Aspects of the Highland Council's attempt to sell parts of the town centre for development came up for scrutiny last night at the Ward Forum meeting at the Courthouse. Liz was the first to voice major concerns. She told the meeting: “I’d like to mention my concern at the haste in which the town centre is being developed, about the inclusion of the car parks in the development brief. I think that is going to be a big problem.”
Laurie replied that the initiative was to ensure that the site wasn’t left lying for years and years.
Liz came back, “That wasn’t my point, my point was about losing the car park in the centre of the town. Including the parking in the town centre development brief, I feel, is giving the developer, or whoever comes in, too much and we should have done the same as we did with Corsee and that was knock down the building and then put it out to development.”
Graham Vine was the next to speak and he backed up Liz and then went on to say that he thought Sainsbury’s were bringing people into Nairn but the problem was that the town centre car parks were often full so any visitors attracted by the new store have difficulties if they were tempted to come into town. He then moved onto the subject of the old Social Work offices. He said, “There were a number of people who felt that was quite a nice building and should be refurbished. Does the Council have any hand or hold on what will be done with that property?”
Graham Marsden responded: “We are the planning authority for starters but also the fact is, yes, we will be looking very carefully at any proposals that are brought forward to ensure that it fits in with the rest of the town centre and we would consult widely before anything went ahead.”
Cllr Vine was not convinced and came back: “And does the document for sale make it clear that re-use of the building is preferred to demolition?”
Our LibDem mannie replied: “I can’t answer that, I haven’t seen that but what I can say is that, is that we will look very strongly at anything to see that it will fit in within the context of the wider town centre."
The other Graham continued to press home his point: “Liz has just said that there is nothing in it to suggest that use of the buildings is desirable and therefore it is likely to get approaches from someone that is just like to develop it.”
Graham Marsden then more or less repeated himself but there was a little bit more at the core of his final reponse: “I agree with you, and that is, a personal view which is, we should retain it but I don’t think we want to constrain developers in any way.”
Rosemary Young then spoke and made a sensible suggestion that this observer thinks will find much support throughout Gurnshire; I just want to emphasise this point, we sat round with NICE, sat round with the Highland Council and it was very, very clear that this town wants to preserve those buildings. Before it goes any further I think you should put it under the sale conditions that this is not for demolition but this is to be used for something else. I think you should put that in the brief for the sale.”
Laurie closed the debate on this item saying “I’ll take on board what you said and pass it on.”
Hopefully Laurie will do more than that. Hopefully Laurie will insist that the old Social Work buildings are preserved and the car parks are not sold. Liz is usually on the ball when it comes to reflecting public opinion and Rosemary is not far behind her with this skill too. If Laurie and the Council want to avoid conflict with the community over these items then they will make quick changes to the development brief to avoid any potential confusion and a dossier of planning objections, perhaps, in the future should a developer be found. Get to it Laurie, you don’t have to take it back to anyone –you are the main man in this town!