Monday, February 08, 2010

Links School - report of the meeting

Hopefully the following will do the event justice, you really had to be there though to get the raw emotional feel of the meeting. It was inspiring to be in a room full to standing room only with people that wanted to get involved in saving the Links School building. More proof, if any were needed, that Nairn is a caring community.

Graham Marsden opened up the meeting by explaining that within 12-18 months the Links School would be redundant with the new hospital completed and that a number of the 27 groups that use the building would have moved up to the new facility. The process of the community taking ownership of the Links School would be long and arduous and it would be necessary to get started as soon as possible. He pointed out that there was no immediate threat. NHS were responsible for maintenance in the short term but their lease would run out in Jan/Feb and decisions would have to be made over the next 6-9 months.

There was some discussion of the specifics of the lease/ownership situation and the best way forward for the community as regards the two issues. A representative from NHS Highland pointed out that they had made a significant investment of £25,000 in the building over the past 3 years. It seems that NHS Highland would consider still using the building after their lease expires but are very wary of incurring maintenance costs.

The meeting then moved onto to hear other contributions from the floor that really outlined the deep emotional link that many in the community has with this building. It was outlined by users how the building was a far more friendlier environment than either the hospital or the community centre, it was more a space were you could feel at home: you couldn’t put posters up on the wall at the community centre for example and it was very costly. Personal testimony was given of how the Links School was helpful to sufferers of post-natal depression. One woman told the meeting that she wouldn’t have been here today if she hadn’t had the help available from the building.

From the floor the very valid point that the Council might make some money from the sale of the building but what about the cost to society from those who would suffer the consequences of its closure in terms of ill health etc.

It was a powerful emotional event and a committee has been formed to explore ways to bring the building into community ownership. One of the first things the committee will do is to find out who quoted the price of £100,000 to fix the roof and see whether that is indeed the correct price, the committee is also mandated by the meeting to apply for a £15,000 ‘Invest in ideas’ grant that is available up until the end of March.

These meeting was indeed very positive and a remarkable contrast to the very stormy previous meeting on this topic held two or was it three years ago. It looks like the Links School might survive after all. Also in attendance for the Highland Council was Sandy Park.

If there's anything important missed or something you disagree with, please let us know.


Anonymous said...

Let's hope we can go forward and make this happen after attending the meeting I was moved by the passion people showed for wanting to save this building and whole heartily agree that the building should be saved for the community if not by the council then by us the public, I agree that this is a neccessity and a life line for some, it is so unfair that in the end this decission will be detrmined by MONEY and not the benefit of a community.

Grantson said...

Graham Marsden suggested that there may be an issue over ownership of the Links School due to “cuts in budgets“, I could understand looking at a sell-off if the building was vacant but the high volume usage should preclude this act. The building must be regarded as an asset and an amenity of the town; not a brick and mortar bank balance. The feeling of the meeting seemed to be that without the Links School facilities more people would suffer one way or another and become a cost burden to the NHS so any potential profits or savings to the HC would be eradicated by these costs to the NHS. As all Public Costs come out of one great big purse, funded by the Tax Payer, I do not see any benefits for anyone by this course of action. Hiding behind “budget cuts” always appears easy for officialdom to do and an apparent method to avoid dealing with difficult situations. Yet again the benefits of an Holistic approach to Health and Community Well Being is to be overlooked for short term Political gain of a few. And. What would development bring? Site clearance? A dozen flats? Quick profit?
Who owns the building anyway? It was transferred to the “town” in the 1870s, so it seems to me to be owned by us, the People of Nairn, but run by the HC on our behalf. Why then is a “buy out” necessary? That is like saying the HC owns the CGF (which they would love to) and not the People of the town. 'It's very easy to be paranoid about Highland Council' and even easier to believe there is a conspiracy out there to leave Nairn with aught but a dormitory mentality, tugging our forelocks at our HC masters. And there is the crux, Who are the Highland Council? The full time officials or our elected representatives. I think the dog is being wagged well and truly by the tail, yet again.

Graisg said...

I think we need a Royal Burgh Community Council to fight with one voice for Nairn and we need it as soon as possible, to help the campaign for the Links school and on many other issues, ongoing and that will no doubt arise in our new credit-crunched future.
The Gurn calls upon the three community councils in the town to work together now! Both for the good and benefit of the town and with the county com c's for the identity of Nairnshre Become the de facto Royal Burgh Council - we don't need to wait for Highland Council to say it'a ok! There is literally not a minute to lose! We can no longer leave our future in the hands of Glenurquart Road!

Anonymous said...

Graisg said

"The Gurn calls upon the three community councils in the town to work together now! Both for the good and benefit of the town and with the county com c's for the identity of Nairnshire...

As already reported in the "Nairnshire Telegraph", both Nairn West and Suburban CCs have publicly indicated their support for a unified single CC, reflecting the views expressed in earlier public meetings and discussions. Both CCs have submitted written comments to the Highland Council review saying so.

Are River CC similarly in favour of co-operation and unity for the collective good of Nairn? If so, there's no reason why all three CCs could not join in a combined effort on this and many other issues. All it needs is a willingness to work together.

Mal Function said...

Grantson makes a good point,

Who owns the building anyway? It was transferred to the “town” in the 1870s, so it seems to me to be owned by us, the People of Nairn, but run by the HC on our behalf.

This question must surely oblige all Nairn's elected councillors to reflect on where their responsibilities - as well as their loyalties - lie on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Grantson sounds like a man for the people.Having attended the meeting
myself,I was not entirely convinced where Graham Marsdens loyalty lies regarding the Links school.He had a couple of skirmishes with a lady from Ardersier,but she certainly held her ground and thankfully put herself forward for the committee.
It was a great meeting, apart from Sandy Park sitting with his back to us for the whole time.

Anonymous said...

It was very disappointing to notice the lack of representation from the Nairnshire at the meeting.Thanks to th gurn for conveying the full flavour of the event.

Nairnack said...

'Hiding behind “budget cuts” always appears easy for officialdom to do and an apparent method to avoid dealing with difficult situations.'

I think that here lies the main issue - both the council and NHS have financial deficits in the next financial year and onwards and are planning towards meeting these deficits. They ARE making the difficult decisions whether we like it or not rather than avoiding them hence the reluctance of both organisations to commit to the links school and potential maintenance 'banana skins'

The only way of securing the long term future of this building is for the community to own and run the building. Neither the NHS or council can commit to the long term future.

Could the common good fund not take the building into the fold?

Graisg said...

I'm no expert on the current state of the Common Good Fund Nairnack but it seems it urgently needs funds from the sale of Sandown to pay off (£3,000,000?) for the Community Centre.
That alone would make any immediate help unlikely?

Anonymous said...

The Highland Council did not build or buy this building,they own it through adoption.They should sell it back to the community for the amount it cost originally,or even ten times that.Preferably after the roof has been repaired.

Anonymous said...

There is a similarity between Grantson and past Provost Ronald Watson,a true man of the people,and a great promoter of Nairn and its people.We need people like him to represent us here in this community,who are not afraid to nail their colours to the mast and show a bit of backbone and integrity.We must not sit back and let Highland Council have their way with the LINKS School.What's wrong with a bit of passion.We love the Links School.Let's see it done right by and let us not be seen to let the people down who use it.

Grantson said...

Response to Nairnack

I think everyone knows there will have to be cuts to Public Spending but care has to be taken that these cuts do not just create a burden of cost where currently there is either very little or none at all. Where self help or community empathy groups succeed is when they are below the public view radar. Once they come to the surface that can deliver a tendency to drive away the very people that they are designed to help. By removing the Links School facilities any resultant vacuum of health related services will have to be filled by the NHS one way or another, despite cost, which obviously will have a knock-on effect on other services. This will then be a NEW cost, not currently being “budgeted” for, and that would not, knowing our well paid public professionals and overworked health professionals be the cheapest option.
The voluntary and social groups that currently use the School, unless they found somewhere of equal merit will possibly struggle to continue purely on a logistical ground rather than economical. That could very well be a disaster considering that so many other amenities in the Town have disappeared or become unavailable over the years.
What would be interesting to ascertain though, would be the average cost incurred by the HC and indeed the HRC for each of the last forty or so years for maintenance and why the building was allowed to deteriorate during their responsibility? Considering the School has been in constant use there should have been a decent maintenance allowance for it and a credit built up for Capital Expenditure.
Now that the Cuts have been progressed it’s a wee bit easier to see the way the wind is blowing from the POV of our Independent Councillors, seems the voluntary sector is being particularly hard hit.
Ownership of the School must revert back to the “Town” as a matter of urgency and allowance by the HC to provide funds over a period to allow any NECCESSAY maintenance and refurbishments to be carried out. The Councillors are happy to take their rewards now is the time they should be seen to earn them by supporting the People they represent unequivocally.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone provide an update on progress regarding community ownership of the Links School?

I wonder if the financial world has changed even since the meeting...a highland share of the recently announced £6 billion of UK savings have to be found.