Thursday, October 13, 2011

"The gate is open and we should go through that gate"

Thoughts on the Bus Station Plan from the River CC meeting.

As previously mentioned there were a lot of opinions expressed at the River CC meeting on Tuesday night, here’s some further notes from the discussions.

Tommy Hogg started the ball rolling by running through the display of the plans showing elevations etc. He backed the project but with some reservation over the parking situation. Cllr Iain Gordon was the next to speak and he agreed with Tommy and stated on the parking issue: “If that could be addressed in some way then I see no problem, it would certainly tidy up that whole site which has been a carbuncle really.

The C word upset the Chair, Jeanne Tolmie, and she intervened here,”I would rather you not used that word,’ she said. ‘I don’t think Nairn has any Carbuncles.”

Cllr John Dolan then spoke, he had mixed feelings over the project. He commented: “We’ve waited a long time for something to happen, then the worry is that do we just accept it? Is something better than nothing?

Stephanie Whittaker was the next member of the Council to speak and she thought that although four stories was high: “I think we should go for it, because it would improve the area tremendously, but I still do have concerns about parking.”

Mike Henderson spoke next in an historical context. “If I cast my mind back to before my time in Nairn, the Nairn District Council knocked planning permission back on this as a retail store because it is on the wrong side of the road.” Others at the meeting were able to recall that too.

Rosemary Young (member of West CC) got her turn next as the debate moved to the public benches. She was concerned about the height and the visual aspect and asked detailed questions about the height in comparison to the police station. Sandra Dunbar was the then spoke and she was pretty forthright in her views, she asked about the listed building status of the old stables at the rear of the site and then said of the application: “It’s ridiculously soulless looking piece of architecture here, and you’ve got those listed buildings at the back, and you’ve got the lovely gardens at Viewfield and everything else and you are allowing something so bland and characterless.”

This observer then spoke and raised some points, mainly to the effect that should the Community Council and others misjudge the situation and object then there could be a public reaction against the decision which would isolate them for further issues concerning the town centre in the future. The real battle might come one day if something appalling was proposed across the other side of the A96 from the modern buildings. If the building in this application is an ugly one then so is the Community Centre but if the
Upland flats and shops get the go ahead there will be no 2 million debt to the Nairnshire Common Good purse like there is with the Community Centre. I urged caution to anyone considering a strong objection and suggested compromise was a better route.

Tommy agreed with that and said: “I think this could be the beginning, the gate is open and we should go through that gate.”

It then fell to West’s Cllr and leading luminary in NICE, Brian Stewart, to speak. He began referring to recent press coverage: “I ought perhaps to say to start with that I’m not actually against this development. I think it would be unwise to object to this. My view is that redevelopment is desirable and I think probably that most of us agree on that. My way is that we shouldn’t go for anything at any price, that we should do what we can to feed in sensible and constructive thoughts on possible changes. Whether it is to design, height, parking or layout – to actually make this as close as possible to what people want rather than what the developer imposes. I also think that the mix of retail and housing makes a degree of sense.”

Brian then referred to those that wanted to see public buildings on this side of the A96 but he felt that developers wouldn’t build public buildings and there had to be homes in order to underwrite the cost of the development. He continued with his concerns about the design, admitting it was a matter of taste he continued: “Which ever way you look at it, it is a large rectangular block. A lot of people, and I’ve observed a lot of public comment, a lot people think it is not actually a very clever design, it is cheap, simple, boring and unimaginative. It doesn’t so much enhance Viewfield as block it from view. And I personally tend to agree with those that think that a 4-storey building is too high.”

Brian then outlined his concerns for the retail element which he said had been described as a super-market, a mini-supermarket or a convenience store. He wondered if there was actually enough space for anything more than a token. He referred to the shops at the Harbour with accommodation above them where, historically, some shops had struggled. He also had concerns about parking and access. Brian wasn’t finished yet however:

“There is another more general point which several people have comment online, which is, I quote from someone who said it better than me: If Nairn was a major city I could maybe understand the need to build residential housing alongside a major road and a fire station with the added noise of a shop unit – this area is already busy with trade to the takeaway, buses and a general car-park. The comment is, that in fact, it is not the most obvious and agreeable place to live. Next to the fire station is a further disturbance so I would say, simply that, by all means build something to replace what is there but it is just as easy to build something that looks good. So I think we ought to work as hard as we can to feed in constructive thoughts on how to make the building more viable, more attractive, more valuable to the developer himself and more acceptable

That’s a lot of the important points that were discussed Gurnites. West CC are discussing it too next week and River CC are now actively seeking a meeting with the developer to discuss some of the concerns and comments made.


floored said...

A developer who puts this plan on the table must be crossing his fingers that it will all go through OK and money will roll into the bank once it's built, however, I'm sure they must have cut some slack into their calculations knowing they might well have to make compromises

I would suggest that the developers are asked to remove one floor. This would be the ground/shop area so that life for the residents of the flats is a little more pleasant. Not so many neighbours and no noise from the shop and people parking to use it

growtosow said...

even more need for more allotments if this goes ahead as they will have know gardens yes their is green space at viewfield but not quite the same as having your own garden, quality of life should be an important factor in this plan.