Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nairn West Community Council object to plan for bus station garage site

Nairn West CC have come out heavily against the proposed plan for a supermarket and flats on the site of the bus station garage. Their strong objection is signed by Rosemary Young the chair of that organisation. The detail objections based on height and mass, design and finish, access and parking and purpose and function. West CC are following NICE (Nairn improvement Community Enterprise) in setting out their stall against this plan. This observer notes that Councillor Graham Vine has also made a “public comment” although this is not visible on the documents part of the site yet.

Here’s the final section from their letter which indicates the way they would like to see things going.

You can read the full West CC letter here. Click on documents once you arrive and scroll down to the public comment dated the 23rd. It is the job of Community Councillors to reflect the views of their constituents and thus they consider that public opinion in their part of the town is firmly against the proposal. Public opinion in Gurnshire would indicate that there is a majority in favour of such a development over by (be it as it is or tweaked). Have NICE and the West CC misjudged public opinion with only those most vocally against this proposal bothering to find their respective ears? What do you think of the planning application? Poll in the Gurn side-bar.

This observer feels that up until the point where Nairnbairn entered Nairn in the Carbuncle award competition there was a consensus about town centre planning issues. To a certain extent that was fractured by the Nairnbairn nomination and with sections of the community finding common cause with the Editor of the Nairnshire, Iain Bain, when he indicated that he thought Nairnbairn was a "snob at heart". It is against this background that NICE and West CC have come down on one side of a fence that is splitting popular feeling throughout the town. This planning application is one of the most divisive for a long time and in its wake it may be difficult for NICE and others to claim public support in attempts to influence events on the other side of the A96 if and when planning applications for development surface there.
Maybe a less heavy handed approach should have been employed by both NICE and West CC. Time will tell.


Spurtle said...

If you look at the proposals being put forward by the Highland Council for amending planning in the Highlands, it could be considered that objections such as those from the West CC, and NICE, or letters of support from other parties ( of which there seem to be precious few at the moment) mark the death throws of meaningful input from the public into the planning process.

The road ahead is clear. Council Officers making more decisions under delegated powers, with associated reduction in any say from those supposed to 'represent' the public in such matters ie. Community Councils and the area's Highland Councillors.

All being done in the name of streamlining and cost saving , and to ease the burden on those wishing to offer salvation to the economy by building us out of recession.........but what price a reduction in control measures and the ability of those charged with doing so to reflect public concerns on planning matters?

Graisg said...

Good morning spurtle,

The P&J reports this morning that the proposal to have only 2 planning areas in the Highlands was approved at yesterday's meeting by 22 votes to 11 with 26 abstentions.
I'm sure Gurnshire waits with interest to see how Sandy, Laurie and Graham voted.

Also in the local media today the editorial of the Inverness Courier is entitled "Relevance of Community Councils" Hopefully it will be available on line later in the day.

Iain said...

Dear Gurn,
You say "Have NICE and the West CC misjudged public opinion with only those most vocally against this proposal bothering to find their respective ears?
I am concerned that you take a view that the NICE position does not reflect public opinion or the views of its members. I speak personally here and point out that the NICE position was based on the responses received from members who live in this community. This is the principle that operates within many groups including Community Councils - the view expressed reflects the view of those who cared to respond. You cannot therefore dismiss the findings or criticise the group for reflecting members views. The system may have weaknesses but it's the only one NICE and the CCs have.

I also think you are wrong to blame Nairnbairn for the fracture - and for once I disagree with Iain Bain that Nairnbairn "is a snob". That simply makes it easy to dismiss the views he/she expressed - and totally misses the point. I would not wish to put words in Nairnbairn's mouth but all they said was - we have carbuncle's in the town and unless we get a grip on planning issues, we'll have more. The reality is that it's not the town that deserves the awards - but planners and officials. They are ultimately responsible for allowing conditions to arise that leave any town vulnerable to receiving this dubious accolade. So, just suppose Nairnbairn is not a snob. Were the comments justified?
(To avoid further assumptions being made by readers, I can confirm that, whoever it is, Nairnbairn is not on the board of NICE.)

I do not speak for NICE but you will agree that the plans that were developed for the town centre were generally well received and gained wide-spread approval but for some minor issues. By allowing piecemeal development such as at the bus station we simply snooker our chances for putting a vibrant heart back into the centre of Nairn. The view that something is better than nothing fails to consider these wider implications. Nairn deserves - and could have much better than what is being proposed.

Graisg said...

Morning Iain

"I am concerned that you take a view that the NICE position does not reflect public opinion or the views of its members."

Perhaps I'm putting too much faith in that Gurn poll in the sidebar Iain but I believe it to be a fair,if unscientific reflection of split public opinion. I'm not denying NICE reflects the views of its members (the 12 who responded anway).At the suburban CC meeting John Mackie, although opposed to the bus station proposal, agreed that the plan was divisive and there was no consensus in the town. Based on that and other factors Suburban decided not to comment.
It seems to me that NICE and West CC (after consulting its constituency) have come down on one side of the fence. Does that have implications for the future if say, the mother of all carbuncles is proposed over the road from the bus station? I think it might when it comes to seeking consensus again on a way forward.

Brian Turner said...

I suspect if the developer reduced the height to three stories overall - much like all the nearby flats - objections would significantly reduce.

Anonymous said...

Intriguing comment from Iain, "(To avoid further assumptions being made by readers, I can confirm that, whoever it is, Nairnbairn is not on the board of NICE.". How can he confirm this, does he know who Nairnbairn is?

spelding said...

Can't say I disagree with NWCC with their objection though it grieves me to think we are no nearer a solution. In truth the owner of the site picked up this little plot for peanuts and does not give one toss about the impact it has had on this community for nigh on three decades. This plan I suspect is no more than a token gesture to say "look I am making an effort."

Graisg said...

A revised plan is supposed to be in the pipeline Spelding. Maybe that'll have something that may cheer you up.

Bill Ding said...

The tendency, always present in Nairn and sadly increasingly evident in recent Gurn posts, towards a polarisation of views, is not helping the current debate.

The use of Yes/No polling (even if it has a "with tweaks" option) reinforces this trend.

Planning is more complicated than that. As people have said in various meetings, the bus station debate should not be a simple "this plan or nothing" choice. Planning should not be a question of take-it-or-leave-it. Nor is it sensible just to categorise local comments as being "for" or "against". This encourages the divisive approach which is unfortunately typical of the town.

As the Nairn West letter makes clear, the opinion of those it represents is broadly "for" redevelopment - but not unconditionally in favour of this particular proposal, whose shortcomings it identifies. So the letter argues - quite reasonably - for something better.

Whatever the poll stats say, Spelding and others are right to criticise the actual bus station application as a token gesture, produced in haste and probably just a gesture rather than a serious proposal.

The Gurn would do well to encourage and support a collective effort to seek something better, rather than obsessing about who is "for" and who is "against" this particular design.

Graisg said...

A collective solution? Who speaks for the collective that is the question? Bill Ding? Lots of voices in the collective never get heard, yes they never go to community council meetings etc but they have an opinion - This observer feels that there are many out there that would agree with the like of Bette Cavan (soon to be a community councillor perhaps) who said "A Tescos would really rumble them up".

The Collective? Our name is legion and our voices are many.

"The use of Yes/No polling (even if it has a "with tweaks" option) reinforces this trend."

NICE also have a Yes/No poll on their Facebook page Bill. It hasn't been going for as long as the Gurn one, only from the 19th of October. It is 100% against but there have only been 2 votes and there is no "tweaks" option.
If not happy with the Gurn poll Bill or even the NICE one set up your own with whatever questions you think are appropriate. The Gurn will link to it.

The Gurn makes no apologies for obsessing with this matter and many other Nairn matters too :-)

Go on yersel said...

Bill Ding, you are obviously not a happy bunny because not everyone is in agreement with you, but are you no being a wee bit superior with your comment "the Gurn would do well to encourage and support a collective effort to seek something better"? Why? Is the Gurn not also entitled to their opinions? As Graisg says, if you are not happy with what's on the Gurn, why not start up your own blog?

Bill Ding said...

It's "right of reply" time - I ought to make clear to Go On Yersel that I'm not an unhappy bunny. I agree that the Gurn is entitled to have an opinion, and as I have said in a previous post, I think that the Gurn does a great service for Nairn in providing a forum where people from all over the town - and elsewhere - can offer comment. I was just concerned that Graisg/Gurn should not fall into the trap of saying "my way or no way" and condemning those who take a different view - which would be a sure way of killing debate.

Setting up a rival blog if you happen to disagree with the Gurn's own opinions would be a cop-out. It would mean less discussion and more division, which is surely not the way to go.

Gurnite said...

"It would mean less discussion and more division, which is surely not the way to go. "

Democracy grew out of conflict, another Nairn blog would add rather than detract from that process

The Gurn is Craisg's blog containing his views, topics, news, and indeed comments he wishes to publish - period

I don't know of any media that offers to publish all comments, perhaps time you started one Bill!

Graisg said...

"Condemning those that have a different view" and "my way or no way".
Again Mr/Mrs Ding I take my guidance, however imperfect from the poll in the sidebar. I think the position taken by NICE and West CC is not that of the town in general on this topic.

If outlining my fears is to go against the perceived consensus as it lies in the thinking of a NICE/West CC supporter on this issue then I stand condemned myself and you know what - que sera, sera.

"falling into a trap" - I fear the detailed comments in objections to the proposed plan might be doing just that.
How about giving the developer a bit of time to come up with "tweaks" before the ceremonial two fingers go up?

Different views are welcome here - thank goodness we are all different :-)

Graisg said...

@ Gurnite - thanks for that. Sometimes we just can't publish comments however. Ones that might need legal advice beforehand etc. Details that would need confirmation from a second source and a few other things but generally we try to do our best when comments come in.

growtosow said...

at the end of the day you can not please ever one, and it is true to debate this plan lets not sell our self short on this, this eyesore has been left for far to long, those in office should have been pushing the owner to do something about it, rather that let it go on for this lenght of time.

Graisg said...

@ Swiss Bank account - interesting theory. If you can come up with any evidence to support it that would help.