Saturday, December 04, 2010

Are Highland Council really being nasty to NICE?

A quick analysis of Iain Bain’s Editorial comment in the Nairnshire.

Iain Bain recognises that NICE have won a concession from the Highland Council concerning the consultation period for the town centre redevelopment but he calls it a ‘minor’ concession. He goes on to say:

‘But what they have got is a measly few weeks which, to be honest is no big deal for Highland Council to offer since it is over the festive season.’ He continued, ‘The Corporation can enjoy its Christmas blow-out, take its holidays and so on but NICE and company will need to digest the turkey quickly and get on with their considerations before January is out.’

That is the cynical view and it has to be admitted that Iain Bain is by no means alone in his analysis. There are those however, who think the job might already be partially done in that Highland Council, stung by hostile reaction, are desperate to get more community input into a better plan for the town centre. We will see when they come back to the people of Nairn with the new revised plans at a Ward Forum at the end of January. Meanwhile NICE are holding a public meeting on the 13th of December in the Community Centre when they will be releasing the result of their deliberations and outlining possible funding options if the community is so minded to back them in taking their involvement further. A clue to the potential drift of those options is contained in the latest NICE press statement.

‘Some imaginative ideas are therefore now under discussion for a new approach to the funding of development in Nairn by making more effective use of Common Good assets. There is scope to raise revenue and to generate income for the community from schemes which make use of the government incentives to promote the “green agenda” and to meet targets for renewable energy. Examples of such community initiatives in Shetland and the West Highlands were mentioned. NICE will be examining the feasibility and financing of such an initiative, with a view to putting together more specific project-proposals.’

Presently NICE is a broad coalition, the backbone being provided by the town’s three community councils, the Association of Nairn Businesses and the Visit Nairn folk. Will there be the desire amongst each of those five organizations to take the next steps and support NICE in further efforts or will they be content with the progress so far in bringing other ideas into the town centre melting pot? What will a reappraisal of these bodies respective involvement bring? Most importantly of course there would need to be the wider backing of the people of Nairn from the meeting for NICE to have any chance in going further. Will they feel that NICE is for them? The public were obviously upset with the initial plans from Highland Council and wanted a rethink but do they want to support a community organization to take things further on their behalf? The meeting at 7.p.m. in the Community Centre on the 13th will be an interesting affair and if you have views on the town centre you should make the effort to get down to it.

Has genuine progress been made thus far or is there substance to the theory of Iain Bain who finishes his hard-hitting editorial: ‘What this is telling us is Highland Council is hellbent on getting its way with the town centre and that means selling the real estate as quickly as possible.’