Monday, January 31, 2011

Analysing the Editorial – Licensing Control

As we wait with growing excitement for the next issue of the Nairnshire. (just after 8 p.m. in the Co-op for the hardcore), let’s look back at last week’s editorial.

Iain Bain doesn’t hold back when it comes to criticising Inverncentric policies and once again he was alerting readers to this process and the problems it brings us here in Nairn. Gurnites will of course know that Liz was recently refused permission to speak to the Licensing Board. There is now no Nairn representative on the Board. Further information on Liz being refused permission to speak available in analogue: “Councillor MacDonald hits out at being ‘humiliated by Licensing chairman.” Nairnshire 18/01/11.

Ian Bain begins his editorial: “The control of licensed premises is an important aspect of local authority and it is one which is slipping from view below the Nairnshire horizon.”

It is quite incredible really that this important function has disappeared from the second biggest town in the Highlands. Why didn’t our three administration councillors (Sandy, Laurie, and Graham) stop it. Are they content to see important parts of Nairn’s identity as a civic unit slip away?

Further into his editorial Iain states:

Cllr Park has suggested that the local licensing court meetings of yore were short but even if they were apparently perfunctory in their brevity there is potential for local implication. These are matters which deserve to be overviewed at the local level, at the moment for instance there are arguments over curfews in Nairn which appear to have been misunderstood by those who administer the Inverness based board. This is the nightmare of civic ignorance that Nairn people fear from over-zealous council centralisation.”

An editorial well worth a read if you haven’t done so already. This observer believes the majority will agree with Iain Bain's analysis. The question is what can we do to get some power back in Nairn? One major move forward would be to get a Town Council (possible in a flash by combining the three community councils), to counter the centralising pull of Inverness. The only trouble is it is our Highland Councillors that will decide on Community Council review, will they let Nairn have that or will they prefer Nairn's potential strong civic voice and identity divided into three separate parts?

in the Co-op for the hardcore), let

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Buckie 3 Nairn 1

Pictures from club photographer Donald Matheson. Individual pictures here.


Sandy on the By-pass

Sandy gave one of his regular by-pass updates in the Courthouse on Wednesday night:

“The by-pass obviously is of interest to everybody. There was a meeting last week of Tech services and planning with Transport Scotland and that is obviously part of the work that is ongoing, it is progressing very well. There will be a follow-up meeting with Techs on the 24th of February. The findings of the study is still expected in spring 2011. That will define the preferred line for the by-pass and thereafter there will be a full public consultation. I must just say we’ve lost a tremendous supporter with the loss of Stewart Stevenson. Stewart Stevenson was a tremendous supporter for group that has been having regular meetings over the last couple of years. I was very disappointed that he had to go. Sam MacNaughton of Techs is very hopeful that we can keep the pressure up.”

Sandy then indicated that we would have to be ready to keep the pressure up after the election and that things had now progressed further than they ever had before.

Projecting clock for Castle Lane

Here at the Gurn we had heard a rumour of a projecting clock that would shine onto the presently rather drab looking cobbled bittie outside the former jobcentre in Castle Lane. We’d heard it would hang from the side of Orcadia House and project down from there. At Wednesday’s ward forum Louise Clark indicated such a clock was on the way. Might be best to give that area a regular hosing down however, when a wind blows down the High Street it seems to deliver quite a lot of dust into that area.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Greyscale picture but not a grey day in Nairn

Rosebank Church flats go ahead

Thanks to Jingle Bangles who reports that the conversion of Rosebank Church into 9 flats has been given the go-ahead. You can see the permission document and conditions here.

7,000 recycled PC's coming up for groups and organisations

Further details on the Nairn Allotment Society site.

Housing Expo loss means Highland Council don't get 100K back

"SCOTLAND'S Housing Expo made a £514,000 loss on running costs, meaning the organisers cannot afford to return the £100,000 of taxpayers' money provided at the 11th hour to underwrite the event."
There were those that were warning it would be hard for the Expo to make any money and others that said that if it were Scotland's Expo then Scotland should pay for it rather than just the Highlands. Maybe the Expo was a success in other ways but financially it looks a bit of a mess. Now those on Highland Council that voted for it seem to have a digital uprising on their hands. Many Courier readers regularly express their disappointment with the Council on the Courier site but now that tangible anger seems to have increased by several notches if the comments on the Courier web page are anything to go by. In years gone by this type of event would have passed by without so much uproar but now with cuts going to the marrow let alone the bone every penny spent at Glenurquhart Road comes under forensic scrutiny from the public and the internet gives them the tools to have their say. More from the article here.

UPDATE - that Courier article has now received 55 comments (31/1) and very angry comments they are too.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Talking about Nairn South

The Gurn understands that River CC will have a representative of Major Allenby, a Mr Evans, at their next meeting on the 8th of February at the Community Centre starting at 6.30 p.m. to discuss the proposal for housing on the Major's part of what planners are calling "Nairn South". It could be quite a busy meeting. Book now to avoid disappointment?

Cor nan Rathaidhean

Feumaidh tu a bhith faiceallach na dhraibhear ann an Inbhir Narann. Chan ann a-mhàin a tha na cunnartan abhaisteach air do bheulaibh ach tha agad seorsa de slalom a dheanamh gus na tuill as miosa a sheachnadh. Chan e rud math a tha sin idir, idir gu h-araidh nuair a tha coisichean faisg air làimh. An t-seachdain seo chaidh thàinig beagan fuasgladh air a’ chuis. Direach as dèidh a nochd dealbhan den bad na bu mhiosa den A96 air loidhne, sgriobh Fearhas MacEòghain BPA post-dealain do na ceannaird aig BEAR Alba, ‘s ann le iadsan a tha an dleasdanas airson an A96. Thuirt e gum biodh e a’ toirt sùil air na tuill e-fhein aig an deireadh seachdain. Cha d’fhuair e cothrom ge-tà. Chaidh an lionadh sa bhad, seadh ‘s e càraidh sealach a bh’ann ach thill iad aig ceann sia laithean eò agus dh’obraich sgioba mòr, mòr feadh na h-oidhche gus a h-uile càil a chur ceart buileach glan.

Gu mì-fhortanach san fharsaingeachd chan eil mòran dòchas ann nam bheachd-sa agus chan ann an Inbhir Nàrann ach samhla air ciamar a tha cùisean air feadh na Gaidhealtachd agus. Tha an Riaghaltas air £15 muillean a' gealltainn do na h-ùghdarrasan ionadail gus leasachadh a thoirt air cùisean. Gheibh Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd £1.6 muillean as dèidh a h-uile sgillean de bhuidseat geamhradh nan rathaidean a chosgadh mu thràth.

Tha fhiosam nach eil e furasta coltas a dhèanamh eadar Siorrachd Lincoln ann an Sasainn ach a-rèir am BBC tha iadsan a’ gearain gu bheil £300 muillean a dhìth orra gus na rathaidean a charadh gu ceart. A-nis ‘s e Siorrachd mhòr a th’ann an Lincoln le sluagh de 700,000 le grunn bailtean mora agus pailteas rathaidean eadarra dìreach mar a tha moran sgìrean ann an Alba. Saoil de a chosgadh e gus a h-uile toll a chur ceart ann an Alba? £1,000,000,000 ‘s dòcha? Saoilidh mi gum bi beachd aig na h-eòlachean agus rudeigin na laighe air sgeilp air choireigin ann an Taigh an Ròid. Ciamar as urrainn do Alba fiù ‘s toiseach toiseachaidh a chur air doigh. Chan eil ach gainnead airgid agus gearraidh tro na cnaimh agus an uair chun smior air ar.beulaibh. A bheil dòigh idir faighinn as an staing a tha seo?Bidh feill mhor air na Land Rovers agus 4x4 no dad sam bith le deagh suspension sna bliadhnaichean a tha romhainn, faodaidh tu a bhith cinnteach as.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"VC war hero's legacy"

"A BOOK on the life story of a First World War hero born near Cawdor - who won the Victoria Cross after he knocked out a German machine gun post in the trenches of France - is going to help refurbish the British Legion hall in Nairn."
More from this article by Donald Wilson on the Highland News site.

Here's a picture of David Shillabeer of Nairn British Legion holding a copy of the book about the Cawdor-born VC winner in front of a display dedicated to John MacGregor VC. Picture from Murray MacRae.

UPDATE: the Gurn has been informed that a web site has been created by Iain Fairweather to honour the memory of John MacGregor VC, MC and Bar, DCM

Latest NICE masterplan for Nairn town centre.

Following last night's Ward Forum the Gurn has been informed that NICE have tweaked the masterplan to reflect concerns raised by both the Co-op and the Highland Council.
The latest vision for our town centre ("for the people, by the people" in this observer's humble opinion) can be seen here.

Harsh winter on the High Street surface too?

A few wee patches seem to be coming up on the new road surface just in front of the two parking spaces outside the Caley. Let's hope we don't see too much of this.

Could Highland Council, still in theory say, sell, Nairn Swimming Pool even if it came under an ALO?

Cllr Graham Vine (West Scythe Story?) had three written questions concerning the proposed ALO, (Arm's Length Organisation) that will take control of most of the Highland Council's Leisure and Culture facilities, answered at the Ward Forum last night. To see the other questions and the replies click here.

PS. A lot of material coming out of the Ward Forum last night plus other posts over the last 24hours, scroll down the Gurn for details.

Coming later today - What Sandy had to say about the by-pass.

NRCG FOI question 5

Here’s number 5 from a series of questions that Nairn Residents Concern Group submitted to Highland Council recently under the Freedom of Information Act plus the answer from the Council:

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.

The offer of purchase from Deveron Homes was for £22,340,978. As with all the other offers received and as is normal practice in the development industry the offer was subject to various suspensive conditions including obtaining a satisfactory planning permission to the developer.

Nairn as described by the Qwiki machine

Hey Mrs Computer wifie - Nairn is still a Burgh and Nairnshire still exists!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Looks like a LibDem wifie liked it anyway

All aspiring polictians do the tweet thing these days.

Sandy on Sainsbury's

Earlier tonight in the Courthouse Sandy spoke about Sainsbury's.
"As far as Sainsbury's is concerned, I think the proposal to tax these successful supermarkets is causing a wee bit of a ripple but I'm confident that Sainsbury's will be coming to Nairn and hopefully withing the next 2 or 3 weeks we'll be getting the starting date - hopefully."

West offers 'friendly' signs to keep dogs off the beach

It emerged last year that the dog ban on the Central beach was unenforceable in law. Tonight Graham Vine of West Community Council reminded the Council that the West CC had offered money for 'friendly' signs requesting people to keep their dogs off the Central Beach leaving it free for kids and families.
Louise Clark said she was aware that the offer was still on the table and she would follow it up. Wait a minute isn't the Central Beach in the River CC area? :-)

Seasonal Traffic Warden coming

The Ward Forum heard tonight from Inspector Willie MacLennan that he is just about to advertise for a seasonal traffic warden. An advert will soon be appearing in the Nairnshire Telegraph, it is envisaged that the post will be from April to October.

Town Centre – Highland Council’s plan now looks a lot NICEr

When it came down to it the Highland Council went a long way to meet the concerns of the community and the plan they showed the Ward Forum meeting looked a lot like the Nice plan with a wee bit of tweaking. It should be up on the Highland Council website tomorrow the meeting was told. The Co-op and the Roads Authority did have a bone or two to pick with the NICE plan and Highland Council’s Tim Stott tried to address these with the Highland Council version.
There will be a meeting next week of Highland Council, NICE, the Community Councils and a few others. Well done everyone who agitated for something better for
Nairn Town Centre, there’s still a long way to go but tonight’s meeting has steered things on to the right track..
More from this Ward Forum topic soon if time permits.

Sandown - Looking forward but the past won't go away!

John Mackie opened this item on last night’s Suburban CC agenda by mentioning that the Community Council had contacted the Highland Council about taking the proposed parkland project on the Sandown lands forward but had heard nothing from the Council.

Sandy explained that whilst Deveron technically hadn’t given up at that stage there was nothing that could be done but things were moving on near and he would speak to the planners on that. He said: “The next stage is to form a new development brief and that is where the community and community councils will get involved. There will be plenty of consultation in that department, that is for definite.”

John Mackie thought that having a park in situ would bring things on. John Hart was next to speak he stated: “ The other angle is the charging of the Common Good Fund for the costs for whatever has happened at Sandown, it transpires the sum total was seven hundred and thirty-four thousand. A lot of it was actually expended in 2000/2001 and has never been brought to account until 2009/10, that’s why the 734 amounts to that because it has taken this long to decide to bill the Common Good Fund. I don’t understand how anything this is over six years old can be billed after it has happened.”

John continued for a little longer before Sandy replied and he said: “”The auditor, everyone was aware that that money was sitting there until such time as we went through another process of joint/major partnership with Sandown Land - which didn’t work. So then all the legal costs were added up. It is now with the development going belly-up we now have to release all the charges to the Common Good. I think the Council has been very fair to the Common Good over the years. It’s not asking for the money to be repaid because we can’t repay it, we haven’t got any money to repay it. So, if and when a development goes ahead that money will be due to Highland Council. I have no qualms about that, It’s all above board.

A heated exchange of views then continued for a minute or two between Sandy and John before John Mackie intervened with a sage comment:

“It’s something that will go on and fester for a long time but it’s done and we have to move on.”

Sandown will move on but the legacy of the failed development is a spectre that will not be easily banished and may well hover over the ballot boxes at the next Highland Council elections. It is comforting however, to know that a new consultation process is on the way and hopefully the Suburban CC’s vision of a parkland will come to fruition. (see this post for a breakdown of the Sandown charges to the Common Good Fund).

opened this item on last night

Doing anything tonight? (Weds 26th)

Tonight Highland Council will be presenting their latest plans for Nairn Town Centre. The Ward Forum meeting starts at 7.00 p.m. in the Courthouse. If you still have concerns then this could be your last chance to make your views known.

The Supermarket Tax - Fergus's view

Sainsbury's say they might not come to Nairn or expand at all in Scotland because of the Scottish Government's proposed Supermarket Tax. In the Courier Fergus gives his view on the situation:

"My MSP colleagues have calculated that across the UK, Sainsbury, for example, take £2.5 million per hour - which is broadly equal to their share of one year of the levy for the whole of Scotland. They make in one hour, the amount we are asking them to pay in one year. Hardly the end of the world. As the local MSP, I have supported the case for Sainsbury's to come to Nairn as I have ASDA to come to Inverness. I have worked at length behind the scenes to work towards that aim."

Read the full article here: 'Tesco Tax' will not be a burden for supermarkets

Gurnites might have also have read the letter in the Nairnshire from Susie Alexander in which she attacks plans for Sainsbury's to come to Nairn and supermarkets in general for the damage she feels they do to town centres. She States:

"It is reported that Sainsbury's had "incredible support form the whole community". This statement is neither credible nor true and far from being a"absolutely devastated" if the superstore does not go ahead I, as one of a significant minority would welcome it."

This observer would contend that a generous estimate might be that Susie is in a minority of 10%. Sainsbury's does have incredible support and if they come to Nairn they would deliver us a supermarket fit for the new millennium, bring badly needed jobs and give people an alternative to driving to Forres, Inverness or Elgin in search of what other communities take for granted. I remember from the public inquiry that it was suggested around 80% of this communitie's weekly shop happens out of town. There's plenty more that can be said about the benefits of a supermarket at Balmakeith but that debate was had and won with "incredible support" about two years ago and we are still waiting.

Susie's letter is on page 6 of this week's Nairnshire.

Coastguard 4x4 - Sun follows up story in the Nairnshire

The Sun has the story plus a picture.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Costs to the Common Good Fund from Sandown - Total £734,410.78

At the Suburban CC meeting this evening this observer was given a copy of the costs charged to the Common Good by the Highland Council in connection with Sandown. Tip - you will have to click on the image twice in most browsers to see the correct magnification.
The costs start in the financial year 2000/1. This document was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the NRCG. The document had already been highlighted, not sure why.

The Sandown Lands were on the agenda at the meeting of the Suburban CC this evening ,more later. Sandy and Laurie were also in attendance.
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Finding out about GME (Gaelic Medium Eduction)

Sanas Comann nam Pàrant Inbhir Narann anns an Nairnshire Telegraph.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nairn 5 Brora 0

Pictures from club photographer Donald Matheson

Individual pictures here, full screen slideshow here and here for Kenny MacLeod's match report.

The Old Playhouse Cinema in Church Street

This building has been known more recently as the Social Club. Jason Rose of Cinema Nairn has been inside to record for posterity what remains of the former cinema. The building will soon be renovated completely and given a new lease of life as a Sports Bar.

Nairn seafront - a major jobbie hotspot?

This came in last night from Greg:
"Gurnites should take a walk from the Golf View along to the swimming pool before it rains, and check out how many dog turds there are. I took a walk this afternoon and spray painted them all yellow, in an attempt to "highlight" the issue, and even I was shocked at the vast quantity. I used a whole tin of industrial road marking paint, I had intended to carry on as far as the harbour, but my tin was empty ! Hopefully the irresponsible owners will now realise themselves how bad it is and be shamed into picking up, as the Council clearly aren't doing anything."
Earlier this morning a Gurn reporter went down for a look. There was plenty of the yellow stuff that is for sure and where the yellow stuff stopped it was back to the brown stuff and there was no shortage as one headed towards the harbour. Now a hard-core of dog-owners are letting the community down with their stone-age attitudes - it is so last century to let your dog shit and not pick it up. You should be ashamed of your selfish unhealthy behaviour. Down the prom this morning one of the more responsible dog owners told the Gurn how he regularly "jars" offenders when he sees them leaving jobbies behind. That's one way forward here Gurnites - tell these folk what you think of them!
Well done Greg for your imaginative way of pushing the turd situation along the seafront up the agenda a little.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A must read letter - Nairnshire Partnership not working?

NICE have submitted a five page letter (plus four annex pages) to the Highland Council ahead of the Ward Forum meeting next Wednesday (26th 7.00p.m. at the Courthouse). NICE are not only setting out their stall but stating what the Community should expect from their Council. This letter is a ‘must read’ for all serious students of Town Centre Planning affairs. The meeting will be a ‘must attend’ too for all those who were appalled at the Council’s ‘Plan B’ design for the Town Centre. Wednesday night will demonstrate how far the Highland Council have moved to accommodate the wishes of the people of Nairn.

Here’s a couple of extracts from the annex pages which highlights one of the perceived failings in a part of the apparatus set up by the Council in response to Scottish Government guidance – that is The Nairnshire Partnership'

The first is NICE’s own view

‘It is of course true that the Nairn(shire) Partnership exists as a collective formal group. Evidence exists that it has ceased to offer a genuine forum for the development of a shared vision, but serves primarily a vehicle for the local authorities to make announcements and deliver vision. The emergence of other groups – of which NICE is only the most recent – is a clear sign that the Nairnshire Partnership is not fulfilling the role envisaged in the official guidance.

And here’s information from Planning in Small Towns (PAN 52), a guidance document from the Scottish Government which NICE quote in the document they have sent to the Council.

“The regeneration of town centres will not, however, happen by chance; it requires a shared vision, positive planning policies and carefully targeted investment in new development, redevelopment, refurbishment and environmental improvement, including the management of traffic.”

“Many [Scottish] towns have experienced or are undergoing significant change; but this needs to be handled with care if their inherent qualities, which makes them distinctive, are not to be eroded. Retaining these qualities, building on them and attempting to restore the traditional vitality of small towns are therefore key tasks which cannot be undertaken by planning authorities acting alone or working with an agency; the involvement of local community and business organisations is essential in understanding the town, considering the scope for change and setting out a co-ordinated programme of action. Vision, imagination and urban design skills are also essential ingredients if small towns are to respond to rising expectations and the demands of the modern economy while safeguarding their built heritage.”

There’s a lot more to read in the NICE letter. Forget the Sunday supplements, get right up to date with Town Centre affairs by reading the letter. The Highland Council planners might be drawing up the future for us but it is Nairn residents that will have to live with it not them – let’s make sure we get something we all want!

David Hannah leaves County

16 Hannah in discussion
Picture Donald Matheson
The News broke yesterday on Highland Today there will be an 08.30 pitch inspection but after a relatively mild night in Nairn surely the match against Brora will go ahead.?How will things pan out without Hannah's presence in the defence however?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday night is pothole repair night!

A massive squad of BEAR vehicles, plant and employes down on the A96 tonight fixing the potholes. Temporary repairs were made last week after Fergus Ewing sent off an e-mail to a few high heid yins asking when things would be sorted. He inspected the road surface for himself last Saturday and now a major effort is underway - coincidence?

Claymore controversy

There was a huge turnout at the West CC on Wednesday night. A lot of people were there highlight their objections to the proposed redevelopment of the Claymore House Hotel in Seabank Road. Already quite a few objections have been received. Here at Gurn HQ we would bet that this one builds up a head of steam similar to the Lodgehill Clinic campaign. Gurnites can see the plans and browse the objections here. (tip - click on the documents not the comments to see comments)

Slightly lighter nights

How refreshing to have a few extra minutes of light every evening now and during the day sometimes skies with a real promise of blue. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on this observer's part but has the grass rediscovered a little colour? Here and there in Nairn some of the less shy Snowdrops are ready to perform and along the river the Butterburs have surfaced.

Highland Council proposed funeral charge rise of 17.5% - Liz speaks out!

A proposal to increase fees for burials and cremations way beyond the rate of inflation has been deferred for now by Highland Council. Liz spoke out:

"Nairn councillor Liz MacDonald said: “I have grave concerns about this. People in the Highlands earn 94% of the average wage in Scotland and so they should pay 94% of the average for this service. This would make a significant difference. A price hike would have a huge impact on locals. Just to take a national figure is not acceptable.” "

More in the Press & Journal. How about sacking the official that came up with this outrageous idea and seeing how much that would save? Some things should only rise in line with inflation and this is one of them.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Talking ‘arm’s length’ blues

The West folk’s ‘pulling power’ was demonstrated again last night as they had the privilege of three of our four Highland Councillors supplementing their, once again, strong turnout on the public benches although perhaps folk were primarily there to raise concerns over a planning application concerning the Claymore – more on that if time permits later this week but for now let’s examine all this ‘Arm’s Length Organisation’ stuff.

Oor Sandy introduced this item, highlighting how ALO companies have taken over Council facilities elsewhere and given the severe budget pressure how Highland Council were moving towards this goal themselves with an ALO proposed to take over the Swimming Pools, the libraries, museums and other facilities. Sandy left the meeting in no doubt that much of what happens in the future will be down to the community and he said:
“Even as we go through this process we still have to get over and over very strongly that our swimming pools and all our leisure facilities have to be used, if we don’t use them we will certainly lose them.”

And then it was over to the Mannie from Glenurquhart Road, Ian, sorry Sir, the Gurn reporter didn’t catch your surname. Members of the public were spared the usual Highland Council full screen ‘death by powerpoint’ torture and given a printout of the slides instead.

Ian told the meeting that savings were going to have to be made and one way of doing this was to place facilities into an outside organisation. Presently facilities have to pay non-domestic rates and if they were to receive charitable status then they could apply for a reduction of up to 100%. It wasn’t a tax dodge or a loophole but a tax treatment that was being used across the country. The rates bill for Nairn Swimming Pool was about £38,000 and for the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness £186,000 and across the Education Culture and Sport department approx £1,000,000. The speaker went into how the process was proceeding with the council and how the public’s relationship with the ALO would work. If one had a problem that couldn’t be solved locally. For example, then that could be raised with the Council HQ who would be administrating the contracts.

About 1,000 employees would be affected (the equivalent of 460 full time jobs) and they would be transferred with their existing terms and conditions protected under TUPE legislation. The ALO would take out a 25 year lease on the buildings and would not own them. The Council has 19.4 million pounds worth of cuts to come from the budget this year and on February the 10th the full council will decided on which savings are to be made and which will be rejected. A final decision on whether to go ahead with the ALO or not will be made in March.

Sandy then intervened and asked Ian to point out how local accountability would work. The ALO would be a council owned company but the level of responsibility needs to be a board not dominated by the Council. There would be four councillors but eight independent members. The independents would have business, property and leisure backgrounds etc and be spread out as much as possible to cover the Highlands. It would be sensible if someone from Nairn put themselves forward to make sure that at a basic level, Nairn opinions were made available to the board. Ian continued: ’There has been a big welcome push for Nairn Pool to be saved from the cuts procedure, it that evolves into some sort of stakeholder group that feeds into the board of this company then that would be welcome.”

Rosemary Young was slightly perplexed by the fact that the business rates were paid to the Highland Council anyway. And Ian replied that they were but they ended up with the UK treasury. Ian then went into some detail about this procedure and tried to allay concerns about the potential of this charitable status being withdrawn one day. He pointed to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ and stated that even Edinburgh government were keen on downsizing councils. He pointed out that the whole charitable sector relies on this rates relief and without it, it would collapse.

Brian Stewart thought that this kind of process was inevitable and he admired the way the Council officials were trying to grasp with the problem and it was clear to him that a huge amount of ‘damn complicated’ work was going on. He admired the effort to persuade, convince, reassure the public about the implications then he added: “If however, you were a preacher, I’m not sure how many people would be following you down this road.” Brian went on to outline concerns that not enough was being done to bring in people that were passionately involved with facilities already: “I don’t detect that there has been widespread public debate and effort to mobilise those people engaged with the facility to bring them into the framework that you are designing.”

Graham Vine was a little startled at the notion that:”This is essentially robbing one pocket to pay another within the public finances, and not going to save the country a penny.” He went on to ask,”Are we going to be making savings in the Highland Council middle management – are there lots of middle managers that are no longer going to be paid by Highland Council or are we duplicating tiers of management? Is it going to cost more money to run?”
Ian replied that £130,000 of management will be taken out and there would be two less managers than there are now.
Graham then asked about what would happen if a facility would suddenly have a huge repair bill, would Highland Council say to the ALO tough it’s your job?
Ian indicated that there would be a separate property agreement, the ALO would have to give back facilities in decent order but that would be dependent on the amount of money the council had to give them do any jobs necessary.

Towards the end of the debate Liz stated: “I’d just like to say as a trustee of the Common Good I wasn’t aware until this report came out that they were actually considering Common Good land as well, in relation to the cricket ground and pavilion, the paddling pool and the leisure park. I hadn’t been informed as a trustee of the Common Good that this was going to be in the report.

Cllr Mike Henderson of River CC was also in attendance and asked if all employees would be transferred to the ALO. “If you work in Nairn Swimming Pool, Nairn Library, without question you will transfer,” came the reply but Ian was unsure of the total percentage of folk that would transfer across the Highlands however and he indicated that it would be above 95%.

So that’s that then Gurnites, the brave new world of the ALO is just around the corner, this observer wonders what everyone will make of it when the first 25 year contract expires.

NICE news - getting ready for the next Town Centre meeting - Ward Forum on the 26th at the Courthouse

The Gurn has obtained a copy of a five page letter that NICE have submitted to the Highland Council in advance of the Ward Forum meeting (7.p.m 26th Jan) where the Council will present their updated Plan B for the town centre. The letter makes three requests ahead of that meeting concerning the questions of timing of the plan, asking for the development brief to be integrated with the plan for the whole of the town centre and asking that the planning be pursued in accordance with current planning guidlines and best practice. There's a lot more important information in the letter too. The letter can be read here.

This is important Gurnites. There was a huge turnout for the last meeting organised by NICE and this one will be even more important as the future of the town centre takes another step forward. Please get down to the Courthouse for this meeting next week if you are worried about how things are going with this town centre Plan B from Highland Council.

Coming for the Gurn after-dark edtion

Talking 'Arm's length' blues - the Pulling Power of the West CC folk - three Highland Councillors in attendance.
"If however, you were a preacher I'm not sure how many people would be following you down this road."
more later - a full and instant refund for all readers if not delighted

More Nairn jobs under threat - HAEL seeks investment

More evidence of the recession hitting the Highlands and with the local government, health board and quango pay-offs to come, plus the closure of Kinloss, 2011 will be a challenging year for the community to say the least.
"About 30 staff have gone from Hael’s Nairn base over the past year, leaving only eight.
Owner Jimmy Ferguson says if a new investor doesn’t appear then the rest of the company will close in the near future.
The firm deals with small scale renewable energy installations and domestic energy efficient heating systems like underfloor heating, biomass stoves and ground source heat pumps."

SNP campaigning in Nairn for Holyrood

As seen on twitter, plenty more to come yet as we move towards the May election. How will displeasure with Danny pan out and where will the LibDem defectors go? Could the Greens get an MSP in the Highlands once again after the dust settles?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Graham Vine v Sandy on the Common Good – the rematch

And a suggestion from the Gurn for Sandy's Magic Wand
Tonight at the West CC meeting there was another 5 minute bout between Messrs Vine and Park before Rosemary Young rang the bell and the pugilists returned to their corners. Last time round at the ward forum it seemed that Graham got a fair doing from Sandy but this time the Gurn would suggest a narrow win on points for Graham.

Cllr Vine started by stating that he had another meeting with Fergus Ewing ‘who absolutely agrees with us that he can see no reason why the original District Council having made a hash of the agricultural lease on Sandown should mean that the Common Good Fund should pay for putting right the District Council’s blunder.’

The debate then moved on to the two lots of around 300k that have been charged to the Common Good fund, one to get the farmer off the land and the other for the charges incurred on the failed sales bid. Graham Vine was wanting to know if there were any planning costs in the second tranche of debt incurred. Sandy told him that there was absolutely no cost to the Common Good for planning expenses. And in a reference to Fergus Ewing’s opinion he said; ‘That’s out with my control, and if Fergus Ewing can wave a magic wand to get the District Council’s back and sort that one out, that is way out of our control.”

Graham Marsden must be mentioned in dispatches but he really only seemed to talk about the 300k for getting the agricultural lease sorted and had to be reminded that there was another large sum billed to the Common Good too.

It all ended with pleasantries again but it’ll probably run for a while yet. Oh Sandy, nobody can wave a magic wand to get Nairn District Council back but you can go down in local history, big, big time by waving your magic wand and giving Nairn the next best thing: “The Royal Burgh of Nairn Community Council.” What a massive chunk of gold braid on the CV that would be and would inspire folk to put an X in the appropriate place at the next Highland Council election. Come on Sandy, you’re the man to sort this community council review the way the people of Nairn want it!

Highland Councillor abandons LibDems

No not our Graham Marsden, but a wifie called Janet Campbell:

"Janet Campbell revealed she could no longer accept “compromise” as a way of doing council business simply to appease colleagues within the ruling “rainbow coalition”.

The Inverness Central member has quit the Liberal Democrats and been welcomed by the Independent Members Group, which was formed in 2008 and will now have six members."
The full article in the Press and Jounal.

Will the Lib/Lab/Indy coalition last the course? How many more cracks are there below the surface? At least Mrs Campbell will no longer have to shoulder the responsibility of administering the deep cuts that are coming. Could a cynical voter be forgiven for thinking that that might make it easier for her to get back in next time?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A single Community Council for Nairn? The number of votes cast was 295

The Gurn Poll on the Single Community Council issue (town council) for Nairn has now closed, the number of votes cast was 295. Thanks to everyone who voted.

In favour 260
Against 34
Don't know 1

Green Dad - new kid on the Nairn blogging block

See what Green Dad thinks about the Nairnshire Telegraph.

Sainsbury's: " We cannot confirm we're pulling out of Nairn."

A front page splash in the Nairnshire today with with the worrying news that Sainsbury's are thinking again, not only about Nairn but investment in Scotland in general. More in today's copy of the Nairnshire Telegraph. "An unusually worded statement," says the Nairnshire. Indeed it is, could we be facing the nightmare scenario of at least another decade of Co-op rule in Nairn?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Composting - 27,000 bins went out in the Highlands

One of the easiest ways to do something to help reduce landfill is to use a compost bin for kitchen and garden waste. Of course many Gurnites already do and have been doing so for years and enjoying enhanced soil fertility as a result. It seems that recent campaigns to encourage others in the Highlands have been a great success however, with 27,000 compost bins have been distributed to households in the Highlands. More details here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Deveronvale 1 Nairn 1

Nairn come away from Princess Royal Park with a good result. Pictures from club photographer Donald Matheson.
Individual pictures here and full screen slide show here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

St Ninian 2 Newmachar United 2

Two goals for Willy Barron today and it might have been a hat-trick if he hadn't been taken down a couple of times when he was making dangerous attacks.
More pictures now on the Gurn flickr pages, individual images here and a slideshow here.

Is the current economic climate right for this?

"Scottish artists offered funds to get away from it all in Highland retreats" reports the Guardian.

"Up to 1,000 artists, musicians and writers are to be offered government-funded residencies on remote Scottish islands, at art centres and Highland retreats in a new programme to fund new work.

The Guardian has learned that government arts agency Creative Scotland will this month unveil what it calls Europe's most ambitious artists' residencies initiative, one of several new funding plans supported by Edinburgh ministers.

The Creative Futures programme will support about 200 painters, dancers, poets, film-makers and visual artists each year over the next three to five years. They will be funded to work alone or as part of public arts projects in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK, or overseas. Arts executives hope the £1m-a-year initiative will find future winners of the Turner prize such as previous Scottish recipients Susan Philipsz and Douglas Gordon, and fund new writing and feature-length films."

Full article here. Our correspondent who noticed this article wondered how this would go down apart from badly in the current economic climate. Could it be perceived as a case of "Let them eat artists" suggests our regular Gurnite. This observer believes that the concept is good but the timing is all wrong, and wonders what council grasscutters and binmen about to be paid off in the Highlands might think about it for example.

Will Nairn sewage go West?

Opposition emerging in Ardersier to the new sewag

Rapid result on potholes from Fergus

The deepest one of the lot no more - the former pothole at the lights at the bottom of the Brae

No longer any need to worry about the pothole if waiting to turn left into Lochloy Road at the crossroads.

As soon Fergus Ewing MSP received a link to the Gurn's latest edition of Pothole Watch on Flickr he fired off an e-mail to a few high heid yins wanting to know when this stretch of Road between Grant's Garage and the King Street roundabout on the A96 would be sorted. He told all concerned that he would be going for a look himself today (Saturday).
Well Fergus certainly prompted fast action from the contractors and repairs have been carried out to most of the offending spots. The repairs are of a rough and ready nature, and by no means as good as ones carried out straight after a similar complaint to Fergus last February, but they will do until a more permanent solution is found for this stretch of road. Drivers will once again be able to concentrate on normal road hazards and pedestrians crossing without having the additional worry about negotiating a pothole slalom course in this part of town. Well done Fergus.

Getting ahead

The Black-back Gulls always seem to be on the top of their game when it comes to tasty morsels coming down with the spates. Thanks to Jingle Bangles for this picture

Highland Council looking at fines for households that don't recycle

The BBC reports:

"A council has suggested fines would help to encourage households to put rubbish in the correct recycling bins collected by the local authority.

Highland Council has proposed making a "strong recommendation" to the Scottish government that fixed penalty notices (FPN) be extended to cover recycling.

The authority has pointed out that in England people can be fined if they throw waste in the wrong bin."

Full BBC article here and the council's response discussion paper here.

The Council will discuss their response on the issue next week and to be fair to them it is a fairly comprehensive document. It is making waves in the waste and recycling industry, here's how the Materials Recycling Week website bills the document:

"There is a “significant risk of failure” in the Scottish Government’s two year lead-in times for introducing landfill bans, Highland Council has warned.

In the consultation document on the Zero Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011, the Scottish Government plans to introduce requirements to sort dry recyclables and food waste in 2013, with landfill bans on both materials to follow a year later, and a total ban on landfilling organics in 2017."

Much of the Council's immediate recycling strategy will centre around going to an alternate recycling and non recycling rubbish pick up when the green bin moves to a fortnightly collection (in Nairn this starts in July we think). How then could we get moving on more recycling immediately, even if the best laid plans of the Scottish Government might come off the rails. What could be done in the Highlands immediately?

Well, fair enough, start dishing the fines out for anyone not prepared to sort their waste into the proper bins but can we have some more facilities please. What do households do with cardboard, including much of the thinner stuff used in food packaging these days? And plastic too?
Can we have a container for these items next to the others at the Co-op please? Nairnites have shown themselves to be willing to use the existing facilities and it would be easy to take extra items along too when visiting the town centre. That would save a lot of stuff going to landfill. It's also just to far to go out the Grantown Road with items to recycle, if you have a car! Anyway does a five mile drive there and back do anything to save the planet when it's all balanced out. Contrast the recycling facilities in Nairn town centre with those in Settle, a smaller town in Yorkshire. Pictures below. So how about fines for Councils that don't provide comprehensive recycling facilities in town centre car parks? It's no good coming out with the stick before the carrots have been tried!

Friday, January 14, 2011

More confusion at Glenurquhart Road

The Courier reports an uneasy situation between the Highland Council and their Home Care workers:

"ANGRY union leaders are calling for imminent changes to the working arrangements for hundreds of home carers to be delayed, claiming a "ludicrous" lack a communication from local authority managers.
About 600 home carers, who provide care and support to people in their own homes, are due to start a new four days on/four days off shift system from 1st February."

Further into the article one of the Nairn employees is quoted:

"Margaret Anderson, a Nairn-based home carer and Unison shop steward, is amongst many still awaiting confirmation of her new working hours.

"I would have expected to have got a copy of the new contract so I could read it and go over the fine detail," she said."

Come on Highland Council get your act together, the home care workers deserve better treatment than this! Full article here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Save Lossie Campaigners unhappy with Danny

Only SNP and Labour MPs met the Save RAF Lossie campaigners down in London, they are not amused. More on the Press and Journal site. A major faux pas, with the eyes of Moray watching every twist and turn of the campaign and the Holyrood elections now on the horizon?

Sainsbury's now worried about expansion in Scotland?

"J Sainsbury could rethink its expansion plans in Scotland if the Scottish Government pushes ahead with a tax increase that could add 20% to the supermarket's rates bills, Chief executive Justing King has said," states a report in the Telegraph today.
And futher into the article:"Mr King said that the rise could make a difference to its extensive store opening plans in the country: "We can't stand by these plans if the economics of opening those stores goes and changes."
Sainsbury's has 47 shops in Scotland. Over 2011 and 2012 it is looking to open more than 180,000 square feet of space north of the border, with new stores in Kelso, Nairn and Irvine, and extensions at shops in Linlithgow, Stirling and East Kilbride. It will also open around 10 new convenience stores."
Let's hope this is just a wee piece of megaphone diplomacy from Sainsbury's and that do go ahead and start building their store at Balmakeith. Read the full article here: Tax could force Sainsbury's to rethink Scottish expansion, warns chief Justin King

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nairn Academy soccer teams 1962

Tommy Hogg sends us this picture of the Nairn Academy Juniors (stripes) and the Seniors (dark shirts) from 1962.

Back row left to right: Jack Levack, Alan Cumming, Ninian Coggs, Angus Brown, John Anderson, Tommy Fraser, Andy Burnett, Robbie MacRae

Centre row: Dave Twiname, Kevin Mackay, Norman MacPherson, Gordon Mackenxie, Ian Kane, John Kelly, Hamish Riddel, John Duggie

Front row: Iain Barron, Sticky Main, Brian Geddes, Fergus Phillip, Robbie Cragie, Fred Grigor, Forbes Burnett, Tommy Hogg, Detto Mackay

Black stuff for William Street

At least one part of town is set to become a pothole free zone.

Navion Akarita at anchor off Nairn

Picture will enlarge

River CC minutes from Last night's meeting - hot off the digital press!

Read all about last night's meeting here.


Cantray Bridge closure to vehichles

Highland Council press release states:

"The Highland Council is notifying motorists that Cantray Bridge near Croy will be closed indefinitely to all vehicular traffic from 12 noon on Thursday 13 January.

The bridge across the River Nairn carries the unclassified road U1196, which connects with the B9006 at its northern end.

The decision to close the bridge has been taken by the Council’s Transport, Environmental and Community Services who identified deterioration in the condition of the bridge, and have acted on subsequent investigations by their structural engineers.

A structural survey has shown that the outward lean of the downstream side walls and parapet has reached a point of potential instability and that there is now a significant risk of collapse of the parapet and side walls on that side.

The Council had hoped that the bridge might remain open to light vehicles but as the bridge is so narrow there is no opportunity to channel traffic away from the weak area and therefore no option other than to prohibit all vehicles.

Physical measures to prevent vehicles from crossing the bridge are being put in place, including road signage warning of the closure. Access for pedestrians and cyclists will be maintained, along the west side of the bridge.

Considerations are being made as to whether the bridge can be brought back into full use and the work that would be required to enable this. A detailed inspection report is currently being prepared by the Council’s Structures Section.

Residents in the immediate area are being notified directly by the Council."

Major Allenby submits objection (70 pages) to Highland Wide Local Development Plan

A seventy page professionally produced document was held aloft at the River Community Council meeting this evening. It seems local landowner Major Allenby is submitting a major objection to the Highland Council’s development plan based on issues relating to the ‘South Nairn’ area’.

It further emerged from Councillor Tommy Hogg that the River Community Council had been urged by a representative of Maj Allenby, a Mr Evans, to attend a meeting with Highland Council, Major Allenby, other developers and Gordons sawmill. Tommy stated that he had phoned Highland Council to find out if they were invited but the response was negative. After much discussion the River folk decided not to seek to attend so as to avoid any potential conflict of interest in the future with conflicting planning applications.

There was concern about how any South Nairn development could affect Gordon’s sawmill and Councillor Iain Gordon stated:

“The Highland regional plan, which is already out there now, Gordon’s saw mill is part of that and their proposed extension etc is there. They are already investing over a million pounds and they employ locally 100 people which is very, very important to Nairn.”