went in Nairn or go to the more local site that would be locally controlled and more accountable?

The changes to our way of life that the the Internet has brought so far are far from over.

UPDATE: Sunday

A little more information about how all this might work according to techcrunch:

'What if every store had a bar-code sticker on its window so that you could pull out your iPhone, wave it in front of the bar code and get all sorts of information about that business—the telephone number, photos, customer reviews? Starting on Monday, you’ll be able to do that at up to 190,000 local businesses throughout the U.S.'

Yelp would be the ideal supplement for the Google business and place pages and would also have a social element. When that comes to Scotland would any business want to be left out? More information on techcrunch and Buzz Machine.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Local government advertising in the local press to become a thing of the past?

Could it be that you soon won't see the latest planning applications or local government notices in the Nairnshire? Will everyone have to rely on keeping their eyes fixed on a government website? A gurnite sends us a late-night link seen out there in cyber space:

'Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "Public bodies must provide the best value for money. Councils have collectively identified a need to cut spending on public notices which they are legally required to advertise and pay for, costing around £6 million a year.

"The changes we are consulting on will mean councils can use a new public information notice portal instead of advertising in local papers. The new portal will provide more cost-effective public information and a means to improve communication and dialogue with the public."

The portal will publish public information notices across Scotland on one website. Users will be able to click on a map of Scotland to see listings of public notices in any area.'

More on the STV website. Not much fun of course if you are one of the (is it 30% still?) minority that don't have internet access.

Nairn’s caring, sharing Co-ops

Contributed to the Gurn this afternoon:

The impact of the purchase of the Somerfield group by the Co-op earlier in the year is now becoming apparent for Nairnites; Somerfield brands are gradually disappearing from the shelves to be replaced with the Co-ops on label produce.
The two stores are hardly more than a stones throw apart, and as Somerfield slowly glides into the supermarket mists of time, it’s hard to find rational for both stores to continue trading, effectively selling the same products to the same local populace.
What is harder to chew on is the price differentials in the two stores. A good (or should it be poor) example is that of dairy products with Co-op branded butter and milk often having very different pricing in the two stores, Co-op butter for example had a 20p difference last week, and to confuse matters even more it’s not always the larger Somerfield store that has the cheaper pricing.
A member of staff in Somerfield admitted that there were price differences but didn’t know as to why. I contacted the Co-ops Public Relations person, who asked me to ring her Scottish counterpart. In turn she then pointed to the Co-ops Customer Relations person. He asked me to put my questions in an email, which I did, and then heard nearly nothing for a week.
The rather unsatisfactory reply tells me of all the wonderful things the Co-op has achieved and the money it has recently spent on stores. It then goes onto say that Somerfield stores have their own price structure.
So Nairnites we now have store wars on our High Street between the Co-op and err… the Co-op. Confused? Well your purse will be, and back to the butter example in one store it was 99p and in the other £1.19, multiply that by a few goods and the pennies soon mount up. To make matters worse many of us are aware that the Co-op/Somerfield stores in Nairn are not the cheapest, and currently make a food shop journey to Forres or Inverness anyway.
If the Co-op and indeed High Street traders wish to ensure that some monies are spent in Nairn, then I suggest that the unequal pricing between the two Co-op stores is resolved as soon as is possible, otherwise even more shopping will take place outwith the town.
As to which Co-op store Nairn will keep I suggest all depends on the Sainsbury’s out come, meanwhile my advice is to watch your pennies if you decide you still want to shop in one of our Co-ops

Nairnites for Equal Co-op Pricing

Pagan origins of carols?

It is ironic that the lack of traditional Christmas songs recently caused a controversy in Nairn (see the the post below) if what a churchman said on Radio 4 is correct:
'The Rev Dr Ian Bradley, reader in Church History at St Andrews University, a Church of Scotland minister and the author of several books on carols and hymns, says that carols originally had nothing to do with religion. They were connected with pagan festivals and popular folklore and accompanied sensuous dances which were often related to fertility rights. '
You can read an article on what makes a Christmas Carol here and access a BBC recording of the article too.

Inspire response

Inspire/Wintersong have updated their blog with a response to the criticism received in both the local mainstream and digital media. They have quite a comprehensive statement which will be illuminating to many readers and hopefully add to the debate in a positive way. On the main issue of controversy they state:
'This year’s theme, ‘WINTERSONG’, has become the focus of some misinterpretation. The concept began with a group discussion by members of the INSPIRE committee around the well known maxim “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole”. The idea of a communal song evolved as a vehicle to involve as many people in the community as possible – bringing all “parts” together to form a whole. The symbol of fire and ice, the logo for the event, was developed to represent the good things about winter – the beauty of winter, the cold drawing us round the fire with loved ones and also expressed the contrasts which remind us of the good things in our lives.
This creative process was not informed by religious beliefs, neither Pagan nor Christian or anti religious beliefs – it was the result of young people wanting to deliver an inclusive celebration for the town.'
You can read the full statement here and it might be more appropriate to engage in any debate/comments over there too. For some reason this article has triggered the feed update in the sidebar, not sure why that is.
On another topic, Joe is contemplating events in Copenhagen.

Feeling trees - you could be liable for prosecution!

More ward forum: Page 3 of the additional papers states:
All the trees in Tradespark Wood have Tree Preservation Orders and anyone found to be feeling trees would be liable to prosecution.
There is a serious side to that wee mistake and that is that folk have been spotted with chainsaws at the riverside and the Tradespark wood. The council doesn't want to see a free for all in these areas. They are concerned about public safety, vandalism and the effect on the ecology. Murd again wisely pointed out that there are legitimate activities regularly carried out by the landowner on one part of the riverside walks for people not to get confused between this and the activity mentioned in the Council papers. There seems to be a consensus however, that removing driftwood from the beach is an activity beneficial for everyone concerned.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And finally a wee bittie more from the Ward Forum

The Gurnmesiter has to admit that this was the finest performance he's seen from Sandy for a while. Obviously he's come a long way since he embarked on his political career and he carries a gravitas that comes with his experience at the helm. We've had a good go at him now and then on the Gurn (a few of our commentators even more so), he's the gaffer so he's fair game but you have to think ahead to a future election and seriously consider if you would want to lose him? Anyone out there think they could do it better than him? Better the devil we know than the devil we don't? But moving on to the substance of tonight's meeting, all rolled up in the usual unusual (but fair we hope) way we report things.
Sandy told Graham Vine that he had the issue over safety gates on the harbour ramps in hand. Regular Gurnites will be aware of the the health and safety concerns raised over these ramps in the Nairn blogosphere recently. Let's hope for a speedy resolution there before some bairn finds one of those ramps too inviting and takes his or her bike down the way to take a header into the harbour.
Sandy also strongly hinted that he would set aboot the co-op over the state of the Regal building and that other supermarkets were very interested into getting into Nairn and looking for sites. He didn't say that all in the same sentence lol but around the periphery of debate on Co-op/Saisnbury's issues.
Now to our other Sandy, Sandy the traffic warden. He's taking voluntary redundancy and he'll be finished in March of next year. The new inspector of police mentioned this in his report (sorry Sir, I didn't catch your name) and hopes to avoid a transistion from a preventative type of warden to a more overnight officious operation. (A concern raised by Graham Vine - a community councillor who more than makes his mark on these occasions with his astute observations). In fact we will not have a permanent replacement it seems but perhaps get folk on loan from Inverness or a summer warden. The Inspector also outlined his desire for a more visible police presence, he thinks an improvement could be made here. He also told the meeting of some serious assaults his officers had suffered in the course of their duties in keeping the streets safe for us, including a female officer being bitten several times. The clean up rate for crime in Nairn is a very healthy 69.9%, even more than the Highland average of 62.63%. We're lucky in this part of the world to have such an efficient police service.
Papers were circulated with written answers to East Nairnshire Community Council on Dial a bus issues; changes in bus time tables to the Suburban CC - Highland Council put their hands up for not alerting the CC to the changes on the Aberdeen Inverness Route. Answers on by-pass questions to Mr P Jenkins and a response to an issue raised by Sheena Baker.
A final point in relation to the street scape, Murd Dunbar raised a question from the public benches, namely that given the massive disruption that will occur in the High Street during the work, and thus would it be possible to return Leopold Street to two-way traffic for the duration, therby avoiding delays and troubles elsewhere.
That's all folks, Ward forums are to be recommended, until we get a single community council for the Royal Burgh they will remain the best show in town.

Sainsbury's decision due before Christmas

Sandy told the ward forum how he'd contacted the Scottish Government to find out was was happening over the Sainsbury's public inquiry decision. He told everyone that he'd been assured that they were working hard on the decision and it would be made available before Christmas.

Very soon then we will see something or nothing emerge out of the Co-op situation. William Gilfillan gave an update of his meeting with the Co-op on the 7th of December. It seems they had less reluctance to enter into that meeting than emerged from the discussion at the last ward forum. They were happy to talk about plan A still but not wanting to go into plan B scenarios. The meeting heard how William Gilfillan met with the Co-op gaffers and architects and thus whilst the Co-op look serious it is all hanging on the Sainsbury decision. Only then will we know one way or the other if the Co-op will go ahead and spend £6,000,000 on a new supermarket. The crunch is coming for both the Co-op and Sainsbury's.

By-pass: jam tomorrow and jams today?

An interesting fact to surface from a presentation at the ward meeting tonight was that 70% of all traffic using the A96 through Nairn is simply passing through. Thus if we had a by-pass the town would theoretically lose a lot of traffic. If it doesn't happen, then how long before total gridlock? That wasn't a question asked tonight however as the Highland Councils' Head of Transport & Infrastructure and the Principal Engineer explained the situation as it is at present with the by-pass. The next important step is to get the by-pass onto the design stage but there are issues with finance for that and even then cash is tied up big-time with the proposed Forth Road crossing. There didn't seem to be too much tonight that was all that new to close observers of by-pass affairs but it was an interesting and informative presentation.
Reading between the lines in seems we really are at the mercy of events outwith our control although the Highland Council are lobbying hard who knows where Nairn's pleas will stack up in the wish list at the end of the day?

Streetscape for Nairn High Street will start end of May- early June

Sandy Park at tonight's Nairnshire Partnership and Ward Forum

The Partnership heard tonight how the £800,000 streetscape plan will proceed next year. It is anticipated that, after contract tendering etc, that work will commence towards the end of May or the start of June. Work will be completed in three phases and will take 20 weeks. The High Street will be kept open during this time but obviously there will be considerable disruption. It is a no gain without pain scenario. Convenor Sandy was very positive about the outcome however and told the meeting how he remembered events of the last upgrade nearly 30 years ago and the eventual boost that gave to the street. He said, ' This will send out good vibes to retail business.'

The plans on display tonight were literally off the press having been printed in the afternoon and will be familiar to all concerned as they are the fruit of the previous consultations. There is a chance even more improvements could be on the agenda if the Co-op could be presuaded to contribute - if they decide to go ahead with their development in Nairn.

More from the ward forum later.

Would the Council Tax rise out of control under Lib Dem policy?

The Lib Dems in the Highlands are calling for the power to set their own Council Tax rates to be restored to Highland Council and Danny Alexander put forward a motion at Westminster to this effect signed by other north Lib Dem MP's. There were claims that the Council Tax would rise by 20% immediately in the Highlands if this were passed. A lot gets lost in the politicking but here is the P&J's take on the situation. And here is Danny's Early Day Motion to the House of Commons in full.

The Courier in calling for a fair deal for the Highlands also seems to be backing calls for Highland Council to be allowed to set its own tax.

'The council tax freeze may sound good, but in fact it is costing the Highlands much needed money. It is also unfair, because the richest people get the biggest benefit. The council tax freeze has given £800 to the wealthiest Scots, but only a few pence a week to the poorest. Like the Tories, the SNP's policy is helping the wealthiest most, while the poorest will be hit hardest by the service cuts Holyrood is imposing at arms length.'

More on the Courier's postition here. Now I wish to disagree with the Courier, many families on modest incomes that struggle to keep their heads above water find that the Council tax is still one of the biggest burdens on their household budgets. The temptation for Highland Council to continually raise the tax would be just too much and the Scottish Government's initiative to freeze the tax protects us all from the Council. There are no easy solutions but further tax on those many thousands of Highlanders who are struggling to keep their own finances afloat is not the answer. Danny Alexander, Charles Kennedy and John Thurso could afford a 20% rise in their council tax, could you? Come on Danny think of another solution please.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

River CC election - Tommy Hogg tops poll - 28% turnout

Tommy Hogg chats with Nairnshire Reporter John Dolan prior to the results
The results were announced by the Returning Officer Louise Clark at the Courthouse this evening. A healthy 28% of the electorate in the River Community Council area returned their ballot papers and the following were elected:

Carol Clark 621 votes
Thomas Hogg 681 votes
Bill Murdoch 579 votes
Jeanne Tolmie 679 votes
Stephanie Whittaker 588 votes

Provost Liz MacDonald congratulated all reelected and newly elected councillors and wished them well for their term of office. A good result for democracy and an indication that many Nairnites show a keen interest in community council affairs, it bodes well for the future and a possible single Community Council for Nairn within the next two years.

Louise Clark prepares to announce the result , Jean Tolmie to her right

9 Council housing units for Corsee

51 in total across the Highlands. More on the APT blog.

'Teaching in a slum' Inverness councillors beat the drum for their patch

Time for Nairn councillors to start shouting about the state of Nairn Academy again! The Courier today carries an article about 'slum' conditions at Inverness Royal Academy. There's a lot of sounding off going on as folk, quite rightly so, fight their corner as the committees get ready to make cuts. What about Nairn Academy though? Nairn get's a new science block but you can't hide the fact that the rest of the school needs replacing. As the financial noose tightens will Nairn Academy be forgotten?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday night press review

'Anger over airport plan' is the front page spread. Where this anger is coming from and where it is going will be revealed in the morning for the price of 40p in a newsagent's or Co-op near you.  On this theme the APT are rejecting claims of 'hijacking' and the editorial again dips into the airport and APT and Council themes. You can't go far these days without those APT folk getting a mention. Murd is on the case with his observations on what could now happen to the path down to the riverside from Queenspark after  recent resurfacing work. Murd shows once again how citizens can raise their concerns effectively at community council meetings. There's lots more including a page of book reviews and all the usual.  
P.S. The River Community Council election result will be announced tomorrow night in the Couthouse. Danny Alexander M.P. announces his surgery to be held on Monday the 21st in the Community Centre.  Danny should easily get back in shouldn't he? He's behaved himself with his expenses and even a local nationalist admitted to the Gurn today that 'he seems to be getting things done.' He certainly isn't shy of commentating on issues, including last week telling the Holyrood government to get their finger out over the Sainsbury's decision. And where are the folk that want his job? If anyone wants to replace him they'd better start showing their faces in Nairn! Danny indeed looks as though he's going to walk it but politics is a funny game and nothing is ever certain. 

Nairn to be one of the top international destinations of 2010?

Tucked away on a business page on the Star Telegram website (the Star seems to be a Texas based newspaper with an impressive web presence) is the following piece of information:
'TripAdvisor also forecast the top destinations for 2010 based on the types of searches and postings made on its Web site. In the U.S., Seward, Alaska, is the hot spot, followed by Hyannis, Mass., and Hot Springs, Ark. On the international list, Troncones, Mexico, and Nairn, Scotland, are the destinations that most are interested in traveling to.'
Here is the page where the information was posted so you can see the full context of the article. I wonder if anyone's bookings for next year are reflecting this?