Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 - Give the community the chance to use the Common Good to create wealth!

One of the issues that will come to dominate 2011 in Nairn will be the town centre and Highland Council’s Plan B. The Citizens’ group NICE will also be to the fore as they continue the campaign for a better town centre and perhaps expand their role to help improve other parts of Nairn. Inextricabley linked with the town centre (and the Sandown problem) is the Common Good fund, especially as efforts by the Highland Council to raise cash from the fund have ended in spectacular disaster - is it now time for a daring change of approach? This observer thinks so. Earlier this month a book entitled ‘The Poor have no Lawyers’ was recommended to me. It is written by Common Good campaigner Andy Wightman and in quoting from chapter 23 “All Property of a Burgh” I’m struck by just how appropriate his words are for our current situation in Nairn:

“Common good assets form a central part of the history, heritage, culture and identity of communities across Scotland. Over many decades, however, their significance has been lost, their status diminished, their role forgotten and their fate become increasingly insecure. We should be aiming to expand the portfolio of such property to promote regeneration in Scotland’s towns and cities. It is now apparent that thirty years after the abolition of town councils, Scotland’s towns and villages have lost much of their identity, cohesion and self-belief. Common good assets can play a part in recovering civic identity and prosperity.

It is self-evident that those best positioned to take a view on the best interests of the inhabitants of a Burgh are the inhabitants themselves. This should be done through open, transparent and democratic debate and yet they have no such avenue to do so. Instead the local authority determines this question. This is no longer sustainable.

There are literally hundreds of millions of pounds floating around in the form of previously unaccounted-for assets, undervalued assets and underused assets. This wealth belongs to local people and not to the Council. It should be used to begin a process of civic renewal and physical regeneration, to deliver wealth and prosperity and to give back to towns across Scotland some self-respect, belief and power to improve the welfare of their community.”

We need more control over our own affairs as Andy Wightman says, local people have the skills (just look at the squad of talent quickly assembled by NICE) and a profound desire to protect and improve their community. Will our Highland Council representatives have the courage to let the community take the next steps instead of relying too heavily on the advice and guidance of their (often out of town) officials? Will they have the foresight to respond to public opinion and allow us to have a Royal Burgh Community Council? Remember Scottish Government sponsored consultation on that is still ongoing until the end of January. They have the choice, let the community have more freedom or fight a battle against the community to keep power in Glenurquhart Road. Will they be remembered as guiding visionaries or out of touch individuals who failed to see the writing on the wall? Come on Sandy - you could help Nairn really set an example here - let the people have a go instead of the bureaucrats!

2011 will be very interesting indeed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Could Highland Council do a bit more to support the local food industry?

When you consider the business rates that some food producers must pay into the Highland Council coffers then perhaps they could be forgiven for thinking that the Council is perhaps not doing doing enough to support them in return.

The LibDems have called on councils in Scotland to source more food locally. Here's some figures from an online article:

"The information revealed how much councils spend on local food, with East Lothian spending 34.3% of its fruit and vegetable budget locally and 83% of its meat budget locally.

Aberdeen spent 29% of its food budget locally while Highland Council spent 16% within the local authority boundaries."

If Aberdeen can manage 29% then surely Highland Council could do a little better within its own boundaries or is it the case that the Highlands just doesn't produce the right sort of food for the Highland Council? To be fair to them, it must be said that they have made efforts (their action plan can be seen here). It will be interesting to see if these figures are picked up by the local press and whether any statement is forthcoming from the council. When one considers the subject however, just how much local food do we as individual consumers buy?

Further details on the Spalding Guardian website.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nice Nairnshire

This week's edition contains a special cut-out NICE membership form plus an article about how the NICE plan for the town centre is going. NICE are still looking for your views too. More details in the Nairnshire Telegraph.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Jingle Bangle's Nairn in Winter Gallery

Available here..

How to fill in a pot-hole

One of our regular readers speculated whether this picture on pothole was in an oblique way an apt comment on the Highland Council's staffing and budget issues? The only guy in the picture working is labelled 'bloke from Poland' but perhaps if it were religiously applied to Highland Council he could be called 'bloke about to be paid off'?

Pothole News is a very interesting site and worth book-marking for the future as many of Nairn's roads are already showing the signs of this winter's damage and the repairs from last year are also starting to fray at the edges.

" is an independent website designed to help you, the motorist, assist your regional council, improve the state of your local roads and claim compensation if your vehicle has been damaged by potholes.

The UK motorist pours billions of pounds into the public purse through taxes, yet experts reckon there is an amazing £1 billion shortfall in funding for repairs. As a result, there is often a ‘patch and mend’ mentality when it comes to highway maintenance.

We just don’t think that is good enough and people are suffering from extra repair bills and sometimes even personal injury, simply because roads are not kept up to scratch."

There are some articles on the site dealing with Scottish pothole news, here's a piece from one of them: "South Ayrshire council have come to the realisation that they could be required to invest £90 million over the next few years to improve their road network to the point where it is up to the standards demanded by UK motorists."
One wonders what the Highland Council will need to keep its road network up to standard? Surely this will need central government intervention or our road network will simply fall to pieces and become unusable for ordinary cars? Where will the money come from however?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Gurnshire

Thanks from the Gurn team for all your contributions and visits over 2010, looking forward to more craic with you all in 2011.

"The Co-operative is combating climate change to make life good for everyone"

Why then the open door policy? This morning it is -6C and once again the front door of the Co-op/Sommerfield is literally open for business and will stay like that until closing time. How much more energy do you have to use on heating when you leave the front door open? 50%, 100% or 200% more? Obviously the cash loss from heat going out of the door is no problem to the Co-operative.

The Co-op make great store out of their efforts to fight climate change. A page on their website specifically mentions energy efficiency:

"The Co-operative is among the world’s leading businesses when it comes to taking up the challenge of tackling global climate change. Our approach to the issue is five-fold, focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy consumption and generation, carbon offsetting, the provision of finance and public policy lobbying. "

You can read the Co-op's climate change policy here. Perhaps the 750K investment didn't reach to a decent set of sliding doors?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rescue helicopter activity today?

Thanks to Jingle Bangles for this pic of what looks very much like the yellow bird from Lossie out in the Firth. There was quite a bit of activity by the helicopter around lunchtime today, maybe it was an emergency or perhaps just an exercise. Perhaps we'll hear more in the mainstream media in the morning?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Frozen Nairn

-13C last night?

We have one of the minimum-maximum thermometers at Gurn HQ. It's quite old however, so if anyone else can confirm that? Last night a motorist told us it was indicating -10C on her dashboard as she drove across Nairn at 21.15.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Sandown matters - compulsive holiday reading!

There can be few people that know more about the Sandown lands story/fiasco than the bonnie fechters of the Nairn Residents Concern Group. Perhaps the Public Inquiry Reporter might have surpassed their knowledge and grasp of it all during his deliberations but his knowledge of the situation will no doubt have faded somewhat by now. It is instructive then to read a copy of a letter that they sent to all 80 Highland Councillors prior to the discussion of Sandown at Glenurquhart Road on Thursday. The meeting in fact rubber stamped a recommendation by the officials to create a new development brief for Sandown but with a wee bittie more consultation of the population this time round the course.

The letter is a little long but recommended reading for all those that have shown a strong interest in all things Sandown up to now. Questions are being asked of Highland Council’s administration of the Sandown Lands on our behalf and also of the intention to put it on the market again. Get yourself a dram, or a cuppa and have a wee browse Gurnites and see what you think.

Serious students of Sandown matters may also be interested to know that the following questions have been submitted to Highland Council by the NRCG under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI):

1. In relation to the resiling of the Missives between THC and Deveron, associated with the development of Sandown Lands, did THC take action to recover lost costs i.e the £344.4k for the failure by Deveron to complete the contract? If not why not?

2. In relation to the costs incurred by THC for 'professional fees' of £344.4k. Please provide a detailed breakdown of this cost, essentially showing the costs for 'estate agents fees'

relating to the sale of the land, and every other individual set of 'professional costs' as they relate to the sale of Sandown?

3. In relation to the costs incurred by THC relating to 'the buy out of tenant farmer rights' of £390k. Again please provide a detailed breakdown of this cost, essentially showing the costs for 'legal fees' relating to this matter, and every other individual set of 'professional costs' associated with this event?.

4. In both matters if there are additional costs that are being 'written off' by THC please also provide a breakdown of these also.

5. Now that the Missives have been resiled, details of the financial amount offered by the developer for Sandown Lands no longer requires to be restricted, because the sale of the land will now be conducted under completely new conditions and in a different financial climate. Accordingly therefore, please provide the figure for the amount that was offered for Sandown Lands by Deveron in their missives of 17 Jan 07 and 7 Aug 07.

Nurn shingle

Another picture from Jingle Bangles. He wonders if anyone has thoughts about the change in the shingle build up adjacent to the west pier. Up until recently the deposits have had a smooth curved look to them but now there seems to have been a significant change even though it has been calm over the past couple of days.

Winter Solstice take 2

Thanks to Jingle Bangles, who caught the final moments of the shortest day.

On the way back

The shortest day is done and dusted.

Gurn pothole watch

A pothole at the pedestrian crossing at the bottom of the brae

Billy reports potholes forming again between Grant's Garage and the roundabout. Watch your suspension and/or you step too! The one above is particularly nasty and might trip a walker crossing the road. It is expanding everyday and bits of tarmac shoot out every time a vehicle passes which adds to the unpleasantness of trying to cross the road in the current conditions.

Want a say in how Nairn is developed? Why not join NICE?

Membership forms with details of the organisation and where to hand in your completed forms are now available. Time to have your say? Here's a copy to print off (googledoc format).


Nairn Leisure - at arm's length but in a 'super-company'?

Last month we reported on the Highland Council's perceived intention to put about £20 million pound's worth of services. Old news then but what is interesting is in the detail of a P&J report today concerning Moray leisure facilities. Moray Council has decided not to axe them. The devil is in the detail however:

"Proposals to close facilities such as Lossiemouth swimming pool and Tomintoul museum attracted widespread opposition from community groups.

Moray Council’s deputy convener, councillor Allan Wright, said that the administration was “committed” to establishing trust status for all council’s leisure facilities.

Some admission charges will be put in place to prepare for the change. Within the next year, the council plans to set up a trust, either by itself or with Highland Council"

So it seems the two councils have been talking to each other on the prospect of a joint trust. Would that bring benefits or dangers to the long-term future of Nairn Swimming Pool? Each pool, or museum for that matter, will have its own dynamics based on the local community's use. It might be hard enough to treat all pools in Highland fairly under the management of a trust and Nairn would still have to fight its corner. Would it make it even more difficult if we had to also compete with Elgin, Forres and Lossiemouth etc for the attention of a trust's management if further difficulties arose?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do NICE need to get NASTY?

Read this week's Nairnshire Telegraph Editorial - available now in analogue at the Co-op.

Nairn's £3.6 million loser?

I thought that the missing lottery ticket that could have made someone a millionaire was brought in the Highlands somewhere and today the Daily Telegraph is claiming:

"In March a "winner" turned loser in Nairn in Scotland when a £3.6 million pound win went begging."

That's enough to pay off the Nairn Common Good fund debts and still have a decent holiday.
Telegraph article here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bailey Bridge leak

The pipe across the Bailey Bridge is losing a lot of water, quite a lot of it freezing instantly under the bridge.

Language activists hit out at Bòrd na Gàidhlig

A specialist subject really for those Gurnites interested in Gaelic affairs. Here's a press release from the Gaelic organisation Taic:

Taic Chairman calls for public debate with the Head of the Gaelic Board.

The Chairman of TAIC, Alasdair Mearns, has challenged the head of the Gaelic Language Board, John Angus Mackay, to a public debate about the future of TAIC’s funding. The Board is to cut the funding they presently offer to TAIC by 100%, effectively closing the organisation down, and taking over TAIC’s community groups itself. The Board’s decision has been heavily criticised by parents and others throughout Scotland, as well as by international experts throughout the world. So far, no clear explanation for the decision has been given.
Dr. Mearn’s has said, “So far neither our directors nor I have been given a clear explanation for the Board’s decision. I’ve offered to speak to the Gaelic Board’s Directors and was refused, John Angus Mackay attended TAIC’s recent quarterly meeting but offered no explanation. I’ve asked them for more time to sort things out and even this was refused. It is a backward step and one which puts Gaelic development in danger. TAIC represent’s parents throughout Scotland, and in the last thirty years it has been the parents and activists who have driven Gaelic forward. Where were the people presently in charge of the Gaelic Board during those thirty years of struggle? Now they want to take charge! As TAIC’s chairman I have only one choice ahead, and that is to bring to public attention what they are trying to do behind closed doors. For that reason, I am asking John Angus Mackay to debate the issue publically, before the end of February at the latest.”
It is no secret that there have been issues between the Bòrd and Taic. The Bòrd's actions do seem very heavy-handed however, and potentially very damaging if parents and activists are alienated from the Government body supposedly charged with protecting Gaelic. Hopefully there will be a Christmas truce and the Bòrd will find another way forward on this issue. The last thing Gaelic needs is an internal nuclear war!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

NICE ideas - David Brown's views

David Brown has posted his thoughts on NICE's public meeting on Monday night, here's what he said on the NICE site:
Hello NICE people,
I attended your meeting on Monday last – well done on the amount of work put in in such a short time. A bit too much emphasis on the trunk road issues and a little less on attracting people to Nairn. Without proper attractions the “aspirations” may come to nothing. “Iconic” structures and pleasant approaches are great once people are in the town but what is going to get them here ? I have a few ideas you may want to think about and some thoughts on how to raise the pennies necessary. First I’ll locate your E-mail to forward some letters recently sent to our elected members, most of which fell on both deaf and closed ears.
Chat with you soon.
Have you got any NICE ideas for Nairn Town Centre? NICE want to hear from you.

A Town Council for Nairn - more evidence of public support

The Gurn has mentioned before the ongoing consultation about Community Council boundaries in Nairn. Up to now this 'consulatation' has been remarkedly low key and the people of Nairn have not had a proper opportunity to express their views. Even given the low profile however, 26 people made responses to the Highland Council review office (in Wick). Here's the results received by the Gurn from the Council yesterday. :

"Regarding your query, there were 26 responses received in relation to Nairn boundary matters during the second phase of consultation. Of these, 24 were in favour and 2 against the idea of a single Community Council for Nairn."

This Consultation has had a profile lower than low up to now but in spite of that 26 individuals went out of their way to make their views known.
This ties in with other evidence of how the population feels: see the Gurn side-bar poll, support for a single Council has consistently been at over 90% for weeks and over 235 people have voted now. A recent straw-poll from a public meeting, reported in the Nairnshire showed similar massive backing as did a survey of 150 plus individuals by Suburban CC last year.
The will of the people of Nairn is quite apparent - the town wants a single Council!

Friday, December 17, 2010

ASDA going to Court of Session to challenge Highland Council over Inverness planning matter

More details on the APT site.

Who’s deciding the cuts– officials or Councillors?

The combined Community Councils meeting on Wednesday night heard a worrying tale from John Mackie. He told the meeting about the forthcoming demise of the local Community Care Forum a local group that is a contact point for carers and users and seeks to resolve any complaints that arise in this arena.

He said members of the Highland Care Forum had been called in by Highland Council to be told that the funding would be pulled from June next year.

John told the meeting, “ I’m arranging a meeting with local councillors because it is my understanding is that they don’t know anything about it. This has come from the officials. I think we need to clarify that with the councillors.”

John was seeking support from West & River to send along representatives once a meeting had been fixed up and he received a sympathetic response from those present.

Is this just a mix-up somewhere in the Highland Council system or are officials deciding themselves what has to go? The corollary from that of course, is, are they deciding themselves what stays? At this time of funding crisis is the Council’s democratic apparatus falling apart as the cuts and the decisions of cuts are being made along at Glenurquhart Road.We need to know urgently if Councillor Mackie's understanding of the situation is correct.

ASDA tries to block Inverness New Town

We're going slightly off topic here (towards Inverness in fact).
The music stops for a moment and we get to see how the game is progressing. Do ASDA feel that they've unfairly been knocked off their chair this time round?
Planning Resource reports:

"Asda has applied to Scotland’s Court of Session for a judicial review of Highland Council’s decision to grant permission for the scheme in September.

Asda, which has permission to build a new store near to the proposed new town, says that permission was wrongly granted because a consultation on the council’s local plan had not been completed."
It's hard to the untrained eye to understand why a ASDA would not want an new town full of new customers built next door to one of its supermarkets but as the Sainsbury's public inquiry demonstrated in Nairn these issues can become incredibly complicated as supermarkets position themselves in the planning process. This time ASDA seem to be throwing the local plan and consultation into the Court of Session melting pot.

More details here, also an article now on the Press and Journal.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A chequebook account better than a Facebook account!

Micheal Green was present in the audience at the NICE meeting on Monday night and had some positive words of congratulation on the work achieved so far and hinted that perhaps the 'Nairn Fund' (an organisation set up by the late Bruce Barron and colleagues) could come into play once again for town centre matters.
Micheal told the meeting: "I think we should be looking at the Nairn Fund, how it was set up, how it could be implemented today because I think it would give us cash and give us time to get the town centre we want. It's all very well having a facebook account but a cheque book account is a lot better."

NICE - Monday night meeting - "The Community gets involved"

Here's the take 'from the horse's mouth' in the form of NICE's press release/notes of their meeting.

Note also in one of the posts below options on how best to view NICE's very own master-plan for the town centre.
Interest in the NICE Masterplan last Monday night (picture Murray MacRae)

The Royal Burgh of Nairn Community Council Forum?

Another well-attended meeting tonight in the Community Centre as West hosted colleagues from River and Suburban in a joint meeting. Sitting at the top table were Jimmy Ferguson, Brian Stewart, Seonaid Armstrong and Rosemary Young for West with Stephanie Whittaker and John Dolan for River and of course not forgetting, John MacKie, John Hart and Dick Youngson for Suburban. Murd Dunbar summed up the feeling of the meeting when he stated from the public benches how pleased he was to be able to attend a joint meeting as that meant he wouldn’t have to go round all of them to give them the latest update on his Firhall Bridge correspondence.

The main body of the meeting got down to the nitty-gritty of many important issues that are on the local radar at the moment. There was more debate on the Lodgehill Clinic flats (39 objections in on the Highland Council e-planning site now).

The meeting also heard about the town centre issue and the Community Councils’ involvement with NICE. There was a bit of debate about the ‘rival?’ South Nairn proposals before the meeting moved onto Sandown issues and here, many forthright views were expressed. The members of the public then heard comments about the Community Council review (see the gurn side bar poll for Gurnite views on the subject), there was an interesting analogy made; what sort of car will we get and what will the upholstery look like? Will Highland Council decide both?

John Mackie spoke about the local community care forum and its forthcoming demise – did local councillors even know about this or did it simpy.come from the officials?

West are looking for two co-opted members one with voting rights and one non-voting member, they will advertise in the Nairnshire for potential members. The meeting then closed and seasonal fare was on offer in the form of mulled wine and mince pies. A nice time was had by all.

Hopefully we will have time to expand on some of these news items over the next few days, we also have more to come from Monday’s NICE meeting if time permits.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Orange Bar

Thanks to Tommy for this pic of the late evening sun over the Old Bar earlier this week.

The rush to sell the town centre land – are the Inverness Bean Counters behind it?

The Q&A session got underway on Monday night and quickly a member of the audience asked why the Highland Council were in such a rush to put their town centre properties on the market.

Brian Stewart gave the audience NICE’s take on the situation. He stated that NICE were uncomfortable with Highland Council rushing into the sale for two reasons. It was not a great time to be selling land with the market depressed and if they rushed ahead with the sale then somebody might raise the money to buy it but then just sit on it. He mentioned the situation with Rosebank Church and the bus station.

NICE’s second reason was that with the sell-off of the site the town might get another piecemeal development without joined up thinking about what will happen to the land round about. Rosemary Young then asked the audience for comment.

Duthie Hay told the audience that he had asked Sandy Park in the Courthouse at a ward forum meeting if the sale was being driven by the bean counters in Inverness and he had replied that it wasn’t. Duthie then went on to speculate further on Sandy’s response and asked if he was just being a politician.
‘I think you’ve answered your own question,’ said Rosemary

A few of the NICE steering group members during a lull in the proceedings (picture Murray MacRae)

more from the meeting later

A NICE masterplan for Nairn Town Centre

The Gurn has obtained a copy of the NICE masterplan, we understand that more comments and postive feedback were received at Monday Night's meeting and thus another update to the masterplan may follow. Picture will enlarge. A version is also available in googledoc format here and for a high quality PDF pop over to the NICE site.
Also view various sizes on the Gurn Flickr pages.

More from the meeting on Monday night soon

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

“Disappointing Sandown”

Sandown obviously makes the front page of the Nairnshire and Iain Bain has comment from some of the main players: it is interesting to see that Sandy Park seems to be upset with comments from the recent press release by Nairn Residents’ Concern Group. He is quoted by the Nairnshire:

“A multi-million pound development is lost to Nairn. You can’t call that a Christmas present!”

It certainly has been a roller-coaster ride for Sandy – from the heady days of 2007 when a smiling Convener was pictured with Deveron MD Gordon Ramsay at Sandown having just completed the deal (image reproduced in the Nairnshire too), to last year when he fronted the public inquiry ‘home’ team against the Council’s very own preferred bidder, and now fast-forward to today, as the fall out from Sandown comes to rest alongside that of the town centre debacle – Sandown and the town centre have been inextricably linked in Highland Council’s failed policy.

Iain Bain goes further into the Sandown issue with another excellent perceptive editorial (worth the 40p investment for this alone) in which he looks back on the whole sorry affair and finishes with a practical solution for the Council – they will, after all, surely have to do something to get a bit of cash into the Common Good Fund which has fallen into debt on their watch?

"Nairn is Nairn! Keep it that way!"

A Nice evening - continued:
Perhaps Andrew Bex-Brown (91 years of age) went a little off topic but the former Edinburgh Councillor’s comments drew tremendous applause as he made the most memorable comments of the evening during the Q&A session. (See the post below for details of the meeting and a link to a copy of the NICE presentation). Here’s some of his words:

"Nairn is Nairn, it is not Inverness, it has got nothing to do with Inverness. It does not need Inverness to stand on its own right.

There will be attempts to concrete over all the good arable land between Inverness and Nairn. If you’ve got any sense at all – stop it!

We’ve got good arable land, we need to keep it and we need space to breathe and you won’t have any if Inverness gets its way.

Nairn is Nairn! Keep it that way!”

More from the meeting soon

Monday, December 13, 2010

NICE gets public mandate

Members of the public chatting to NICE steering group members after the meeting (picture will enlarge)

Seasoned observers of Nairn public/protest meetings will know that a crowd of 75 is pretty high up the Richter scale as far as these historical community events are measured, especially on a cold December night. NICE already had the backing of the town’s three Community Council’s, the Association of Nairn Businesses and Visit Nairn but after this evening's meeting in the Community Centre they now have the authenticity of ‘the people’ behind them. NICE now has street-cred and momentum – Highland Council would do well to listen to what the Nairn public wish for their town centre.

If you couldn't make it tonight then never mind the Gurn has obtained a copy of the presentation made by Jimmy Ferguson, Iain Bruce, Matthew Hilton, Mike Barnett. Rosemary Young was MC for the evening with Brian Stewart summing up.

Here's the NICE presentation in a googledoc format.

More soon - including the mannie who stole the show

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Deveron pull out "Best Christmas present for Nairn" say NRCG

John Hart of Nairn Residents Concern Group sent the Gurn their latest press release entitled "Best Christmas present for Nairn":

"After the victory for commonsense, when on the 14 May 2010 the Reporter decided to uphold the Council’s decision not to grant planning permission on a number of grounds, including: that the proposal did not comply with the Development Plan; the scale of development applied for would be excessive for the location and constitute overdevelopment; and that the likely effect on the character and appearance of the area of the density of development, building heights, reduced structural landscaping etc would be adverse; it would seem that Deveron have equally come to a commonsense decision and pulled out one year earlier than the 5 year contract window."

See more below for more details of Deveron homes request to Highland Council to allow them to pull out of their Sandown agreement.

Sandown - Deveron Homes want out - Council looks minded to let them go!

Also emphatic statement on who controls Nairn Common Good as debts head towards £3 million

UPDATE: Gurnites might be so minded to read the comment received on this post by Nairnbairn entitled "The stakes are very high - for everyone involved"

Item 25 on the Agenda next week at Glenurquhart Road asks members to allow Deveron out of their Sandown deal early. Basically they had option on the land via the missives for five years from the 10th August 2007. Now with land prices dropping and the reporter's decision they want out.
Sandown has turned into a bit of a nightmare for everyone. The Highland Council were hoping that £2.084 million from the sale would go to the cost of the community centre and now after getting dragged into the mess that some think is greatly of their own making they have incurred costs of £734.4K. The council has up to now agreed that these costs should be paid by the Common Good fund. The Common Good is now almost £3 million in debt and not even a single house has been built on Sandown yet to bring any cash back our way.

What happens next then? Well it looks like we are set to go round the course again. A report to the council form a bunch of high heid yins (William Gilfillan's name at the top of the list) states at item 4.1:

"The land at Sandown is a major unrealised asset to the Nairn Common Good. The offer from Deveron Homes was a substantial multi-million pound offer made at the height of the property boom and, although land values have significantly fallen since then, the site remains a significant residential development opportunity which would generate both local and national interest. The previous marketing of the site generated 12 firm offers and it is the view of officers that similar levels of interest could be achieved providing a clear Development Brief is agreed. Whilst the values obtained are unlikely to be of the same level of the Deveron Homes offer, there will still be a substantial receipt for the Nairn Common Good fund. As trustees of the Nairn Common Good Fund, the Highland Council has an obligation to obtain best value for its assets. "

Its going to be a bit different however, the Council having their fingers burnt the first time round now promise that a new development brief will involve 'working with the community '. Item 5.1 states:

"It is intended that the development potential of the Sandown site will now be reassessed with the preparation of a Development Brief. This Development Brief will be prepared taking into account the outcomes of the Public Local Inquiry and will involve working with local Members and the community on an indicative layout and mix of uses which is acceptable for this important gateway site to the town of Nairn."

Let's hope so. Let's get it right this time round. Maybe the best solutions will lie with the community and not with the failed policy of hoping that a developer will sort it all out for us. Read the full document being submitted to the council here.

This observer notes also in the document going to Highland Council that emphatic reference is made as to who has the final say on the Common Good fund. Nothing in there that reflects the sentiment that Sandy expressed at a word forum recently. i.e. that he was 99.9% certain that the Highland Council would not go against the wishes of the Nairn members concerning the Common Good fund. Here it is Gurnites - are you happy with this or do you think Nairnites should have more say in the decision making concerning the Common Good?

"Some members of the Nairn community have recently raised questions seeking clarity on who makes decisions on Common Good matters, particularly relating to the disposal of assets.
The Council’s policy is very clear on this:
“All 80 Elected Members of The Highland Council are “trustees for Common Good Funds and Associated Funds in relation to determining and delivering investment policy, including the purchase and disposal of trust assets, subject to the administration of these funds being delegated to Inverness City Committee or to officers” in terms of the Council’s Scheme of Delegation”. "

Friday, December 10, 2010

Doing anything Monday night? (13th)

Pushed back to the top for this Friday morning - a very important event on Monday night - will you be going? Any thoughts at all?

Picture will enlarge - it is an image of a half-page advert appearing in the Nairnshire today.

There is a broad consensus against the Plan B ‘Berlin Wall’ of flats proposed by Highland Council along the A96 in the town centre. The trick for NICE is to coherently harness that willing constituency into positive action to take things forward. There is agreement about what isn’t wanted but what does everyone want instead? Will NICE appear an attractive, credible outfit capable of gathering a public mandate to go further?

Much will depend on their presentation of the consultation data they have gathered thus far and any alternatives they present, including funding. And it is here they might fall into the massive trap that Iain Bain and many others think has been set for them in the form of the local authority telling NICE to go away and come up with money. Will the wider constituency against the Council’s Plan B want to sign up for the long haul and take things in that direction? Perhaps they will be content just to send more warning shots in the direction of Highland Council in the hope that something decent will emerge when the Council return at the end of January with their new plan?

Whatever happens a large turnout is necessary on Monday night – even if NICE goes no further a large crowd will focus the minds of Messrs Sandy, Laurie and Graham (our local government administration rulers) as time moves on towards the elections in May 2012. A really good scheme for the town centre might be one way they could win back a bit of good karma?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Nairn South looking nice?

(No pun intended). Gurnites will probably have read the Nairnshire report about the new/alternative proposal for housing at Balblair. The River CC folk distributed copies of a glossy brochure containing details of the plan the document entitled ‘Balblair , Nairn, Community Council Presentation 25th November 2010’. A very professional document containing details for 290 houses with a bridge over the railway to allow children to get to the Academy and presumably an opportunity for residents in the Western suburbs to go the other way too – perhaps to the river walks via Firhall? There’s lots of green bitties and new woodland including a shelter belt separating houses from the railway.

Lots of trees and big gardens by the look of it in a ‘holistic and pragmatic approach’. There will be a neighbourhood centre with community facilities and small business space. What wins full marks from this observer however, is provision for what looks like 30-40 allotment spaces and a football pitch. ‘Come on Souuuuuuuuth Nirrrrnn FC?’ This is only one alternative piece for the jig-saw that will become the inevitable development in South Nairn (Fàilte gu Inbhir Narann a deas - for the bilingual signs?) but perhaps one day we could even see Firhall City playing Nairn County in a Highland league derby?

What a pity a similar lower density plan wasn’t put forward for Sandown.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cinema Nairn - which film won the popular vote?

To see which film won the members' vote for Cinema Nairn's December film head over to their website. 'It was a surprise result but the people have spoken,' says a source from the organisation and Cinema Nairn are showing it next Friday, the 17th. Followed on Sat 18th by a classic - The Pink Panther.

On-line weekly shop - finally done it!

Prisoners of the Co-op no more! Mrs Gurnmeister has taken delivery of the weekly shop from a very nice and helpful ASDA lady. Lots of items you just can't get in Nairn - it was like being reunited with a busload of old friends. Went like a dream - good value and only £3.50 for the delivery. Co-op say goodbye to the larger part of the cash we have been handing over every week.

The Nairn Golf Festival

Jazz & Books? There's a new festival on the block now that might appeal to a much wider constituency. The Nairn Golf Festival.

River CC's missing planning submissions

Tommy Hogg enlightened the meeting last night as to what had happened to three submissions from River CC to planning applications. An increasingly frustrated Tommy had made great efforts to find out what had happened to material submitted that Highland Council had trouble in finding in the system. After all, it reflects personally on the member responsible for submitting the material when it cannot be found by the organisation at the other end. It is easy for casual observers to consider that perhaps the submissions had not been posted in such instances.
After requesting a meeting to hammer out just what was going on an official finally realised what had happened and put the Council's collective hand's up. The Highland Council planning department had been sending out material on paper with an old letter head that should have been destroyed. The Community Council submissions had gone to what was literally a 'dead' letter box.

River CC to object to Lodgehill Clinic flats proposal

There was a good attendance at the River CC meeting last night, some of those on the public benches were there to gather support against the planning application for 11 flats on the Lodgehill Clinic site. River members gave the application considerable debate, this is the second application for the site, the first one was withdrawn and reammended but not before it too had gathered considerable opposition. The meeting was told that this building would actually be higher than the last proposal. Friday is the closing date for submissions on this application so someone from River CC will no doubt be busy drafting a letter this morning, they are concerned about the height and density of this building, worried that it will have no lifts and that it will cause parking difficulties whilst being out of keeping with the area.
This observer believes the River are right to back the residents in this area. The residents are being entirely reasonable and realistic, indicating that they have no objection to a smaller development of two stories on this site. If the new planning process is genuinely all about compromise and community consultation then hopefully they will get the size of the development reduced. If something inappropriate does go ahead then we all suffer - we have to look at it as we go past!
Anyone minded to support the residents still has until Friday to do so and this can be done by a quick submission on the Council's e-planning site.

'Leave the niceties to NICE'

The words in the title of this post are the concluding words of Councillor Leslie Boulton of River CC as the vote had been taken in the Communty Centre music room last night and treasurer Iain Gordon walked across the room to give a cheque for £100 to NICE steering group member Brian Stewart (at the meeting as an observer).
River CC fell into line with the town's other two community councils last night and gave NICE £100 towards the nascent organisation's operating costs so far.
It didn't happen without some debate however with Chair Jeanne Tolmie opposing the move . She had been 'taken aback' to be asked for the money in the middle of the Post Office. Tommy Hogg didn't object to the £100 but wanted to know why the Association of Nairn Businesses and the Visit Nairn tourism association were not contributing anything especially when the Business people had received £15,000 off the Streetscape to promote the town (some of that seems to be going on a Moray Firth Radio ad). After some considerable debate the issue went to the vote with only Mike Henderson backing Jeanne.

This observer images the £300 now in the NICE kitty will not go very far once the advertisement in the Nairnshire is paid and the cost of halls etc. If anyone feeling strongly about the Town Centre is also in a generous mood this morning then I'm sure the NICE people will be happy to hear from you, alternatively you could give them a donation at the public meeting on the thirteenth.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Any chance of a wee yellow bin at the Firhall Bridge ?

Just for the winter? Pictures before and after of the steps at Firhall, cleaned up by regular riverside walkers but not before a wifie took a tumble on the icy steps according to one of our river walk correspondents. Obviously the town boys have got lots of other more dangerous spots to get to first but if a salt bin were put at the bridge for the winter then the usual suspects could keep the steps safe with a handful of salt whenever necessary. Rumour has it that these bins cost £30 - surely that would be a good investment in public safety as whatever the weather a lot of folk continue with their constitutional?

Multi-lingual signs going up now?

Regular Gurnite Duncan points us in the direction of the new multi-lingual Cradlehall School in Inverness. Here's a picture he took Duncan wonders if we'll see the same in Nairn - well Millbank and the Academy already have bilingual ones but perhaps a few more languages now have to be added?
It is a good point he raises in these times of austerity though, if a sign badly needs a replacement then that is the time to go bi-lingual - the times of doing it simply as policy will probably be on hold now.

What the Highland League is all about for the fans

Donald pointed me in the direction of an article by Dave Innes at Aberdeen Voice. If anyone wants to know what the Highland League is all about read this article: Never mind the ba’, get on wi the game

Also on a football theme Inverness Daily Photo has a picture of David Stewart & Tony Blair on the park at Caley back in 1997. 'The Winning Team.'

Realfeel Nairn - it's kicking in - 129C

Thanks to Paddy for the picture

Sunday, December 05, 2010

No game for Nairn County but the side trains indoors

Pictures from Donald Matheson of Wee County players getting some training in at the Highland Sports Academy.
This bad weather is frustating for players, fans and management alike as County were steadily climbing the table and a sense of excitment was in the air at Station Park. Hopefully they will get a proper run-out soon!

Nairn Town Centre - Margaret Mackintosh makes her views known to NICE

She expresses her thoughts over on the NICE site:

'Why are Highland Council not using the powers they have to serve notice to remedy the problems and make safe, on the private owners of Petrol Station, Regal Bar, Bus Station, Rosebank Church which have such a detrimental effect and visual impact on Nairn.
Section 179 of the 1997 Town and Country (Scotland) Act'

NICE need your views too - if you have any ideas on how to put the town centre right pop over to NICE and have your say.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Nairn Allotment Society goes online

The Gurn is delighted to present a new blog/site on the block. Nairn Allotment Society are still putting up some information here and there and may change the layout a little but they're now online.

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.’

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Single Community Council (Town Council) issue

A Town Council for the Royal Burgh of Nairn? Will Sandy and Laurie see to it that the Community gets at least a proper debate before the consultation deadline on the 31st of January?
216 votes now in on the Gurn Poll in the side bar - 200 (92%) want a Single Council and 16 against. Evidence too in this week's Nairnshire of how the public think on this issue. Will the views of the community be ignored?

How to make Nairn town centre NICEr - have you got any ideas?

Tez Watson has commented over on the NICE site:

Every time I pass the old filling station on King Street I think “if only someone would tear down that flipping canopy” because the wee building hidden by it is not that ugly by comparison to some other eyesores.
As regards the bus garage I have a kind of wacky idea – park an old double decker bus in one of the end bays, use the top deck as a projection room and the lower deck as the ticket booth, etc for a community cinema. When not being used for screenings the place could make a spacious art gallery. The fabric of the building seems to be tatty rather than derelict and in these ‘strapped for cash” times we should make good what is still standing.

Still time to put your ideas in before the NICE public meeting on the town centre on the 13th of December. Pop over to the NICE people and have your say.

Trainless Friday in the Highlands

Let's hope this weather doesn't last too long. Scotrail has put the white flag up and there are no trains north of the central belt it seems. More on the BBC site

Former Social Club - work to start in the new year

So reports the Inverness Courier. Peter Moore was given his Drinks Licence for the premises on Tuesday at the Highland Licensing board. The work is expected to take around six months according to the paper.

Lowest temperature for Nairn last night?

Brian's car was probably correct to tell him it was -10C at 20.30 last night.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Snow clearing - Praise for the Co-op

This from one of our regular correspondents:

THE Coop gets enough slagging off about their prices but a young member of staff at the High Street shop deserves a pat on the back for the superb job he has done of completely clearing the pavement of snow. Duncan Strath was out with his shovel making sure at least one stretch of the High Street was safe for shoppers. Even his dad Tommy who doesn't work in the store mucked in.
Surely this is an opportunity for Nairn shopkeepers to steal a march on the pulling power of the Eastgate Centre.
One pensioner made the point if every shop in the town centre made a little effort and followed this young lad's example it would make Nairn a safer shopping environment and encourage people to come 'down the street' to do some of their Christmas shopping.
We cannot expect our council staff to do everything for us. In times like these we all need to play our part. If shopkeepers took responsibility for clearing the pavements it would allow limited council resources to be diverted to other areas of need. Come on you shopkeepers, show you mean business and get out these shovels. Well done Duncan

Cold weather continues but no more snow so far (weds evening)


After last year's prolonged cold spell the town seems to be better prepared this time round. There seems to be more grit available for the roads and paths and although the bad weather came early there is a determination to get on with life as much as possible.
More pictures here from yesterday (Wednesday)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Time for a footpath gritting priority map?

We received a comment suggesting that some paths in the town were getting preferential treatment. A comparison was made between the path out the Cawdor Road to Firhall and the footpath/cycle path to the Academy and the state of the West End. Our anonymous commentator thought the West End paths would be up to the standard of the path to Firhall and made suggestions as to why this would be. We won’t go there but I can inform him/her that they are wrong. The West end looks the same, or perhaps worse, than everywhere else just as it was last year. Whilst checking the state of the Firhall path (it was in pretty good condition having had the snow removed to a great extent) a council vehicle arrived to give it another ploughing/gritting.

All over town it looks as though the pavements have received a gritting but very few are up to the standard of the Firhall path yet. Is this because it is beside a main road? The paths beside the A96 have been fairly thoroughly sorted too. Our anonymous correspondent did say, ‘The footpath from Lodgehill Road to the school, which is used by hundreds of pupils and pedestrians has of course not been touched.’ Well it has been gritted but again compared with the state of the Firhall path it is in a very poor state indeed.

There is a map available which shows us which roads get gritted first. Perhaps one should be produced to show which footpaths are priority, thus residents would know if they were getting a fair share of the work done according to the said priorities?

It's all relative however and please bear in mind that these are extreme conditions and the town guys are working very hard - remember for some of them their long-term employment prospects are now somewhat uncertain and it must be hard for them to maintain their morale in such circumstances.