Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sandy on the warpath over Co-op’s attitude

At the Nairnshire Partnership meeting tonight Sandy Park mentioned that there had been a meeting between the Highland Council and Somerfield/Co-op last week. Sandy is very disappointed that the Co-op have stated that a further meeting planned for the 7th of December will not go ahead if Sainsbury’s get the go ahead from the Scottish Government. It is anticipated that the result of the Inquiry will be released by ministers by the end of November. Sandy has strongly hinted however that a flurry of enforcement orders could be winging their way to the Co-op if they think they can walk away from their part in the town centre redevelopment deal.
Good on ya Sandy, get intae them! It isn’t funny, the co-op trying to hold a loaded retail gun to the community’s head. The community is behind you Sandy, let them know you’ll give them some stern enforcement ( a good municipal kicking in other words) if they want to take their ball home.

More news from the Ward forum/partnership goings on later.


Bill said...

I have two comments about this:

- it is instructive that an organisation with the supposed co-operative structure and background of the Co-operative Society should be behaving in this way (although not surprising to me);

- given the way that commercial enterprises have run rings around Highland Council over the years in connection with planning matters, not least in the commercial developement of Nairn, I will be interested to know just which administrative sanctions Sandy Park hopes to bring to bear against the likes of the Co-operative Society, given the seeming inability to do anything poitive with Safeway, Morrison or Somerfield in years gone by. Are Mr Park's words more than meaningless bluff? I expect the legal expertise retained by the Co-op is at least as competent as that available to Highland Council if the experience of recent years is any kind of guide.

Nairnac said...

Instead of a geurilla makeover of the Regal eyesore, why not put up a big banner on the building saying something like 'This disgraceful eyesore is brought to you courtesy of the Co-op', and another on the petrol station saying 'This one too' the same on the social work offices and the community centre. Even if they were only there for a short time, I'm sure they'd get some negative press for the business, and that's one thing senior management hate.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like very encouraging moves - no chain seems to have been serious about expanding the town centre supermarket, no matter how much the HC has tried to accommodate the plans.

And as came up in the enquiry, even if Co-op did expand it, it still probably would not be big enough anymore to cope with the majority of the retail demands of Nairn residents.

Here's hoping Sainsburys gets the go ahead, and the properties on the A96 are made available for commercial - not residential - development. :)

- Brian

Graisg said...

Very good points Bill. A lot of people will agree with you.
Nairnac, what an excellent suggestion!

The Gurnmeister perhaps is looking through rose-tinted spectacles and thinking in a blinkered manner etc, but he can see no other outcome than the Scottish Government giving a Sainsbury's to Nairn as an early Christmas present. I think the Co-op know this too and in fact are already in the process of walking away.
Bill is right Sandy & Co will really have to come up with the goods if this likely scenario plays out. Again as Bill suggests, even if they wanted too is the organisation (Highland Council) up to such a task?

nairnbairn said...

This could be a tangled web indeed.

Sandy Park's robust approach is to be welcomed: but it remains to be see what leverage he and the Council have. Much depends on the terms of the agreement the Council made with Somerfield/the Co-op. If the Co-op don't regard that site now as viable for a new supermarket (and clearly Sainsbury's didn't) then I suspect no-one can force them or any other retailer to build. Can the Council recover ownership of the site? Would a rival like Tesco, or Lidl, see an opportunity?

If that site isn't going to be attractive to supermarkets and retailers, then the Council, and Nairn, could face some more difficult options:

- could it be revived as a town-centre public space, with public services occupying the sound older buildings (tourist info office, Council services?), and some new building to house such things as the new arts centre, studios etc that have been suggested - maybe even a revived cinema? If so, who pays? The Lottery? Or could the Council tap Sainsburys for a large cheque? Perhaps Sandy Park could put some of his new-found vigour into getting a serious contribution from the various town-centre regeneration funds, rather than just seeking money-for-pavements?

- the depressing alternative is that perhaps the only other way to realise the value of the site would be for it to be sold off to another bidder "for development". And almost any developer seeking profit would almost certainly want to build high-density housing (with perhaps a few little ground-level retail units). Nairn could find itself with a giant Maggot Mk 2 concrete monster in the heart of town.

Meanwhile, we should not allow the Co-op to abdicate responsibility for the current site. Whatever eventually happens, they need to do something about the present disgraceful shabbiness. If the Convener's efforts at persuasion don't produce swift results, then Nairnac's banners and Rosemary Young's paint-pots might have to be deployed!

Graisg said...

@anon 8.19 p.m.
re I have been in talks wit the Co-op arts projects...etc, etc.
Please tell us who you are because as far as I can remember there was no mention of ' communty arts projects' and such at the ward forum - might have blinked and missed something however. So please contact the Gurn with your details.

Graisg said...

A timely reminder from Nairnbairn about the ownership of the site. Could this all keep a few lawyers in clover for years to come?

Anonymous said...

"And almost any developer seeking profit would almost certainly want to build high-density housing (with perhaps a few little ground-level retail units)."

Unfortunately I think this is exactly what the HC are currently looking at.

Despite criticisms of the current out-of-date local plan, it does emphasise economic development.

Therefore if we could persuade the HC to release the developments as commercial only, and use the Local Plan to enforce this against future planning changes to residential, we could yet see an expanded CBD in Nairn using the older buildings.

Also, just as a pointer, I know for a fact there are local business people who want to take over the older buildings for business purposes, but are completely blocked by the existing arrangement between the HC and Co-op.

The arts centre proposal seems a pipe dream on its own - no one seems to know who would pay for it - however, I think it's entirely possible that something towards that aim could be built into existing business interests that have been discussed for these buildings.


- Brian

Anonymous said...


In August, frustrated at the lack of help or support from H.C. or local M.P's. I as a memeber of Nairn Tourism Assoc contacted the Director of Property for the Co-op in Manchester. He was more than happy to offer the Co-op's support to a community arts project to tidy up the old Regal building. He would have liked, like so many of us, to demolish it but it's walls form part of the current store. I/we are now in talks with the Co-op re a community arts tidy up of the site and also a redevelopment of the old petrol station for Inverness based Health and Happiness. This organisation works with adults with learning disabilities. They are to set up a shop in the former petrol station with support from the Co-op. It will offer sales space to local artists and crafts people as well as local students. Details are still being finalised.

Jon Lane
Outthere Support Services and Nairn Tourism Assoc Member

Graisg said...

Very Interesting Jon, thanks for that. Good luck with the projects, hopefully the other buildings can be brought back to life too if there is to be no new supermarket.

Anonymous said...

Why community arts.? It would seem a certain few arty types are determined
to aquire the whole area for their own desires.
It should be left to the local people
to decide what would benefit the whole town now,and in the future.

Come on Nairnites!any suggestions.

nairnbairn said...

Well done Jon for taking a practical initiative.

But this is an interesting case-study in how the Council and our elected representatives seem unwilling to engage in the kind of collective effort and joined-up thinking the town needs.

As was pointed out at last week's Nairn Partnership and Forum meeting, it was VisitNairn who first tackled our local MP about this problem. But when a meeting between Danny Alexander and the Council representatives was lined up, VisitNairn were neither informed nor invited.

And it appears that the Council were equally unaware of Jon's initiative and his success in engaging the Co-op in a positive way. Puts Sandy Park's bluster into a rather different light...

Now if Sandy Park and his Council colleagues had been willing to include VN and Jon's organisation in their dialogue with both MP and Co-op, we might have been able to applaud a genuine bit of 'partnership' activity.

It does however sometimes seem that the Council regards the "Nairn Partnership" as a tiresome distraction, rather than as an opportunity to draw people together into a collective effort on the town's behalf. More's the pity.

growtosow said...

good luck to the H and H GROUP wish them well with this was thanks to this group that the allotment site has got to share the compost loo that was built at the site