Friday, August 27, 2010

Houses for the old Community Centre?

Could it go the same way as the proposed plans for Rosebank Church with flats and parking underneath? Housing for the old Community Centre as a solution to the Co-op fearties losing their bottle and dropping the major development in the town centre seems to be one way out of the mess. Either way it is the end of a dream as the row of buildings still stand there rotting away in the middle of Trip Advisor’s No2 ‘up and coming’ destination. The Courier today has an article and editorial on Nairn’s major town centre problem. They’ve spoken to Liz and she mentions the housing solution. It also seems a report is in the offing too:
‘Nairn members met yesterday morning to discuss how to take forward the redevelopment of the town centre. A report setting out recommendations for the future consultation on the regeneration of the area is set to go before the planning, environment and development committee on 22nd September.’
Reports, committees and consultation – haven’t we had about 15 years of that as far as the town centre is concerned? Why not save money and put a suggestion box in the Courthouse?
In their editorial ‘Think Big’ (not on line yet) the bi-weekly organ of the Highland Capital also preoccupies itself with Nairn’s woes, the paper makes a plea to the council not to rush in with housing however, they suggest:
‘While we agree that the eyesores cannot be left to deteriorate for much longer, we would urge the local authority to make one last attempt to market the whole site nationally and internationally in the hope of attracting a striking development that would benefit the town economically.’
A view from afar that really doesn’t understand the situation on the ground, the present miserable condition of that part of the town centre has been due to waiting, waiting, waiting for a white knight to come dashing onto the scene and sort it all out for us. The Council no longer owns the whole site anyway. If there are to be any solutions this observer suspects there are not national or international white knights waiting in the sidings, solutions will have to be locally inspired ones. Have Gurnites got any genuine ideas to sort this wee problem?


Cheque mate said...

Is the white knight you refer to some some of locomotive vehicle with reference to it being sat in sidings, a large steam roller on rails for example? Or a dangerous chess piece that moves about the town centre in diagonal directions?

On a serious note people sat on their hands for too long re Nairn town centre, perhaps not intentionally but retail has moved on and most new build shops are on out of town retail parks or in malls - Nairn shopping mall, there's a thought

If money were no object I would suggest purchase of the empty town centre buildings and put in flower beds till someone comes up with a really good idea

Flats would end all dreams for a very long time

I was there said...

To the people who are contemplating housing for the town centre, PLEASE DON'T!
Take a lesson from your forebearers, the cause of many of the current problems with the town centre go much further back than many people realise; they stem from replacing Macrae & Dicks and Colin Young's yard with flats. This was the opportunity that was missed, there was a chance then to develop the retail part of the town centre. If more housing was put in this area the already eroded space could never be reclaimed and Nairn town centre will truly be lost.
As Cheque mate said, turn the area into flower beds or a garden or something for the moment - anything but houses.

Brian @ said...

I've reported on this before after discussions with the HC - effectively, the community centre apparently has structural problems which suggest it would be easier and cheaper to rebuild that preserve.

But, unfortunately, the HC's original plan has been to build flats.

At one of the local meetings I went to (and covered in the Gurn) I raised the possibility of creating business premises and potentially new shops on the community centre location with offices above.

After all, if there's no expanded retail from Somerfield, why not help the continued expansion of Nairn's business interests by at least considering overspill from the High Street?

(Which by itself will never satisfy an expanding town, and already there are buildings outside of the High St but close by being used for commercial purposes).

It would be flat out unambitious to consider that Nairn's "Central Business Centre" will need to expand with the town over the next few decades - it needs planning allowance for that now (as opposed to setting up a second town centre, as Deveron planned to do at Sandown).

I've previously been in contact with the HC to find out about the possibility of taking on the old tourist information centre - it is wonderfully placed as a potential commercial site, and renovated should be very attractive for use for small business.

In all of this, the underlying point is expanding employment within Nairn, something noted in the original Local Plan as needing prioritising as Nairn is increasingly a commuter town.

I would therefore hope that the basic sensible suggestions in the 1997 Local Plan, suggesting consideration of business and employment opportunities - would therefore be taken on board by HC planners - instead of the same old tired practice of turning sites into high rise flats.

While I appreciate there is a housing need in Nairn, I would very much recommend the HC and Nairnites consider the future growth of Nairn as meaning that buildings close by the town centre as being potential most useful if turned over for commercial purposes, as being to the most benefit to Nairn.

After all, that's what an expanded Somerfield was intended to do - create better employment opportunities - so it would be great if that possibility were retained through re-use of the old derelicts into commercial property.

If the HC would dare to put them on the market zoned for business use, or at least provide them for interested business to renovate on condition of any employment criteria, I can see them being used.

Personally, I would love to be able to consider the old tourist information centre as potential future offices, but I need them to be publically available in the first place to even be able to consider them. Must better to employ local folk then just demolist for parking?


- Brian @ My Nairn

nairnbairn said...

The kneejerk reaction of (some) councillors and officials who are now talking of putting housing on this town centre site simply shows that they are devoid of imagination.

I was there gets it absolutely right in the comment above:
"the cause of many of the current problems with the town centre go much further back than many people realise; they stem from replacing Macrae & Dicks and Colin Young's yard with flats. This was the opportunity that was missed, there was a chance then to develop the retail part of the town centre. If more housing was put in this area the already eroded space could never be reclaimed and Nairn town centre will truly be lost."

Nairn has many other sad examples of missed opportunities. Putting apartment blocks around the harbour killed off the chances of developing a vibrant, diverse and flourishing area of shops, cafes and other facilities which would have brought life to that area, attracted tourists and created jobs. Building the Maggot flats has seriously constrained access to the caravan park and limited the riverside green space, as well as spoiling the view.

It seems that whenever faced with an opportunity to improve the town, Nairn decisionmakers - or the Council planners and the developers - manage to foul it up by making the wrong choices. It's not clear whether this is inertia, incompetence or greed. It certainly shows a lack of vision.

Those who care about the future of Nairn must not let this town-centre site be completely ruined by unsuitable, inappropriate development such as more housing. Building blocks of flats there will not only close off other options such as business premises, more shops, a market place, or other public amenities; it will hasten the further decline of the retailing and business heart of the town.

There's a famous quote which says "all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing". If the good folk of Nairn don't speak out, then bad decisions will be made. Complaining afterwards is too late.

Nairnac said...

Would the old Community Centre not be a good site for the planned Nightclub/Sports-Bar/Lap-Dancing Bar/Drink-til-you-puke/Sticky- Carpets kind of place that Nairn is crying out for.
Oops, sorry, I meant a social and cultural focal point for the neglected and disaffected youth of the parish.

Realism said...

We might lament the lack of a bustling High Street complete with a daily market, throngs of people praying at all of our churches, queues along the pavement waiting to get into the cinema, gridlock on the A96 as cars wait to fill up with petrol, hundreds of passengers waiting to get on a local bus.
But to a great degree the need for any of these buildings that we complain about has gone, that’s why they are empty!
I suspect that even the arrival of a new Sainsbury’s (if it ever comes) will still mean convoys of Nairnites travel to nearby towns to do their shopping, and at the same time they will fill up with petrol, and maybe even catch a film at a multiplex. Buses are a good idea but the routes they travel these days are not much of a deviation off the main A96, and car ownership has never been cheaper
Our working lives have changed as well, more folk work from home so have less need to travel to an office, or indeed need an office out of their homes, and I wonder how many of you reading this have shopped on line, so do we need the same number of High Street shops? Patently not
Trying to re shape a town centre designed many centuries ago for modern day living is nigh impossible. We may cry out for a quaint High Street but I would suggest none of us use is it as our ancestors did with daily food shopping. Because we know it exists we want more, more goods, more shops, more choice, and all at cheaper prices. Shopping is still a necessity but it has also become an experience, a leisure pursuit
In common with most of the UK Nairn has a growing elderly population who consume less than their younger counterparts
The greatest threat to the town centre in Nairn isn’t derelict buildings or construction of blocks of flats but work, or rather the lack of it. In the Highlands we are dependant more than most upon the Public sector, which is going to go through a radical change in the next couple of years with unparalleled job cuts
We don’t have industries in the Highlands since the oil construction yards closed, and we now have a global economy which means it is cheaper to build in China
Regrettably I can only see the Highland economy collapsing, there is nothing waiting in the wings to rescue us. Our only mainstay is tourism that is largely seasonal and provides only a handful of jobs. Young people are understandably leaving looking for sustainable futures elsewhere
Will we ever see a bustling town centre in Nairn, not in the near future. Embrace what is being offered or more buildings will stand empty. Our vision should be that of realism not dreams, and remember that we cannot even afford what we have, witness our new community centre
A revamped Co-op and a new block of flats it is then!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the intention is not to invest in Nairn High Street but to make all the area into housing and the get some out of town retail with large scale new housing west of the area, as far west as they can go this necessitating the shift of emphasis towards upgrading the A96 and not putting in a bypass.

nairnbairn said...

The analysis offered by Realism above is seductive but misguided. As a description of recent and current patterns of local shopping and behaviour, it's pretty accurate. But it would be a mistake to design the Nairn of the next 20 years on the basis of the lifestyles of the past 20 years. Yes, our lives have changed: but even greater change is coming.

It's important to look forward and to anticipate the trends of the future, not assume that existing patterns will remain. Some of these trends are already apparent.

In housing, town-centre apartment blocks are discredited because they tend to become ghettos (look at Scotland's central-belt towns). Suburban housing-estate sprawl is becoming less appealing because of its soulless anonymity. Thoughtful urban planners are trying to design environments which deliver the kind of diverse urban architecture that promotes sustainable, integrated communities.

The shopping of today is indeed based on the car and the edge-of-town supermarket. But there is already the stirring of a backlash against "Tesco-isation". In search of quality and choice, and in reaction to the "foodmiles" issue, people are shifting away from supermarkets and back towards independent shops and local producers. Hence the nationwide revival of farmers' markets. This shift may not yet be very evident in Nairn - but it will come. The trend is clear.

People are also rebelling against the homogenised High Streets with their chain-store frontages. They are beginning to appreciate the importance of local tradesmen and the value of a variety of retail premises. Just as micro-breweries have flourished while the big brewers have struggled, Ashers may yet prevail against Mothers' Pride...

The change in shopping habits may be forced on us anyway by transport trends. Rising fuel costs and ever-worse congestion will make car travel more expensive and more tedious. Town centre shops will again become important. Who knows, we might see more folk cycling!

Business, too, is changing. Better IT will enable more decentralisation and homeworking. Other countries liek China and Korea will be increasingly the heavy industrial producers. To thrive and offer employment, the Highlands has to embrace the service sector, get into high-skill high-value manufacturing, and recreation and tourism. That means people - whether investors, workers, or visitors - will increasingly value the quality of the environment, the quality of local services, and the sheer quality-of-life. We have to plan the development of Highland towns and countryside to respond to these expectations.

So, Realism , your view may be "realistic" but it is also short-sighted. We should not indulge in unrealistic dreaming. But we do need rational analysis and pragmatic vision.

We also need to cease playing catch-up. There has been too much development based on yesterday's obsolete thinking and today's lifestyles. Instead, we should be planning for tomorrow. We need development which doesn't just address present problems, but which also aims to influence and take account of future change.