Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Standing room only in the Courthouse

One of the council officials estimated 40 members of the public present tonight. Local democracy seems to be firing into life again citizens. Yes it was all about Tourism and the Provost opened the meeting by asking the regional director of Visit Scotland to say a few words, and he did, the sort of thing you would expect from a public official really, the normal ward meeting fare. The same from an official from Highland Council that had responsibility for tourism and then someone from HIE too said what she was paid to do. It was Iain Fairweather and Brian Stewart that everyone was there to listen to however. Once the pair of them started they dominated the meeting, after all it was they that had literally set the agenda and the others around the table from various officialdoms or other were making nice noises towards them. An early success was reported in that an extra 10,000 copies of the the Nairn Leisure Guide will be printed this year and then it was into the business of the strategy document.
Iain Fairweather stressed that it was not he in isolation that was behind the document but that visit Nairn was a membership organisation. He introduced Brian Stewart who was the main author of the paper and stated that if the document had been compiled by external consultants it would have cost between four and five thousand pounds. He stated that the exercise had been to provoke people and it seemed to have done that if the turnout was anything to go by.
Brian Stewart made an eloquent articulate speech about the challenge facing tourism in Nairn, he believed that tourism should be mainstream in the thinking of planners and others. He thought that every future proposal should be considered on the basis of whether it will make Nairn a more attractive and appealing place. He told us that we have to get away from the approach that we must look to others to do things, our challenge was to devise the right framework. There was applause for Brian when he finished.
The Provost then threw the meeting open to the public. It emerged from Dan Farrell that the Tourist Information Centre will soon be opening in the Community Centre the only hold up now seemed to be the sighting of the sings and obtaining the relevant permission from Transport Scotland.

John Oliver spoke of former efforts to make the most of the Charlie Chaplin connection with Nairn, an initiative he thought had basically failed. His intervention provoked a reaction from Laurie Fraser who seemed willing to take him to task on the matter. Sandy Park stepped in however to say that themed ideas were a good way forward. An old chestnut surfaced when a lady from the public benches criticised the lack of wet weather facilities in the town, she said that there was nothing to do in wet weather. She said to laughter that Woolies had been a good wet weather venue in the town but even that had gone.
Another old gurn surfaced from David Brownlees with the question where was Nairn? David also articulated the fact that we seem to be listed as Morayshire on many postal lists. Some discussion followed with a call to fight for the Nairnshire identity instead of the existing addresses of Morayshire and Highland that seem to be on most letters that come through our letterboxes. Brian of spoke of the unique Nairn product that was a selling point. One of the craft shop wifies told the meeting how so many people didn’t seem to know that Nairn had a beach, even some ladies from Inverness seemed to be ignorant of the fact. She was angry that Nairn seemed to be turning into a commuter town for Inverness.
The representative from visitscotland made a grovelling apology for missing out Nairn from an important brochure and said that they would be doing additional marketing to make up for it.
Back to the public comments and the statement that the first impression of Nairn was the derelict buildings along the A96 and that it was time for the town planners and the elected councillors to get their act together.
Sandy Park thought it was all a breath of fresh air and he told the meeting he wanted to harness the enthusiasm and would like to speak further with those present. He instructed Louise Clark to collect everyone’s details and e-mail address. There was an exchange between Samantha Bacon and John Oliver over the £60 million available to town centres in Scotland. Sandy and Liz assured the meeting that they were on the case and chasing the money.
There were of course many other comments and a genuine willingness to take things forward. Visit Nairn are up and running and recruiting new members, they are welcoming all that have an interest in tourism. The Gurnmeister just wonders if they will be able to work effectively with officialdom in Nairn over the future months and years. A marriage between the civil servants, that is to say the paid professionals that earn their living regardless of the success or failure of their initiatives and those who simply must succeed in the competitive world of tourism. Interesting times ahead.
Good luck to Visit Nairn from the Gurn.

PS, if you were there and think I've missed important details out please fill in the blanks.

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