Saturday, November 07, 2009

Just how expert can Highland Council expert opinion be when it comes to Nairn issues?

At Gurn headquartes we’ve had a chance at last to go through all the council documentation concerned with the proposal to part demolish the Woolies building and over develop the site with five ‘town houses.’ This documentation was made available in the Courthouse service point after the intervention of Sandy Park. One thing that emerges clearly is how thoroughly the planning officer Andrew McCracken did his job in investigating the validity and relevance of the various elements of the many objections that were made. He wrote in an e-mail to the Colin Anderson of the Highland Council’s Housing and Property department:

…’There are a lot of objections, several of which are claiming the development conflicts with town centre regeneration objectives. Their argument is along the lines that if the area of the store is reduced it becomes less attractive therefore less likely to appeal to potential tenants therefore more likely to remain vacant thus blighting the High Street.
Is this something you feel you could comment on. I said to a couple of the objectors that I’m not qualified to assess shop viability and suggested that they should try getting an opinion from a letting agent who deals with retail properties if they want the point to be considered.’

A reply came back from a Matthew Johnstone.

…In my opinion, I would be more inclined to argue the opposite in that there is likely to be less demand for such a large retail unit in a relatively small town such as Nairn. The size of the unit (4,868 sg ft) and the level of rent (£25,000) is such that this shop is only likely to appeal to multiple/national retailers, the majority of whom will have presumably already been targeted by the landlord’s letting agents during the course of the last 7 months. In other words, the smaller the store, the cheaper the rent, the more likely you are to achieve a letting, even though the tenant is more likely to be a local or independent trader. Notwithstanding this, I am sure the landlord will struggle to achieve any letting given the recession. High streets generally up and down the length and breadth of the country are struggling with vacancy rates at previously unforeseen levels. You need only pick up a newspaper to see that retailers are struggling in the current financial climate with consumer spend down considerably on previous years.

In short, I don’t think they have a particularly strong argument, although A N Other letting agent may well have a different point of view…’

Now the Gurn has correspondence from another individual who wished to rent the Woolies building but was beaten to it by Nickel and Dime. Local folklore has long held that the Nairn Woolies was, pro rata, one of the most profitable of all the Woolies stores. This just goes to prove that the Highland Councils out of town experts don’t know what is best for Nairn, only Nairnites know that! We really have to take our own town back under local control and get on with it ourselves. Just look at the vibrant activity inside Nickel and Dime and you can see how off the mark the Highland Council’s expert advice was. The Gurnmeister feels that we could do a lot for ourselves if only we had less interference from Highland Council. Nairn should be allowed to stand on its own two feet. Nairn has to decide how the community grows and what the priorities are for the future and not the Highland Council.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see that an thorough, well researched and evidenced case was put forward.

Anonymous said...

An interesting observation is just how much the Nairn high st is thriving, by comparison to Inverness which is falling apart with lets everywhere.

Nairn may be a small town, but there's plenty of demand for commercial premises, and I would even suggest there are actually not enough commercial premises available.

- Brian