John Hart is one of the hard-working team that spent many long hours researching and preparing their submissions to the planning hearing on Tuesday. Here are his reflections and opinion about how we should proceed as a community. The Common Good Fund is his specialist subject:
Dear Gurn team,
I suspect that the Nairnshire next Tuesday will lead on the story of the rejection by the Highland Council Planning Committee of the Deveron Sandown Lands 550 house development. May I through your good offices, advise all Nairn citizens that Sandown Lands as an asset belonging to the Common Good Fund is now and always has been totally theirs. There is no farmer with either grazing rights or agricultural lease using it. While Highland Council holds the Deeds, they do so on behalf of Nairn residents. Therefore, they should use the area to walk their dogs, ride their horses, cycle over it, picnic on it, kick a football around it, fly a kite from it and not just the wetlands area - all of it. Make sure you take photographs of your usage of the area so that your claim to free usage is perpetuated. This counts for a lot at the next round of any future planning application.
There is no reason why there might not be 130 or more houses built on Sandown, so that the Common Good Fund can benefit and supplement the charitable work that it carries out. However, Nairn citizens must all ensure that they are consulted by the Trustees of the Common Good Fund BEFORE any disposal of Common Good Lands is made, under the heading of changes to the Nairnshire Local Plan, in its future guise as the Inner Murray Firth Plan. Be warned that Deveron or someone like them will be back. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security that it was our Nairn Councillors, who were instrumental in rejecting the application.
The application totally failed because Highland Council were disingenuous in how they dealt with Deveron and the Nairn public. They failed to follow regulations by not acknowledging the primacy of the Nairnshire Local Plan for 130 houses on Sandown; then, not following procedures necessary to have it amended, having applied for planning consent for an increase to 230 houses; and then, not translating the housing limits within that original plan (max.130) into the DRAFT Development Plan. Furthermore, as the Draft Development Plan was never brought to committee for approval it also never had legal status, as an authorised Development Plan.
Nairn citizens should understand that the Common Good Fund is theirs and theirs alone. They should require that Highland Council make the Nairn Community Councillors Trustees as well as maybe the 4 Nairn Councillors. Thus, they should also insist that the other Highland Councillors should NOT be Trustees of the Nairn Common Good Fund. No offence to them but they should NOT be Trustees because they do NOT live in Nairn, a fundamental criteria of Common Good Fund administration, which Councillors in other areas of the Highlands should be demanding adherence to in their own areas where a Common Good Fund exists. (if any one is interested I can bore them with the historical details and some of the current cases being acted out around Scotland at present but there is lots of info at http://www.scottishcommons.org/project.htm)
By the way the Chairman was absolutely correct in insisting that as far as Planning Applications are concerned the ownership of the land is immaterial. Bizarrely any of us could put in a planning application for the change of use of say the Nairn Police Station. Strange but true!!
Mount PleasantSandown Road
If any Gurnites would like to contact John through e-mail please contact us and we'll forward his address