You’ve probably already read Archie Tect’s take on Wednesday night’s events. Yes the Scottish Government demands that Councils have development plans and thus land gets zoned for housing. The trouble is that quite a few folk in Nairn think that too much had been zoned and they made representations to the plan in an effort to get the amounts of land zoned reduced. The Highland Council planners claimed to have reflected this concern in the latest draft of the plan but it became evident last night that there is still much concern in Nairn about the scale of the proposed housing areas that will be designated around Nairn. It isn’t all over yet, we get the chance to make more representations and after that if people are still unhappy it will go to a Scottish Government reporter.
It does all come down to a numbers game but the punters as well as the planners can play that too and last night it was Lorraine Thomson, the seasoned Sandown campaigner, who took Highland Council to task on their own statistics. At times Mr MacLeod himself seemed to be a little baffled by his own figures – what chance have the rest of us got then you might ask? Anyway, if you build houses it is a good idea to provide jobs to go with them, here’s what Lorraine asked towards the end of the proceedings.
“Again I’ll address this to Malcolm, again looking at your figures, for the area for Nairn, from Nairn, Croy, Ardersier, Cawdor, Tornagrain and Stratton, your own figures, you’re projecting 16 hundred and ten homes over a five year period, that’s 1610, what guarantees or what can you tell us about employment that’s going to come to actually feed these 1610 houses?”
Malcolm MacLeod was quick to reply, “A fair question and the answer is if that if these houses were being, you know these houses will not be built, you know I’m not saying that 1610 houses are definitely going to be built in 5 years, if I could do that you know I wouldn’t be doing this job.” Malcolm continued and gave quite a long reply, here’s some more of it: “No developer is going to build houses unless there is a market for them and people buying houses it stands to reason that there will be jobs to support them so you know I can’t point out exactly where the jobs are going to be we hope that things will pick up at Inverness Airport Business Park which has planning permission. There has just been planning permission granted in East Inverness for a really significant development in terms of work opportunities, you know supermarket, commercial space, office space so we can’t guarantee that they’re going to be built but if they are and if opportunities do come along and this area does continue to grow then at least there will be the house sites there that have been planned effectively at least we know the infrastructure will be able to bear them that’s our job”
Thus as Archie Tect says, it all gets indicative, estimates, aspirational etc.
Lorraine had another question: “I did a count of the number of houses for sale in the housing market area in Nairn just in the last two weeks and there’s over 350 houses for sale in the housing market area for Nairn and you are suggesting that we build another 846?”
This is really where the lay person starts to scratch his/her head, there is indeed no shortage of housing for sale in Nairn so why do we need to be in such a hurry to allow so much land to be developed?
Here Sandy jumped in with his take on the process, ”Could I maybe come in here just to answer your question, you’re probably absolutely right, 300 houses for sale there may be no need to build houses but, the big but is, you have to have a very forward thinking plan so that things are in place. You stop and think the last 20, 30 years Inverness has doubled from 30,000 to 60,000 and people say where’s all the employment coming? People used to say travel into Inverness, Inverness will join Balloch one day, well it has basically. Where is all the employment, unless when people are making inward investment, I have various meetings at Scottish Government level for inward investment into the Highlands, renewable energy is the massive big one that we’re thinking just now which could be massive, when the oil industry was here in the early seventies with the oil yards there was 12,000 people worked in the oil industry a lot of these people are working all over the world now.” Sandy also claimed that this type of forward planning helped Nairn’s case for a by-pass.
There was a lot more said last night Gurnites, much of it was in planning speak terms in the form of Malcolm MacLeod’s responses, there were smiles and laughs at times but still deep concerns. Where do we go from here? This observer imagines that the Community Councils, particularly Suburban and West will give worried citizens the chance to articulate their concerns and input them into the next stage of the Plan’s journey towards transformation into tablets of stone.