Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NICE objects to flats and supermarket on the bus station garage site

In what could be a very controversial move given the split in opinion in Nairn over the current proposal, NICE has written to the Highland Council planning department to object to the plan for 12 flats and a super market on the bus station site: in their letter they state a summary of 12 responses they received:

"The comments identify three main points of objection:

· The building itself is unsuitable, both in design and scale

It is described as “the wrong building in the wrong place”. At 4 storeys plus roof it is too high (though the online plans fail to show the exact height), and it will obstruct views of the Viewfield trees. The design is criticised as “boring and unimaginative”, “ill-proportioned”, “low-cost” and lacking the curved detail of nearby public buildings. Several people feel that it does not complement or respect either the new public buildings (police station and community centre) or the historic and listed Viewfield House behind. There is concern about the security and maintenance implications of an external glassed-in stairwell. One respondent – who favours residential housing on the site – argues for a semicircular building with varying levels, and another recommends that there should be balconies.

· There are serious issues related to the adequacy of parking

Almost every response to NICE raises the parking question. The main criticisms are insufficient space for parking, potential conflict between long-stay and short-stay (or residents and visitors), and possible implications for continuing bus access and operations. Some suggest the relocation of the bus stop(s). Others support the retention of the existing bus-shelter and stands. One member argues for the whole site to be used as landscaped parking.

· Some doubt the need for a retail shop; others do not favour the construction of housing on this site

Various responses argue that there is no justification for a “mini-supermarket”, and there is concern that a shop there – on the west side of the trunk road - would detract from the High Street (whose role as a retail area the Council is required by planning guidance to uphold). Opinion on housing is mixed: one response favours an exclusively residential building, but all others argue that Nairn has a generous supply of flats and/or that this location is not suitable for a housing block but should be occupied by public buildings and amenities."

You can see the full letter by heading over to the NICE site and clicking on the link in the sidebar.

To this observer NICE have made a big mistake in oposing another supermarket type store in Nairn, quite a few gurnites have commented to me in the passing that they would like to see more competition in Nairn. Can NICE claim to speak for the whole town now?

UPDATE: Lisbet Christensen has also objected to the proposal. She has submitted a hard-hitting comment which including a complaint about mess from seagulls during the tennis tournament. You can read it here (Click on "Documents" once you arrive on the e-planning page - it will be down at number 10)


Anonymous said...

Good for NICE standing up to the developer who I read has suddenly decided to develop this site quickly, bit for no given reason

Another supermarket - why?

The great plea for Sainsbury's was that it would be a competitor for the towns Co-operative food stores. Net result, the Co-operative King Street store now stocks fewer lines, and employs less staff. I have yet to see any price reductions as a result of Sainsbury's opening, and hear plenty of stories of people still travelling to Forres and Inverness for their shopping. To a great degree Sainsbury's seems to have just spread Nairn shoppers rather than stopped them travelling and quite a few have gone back to the Co-op

Another supermarket would only compound the issue, is that really what we want?

Anonymous said...

Here we go again Nairn do gooders It will be just like the thing for the developer to pull out now and we,ll be left with that eyesore for the next 20 years. I hope they have a plan if that happens.

Graisg said...

Why? Well I for one would like the choice of going to either a Tescos (perhaps? who knows) a Sainsbury's or a Co-op.

Reduction in staff at the Co-op? Given the worrying number of pay-offs by the Co-op recently in the Highlands and Islands one wonders if they were planning to reduce numbers in Nairn anyway?

Times are hard - cash is getting harder to find for some of us - others obviously can still afford petrol to travel to shop without much of a hit on their budgets - more choice in Nairn please!

Anonymous said...

Is there anything in Nairn, Nice have not objected to.?

Choice said...

"more choice in Nairn please!"

I'm surprised at anyone getting excited about a multinational such as Tescos opening a store in Nairn. Do we really want Nairn to become another bland supermarket town? It's not as though Tescos is particularly cheap these days, nor Sainsbury's for that matter

The big supermarkets are selling less and less food; net result is that they are closing High Street shops due to the items that they stock

If you want choice you don't want another supermarket in Nairn. Take one example books... Sainsbury's sell the top 30 hard back books. All are probably priced for less than the Nairn book shop can buy them at trade. If all you ever read is top 30 books then this is a 'great' choice for you, meanwhile this might hasten the demise of the real book choice on our High Street. End result, less choice, and this is but one example

Personally I would like to see a weekly if not daily market in Nairn rather than another bland supermarket, but I doubt this will come, most of us are geared up to the type of consumerism that supermarkets offer and think little about the source of the products we buy, or who the profits are going to

One thing is clear though, unless you consider numerous supermarket doors as choice you are unlikely to find much difference in terms of the goods inside or even price

Times are hard and buying from, or wishing more supermarkets is not the answer

Graisg said...

This observer has constantly pushed the idea of a weekly market in Nairn for many years. Yes I would like to see that too.
You have to live with the fact that most people do their shopping in supermarkets however and will continue to do so. Forres has lidl, Tesco and the Co-op to chose from and have had that choice for some years. Here we are just getting used to the Co-op monopoly being broken. A third choice would be no bad idea at all.
In fact Tesco are already here and so are ASDA - just look at the daily parade of delivery vans going through town on the A96.

"Sainsbury's sell the top 30 hard back books. All are probably priced for less than the Nairn book shop can buy them at trade. If all you ever read is top 30 books then this is a 'great' choice for you, meanwhile this might hasten the demise of the real book choice on our High Street. End result, less choice, and this is but one example"

The PC or laptop or smartphone that you wrote your response on Choice, also sells the top thirty books and hundreds of thousands of others that the Nairn Book Shop could perhaps order for you through their PC. There will be those that will of course prefer to go to a real book shop - it is fun yes but there will be many more who will just do it from the comfort of their armchair and not bother with the top 30 in Sainsbury's or the top 300 or whatever in a High Street shop .

As I said I believe that market stalls are a great thing, let's have them please, that is after all the Mercat Cross outside the Courthouse but if Tescos or anyone else would ever consider an outlet over at the bus station then bring it on too. I'm guilty of buying the £3 jeans I admit it - when they were £3. Yeah I know there are some major issues with supermarkets but I imagine that Sainsbury's now employ more people than all the shops in the High Street combined?

Anonymous said...

Great...something else for the town's idle to moan about

Anonymous said...

Only in Nairn would you have complaints about a supermarket selling goods too cheaply! Most sane people when faced with a choice of two shops, one selling goods (say books) cheaper than the other, will by the identical cheaper goods (say books).

But if Nairn doesn't want competition between shops, it just leads to inflated prices and people.buying goods elsewhere from outfit Nairn.

I remember when Nairn had several bakers, several butchers, several papershops, etc, all along the High Street and the nearest a supermarket came was Templetons. If I remember rightly, all these shops did alright with a little healthy competition.

Anonymous said...

Who needs real shops anymore, everything can be got online. The high street could be all flats

Spurtle said...

There seems to be some confusion about what constitutes 'greater choice'.

From my perspective, no amount of supermarkets in the town would equate to greater choice for me, as they would only stock exactly what they wanted to sell.

My idea of choice is to be able to go into the one of the delis in Leopold Street and have a conversation with Bruce or Sam about a product I like. Then they will do their best to source it for me.

Not a strong point of supermarkets, providing for the customer. They don't do actually do providing for the 'customer', the individual at all.

They only consider 'customers'.

I read the initial comments on the Gurn with interest , in that people wanted 'more choice'. Did I miss something or weren't Sainsbury's lauded on these pages as the saviour of all things retail in the town?

Or has there now been a shift in the grocery paradigm? What's that? Sainsbury's is too small...

Admittedly it can be a tad tiring to visit , only to find that someone on a daily basis is apparently buying all of the fruit and veg....perhaps they should enquire of Swanson's in town as to how they manage to replenish their shelves so effortlessly.

The bottom line is that no matter how many supermarkets we get, the monster will never be satisfied.

We have become a nation who treat massive retail outlets as the cathedrals of our time, as their operators have become the political barons.

The application for the bus station is either good or bad, depending on opinion and NICE have expressed their opinion, as everyone else also has a right to do.

It seems to me though, as the Gurnmeister closes the original article,there is a very 'P & J' shift towards ellicting comments about the fact that NICE have commented.

The danger in doing so is that prime focus is lost and everyone starts looking around for someone to blame when things don't turn out as you did or didn't hope.

The matter is important. Opinion on opinions is much less so.

Bill Ding said...

Debate about town centre plans is healthy, and a range of opinions is inevitable. But while the Gurn does a great service in encouraging discussion, I think Mr Gurnmeister's criticism of NICE is misplaced.

NICE's obligation is to reflect the views of those who offered their comments. No doubt if dozens of NICE members had welcomed the bus station plan, the group would have submitted a letter saying so. It is clear however from the letter as shown on their website that all those who responded were unhappy, in one way or another, with the proposed building. So NICE quite properly put those views to the Council.

Mr Gurn is also being "economical with the truth" on the supermarket issue. Talk of a supermarket is a red herring. Even the developer's agent (as quoted in the Nairnshire) descibed it as a convenience store. So the conversation about competition and choice, and Co-op v Sainsburys v Asda v this new "supermarket", is misguided.

That store at the base of the proposed block of flats won't be a supermarket, and certainly not a bookshop. As another comment on the Highland Council website notes, this small retail unit risks suffering the same fate as some of the similar-sized ground floor units at the harbour.

If there is local debate on this proposal, it should at least be based on a close look at what is actually in the plan. The building is a block of flats.

Now .... a weekly market is altogether another subject, and one likely to enjoy widespread support throughout the town. So here's an idea: why not build a covered "market hall" - a feature of many other towns in Scotland - as the centrepiece of a town centre redevelopment including the whole of that former bus station and car park area? Maybe NICE could pick up that idea and support it as a community project?

Graisg said...

I think the question to ask Spurtle is how representative is NICE on this issue. Mike Barnett said there were over a hundred members and he thought most of them were active (the Nairnshire gives a figure of 140) - however the submission to Highland Council is based on the thoughts of 12 people.
NICE came down on one side of the fence on an issue that has is splitting public opinion in the town. That could leave a legacy for their future actions. Brian Stewart said recently that he hoped that NICE "will again mobilise public opinion and try and reflect accurately what the community thinks and feels."
I beleive that the community is split and their representation should have reflected that if they wish to claim to speak for the community.
140 active members and 12 comments. NICE had a public mandate to get a better deal for the town centre. They had some success with that. Now they need another public meeting as soon as possible to see if they can reaffirm that public mandate for anything they have planned in the future.

NICE are now part of the landscape and this blog feels free to comment on their actions just as it comments on the actions of Highland Council and other players in Nairnshire's affairs.

Graisg said...

Thank you Bill Ding

I actually suggested a weekly market at a NICE meeting I attended. Nothing appeared in NICE's plan however. For some reason those who made the final decisions about what was to go in that plan thought that inappropriate? I made the same suggestion to the consultant that Highland Council employed on a special "brainstorming charette" or whatever it was in the Courthouse and nothing came of that either.

Yes the supermarket or whatever you call it wouldn't be as big as Sainsbury's but it would be bigger than the Co-op on the High Street. I've been in some smaller stores operated by the like of Tesco and other supermarkets and they still seem to have a large number of lines and plenty of people willing to shop there despite it being smaller than some of the "cathedrals of our time".

Large envelope said...

Belated congratulations Craisg on your appointment as a community councillor. Could it be that this post has muddied your vision and you will now support any developer who cares to drop his pile of bricks on the town?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Market idea and NICE plan, from what I recall the plan had a large open area civic space, which was designed to be a multi use area, so any suggestion that NICE ignored the idea of a market is completely unfounded.
In terms of Tesco coming to town, has anyone even bothered to ask them? Even if they say they are interested the size of unit proposed in the Bus Station app is likely to be too small for them and not one of their standard builds. Plus Tesco likes to own and control the sites they operate from.
Finally, in terms of NICE response to this application, all members were asked to comment (good or bad) and the response drafted reflected the opinions raised. Yes it is disappointing that few people found the time to submit comments to NICE - it has to be asked if most of the people who commented in this post actually submitted any comments to NICE?

Anonymous said...

Is there not a general feeling of anti-competition by some people? For instance a well know Nairn Highland Councillor who runs a shop on Nairn High Street offered an opinion against new outlets. Trying to protect your own business interests is one thing, as long as it doesn't conflict with public office duties.
However it is not good for Nairn to criticise the opening of new outlets, just because one is a national store.
Using the book example, if Sainsbury offer say only a top 30 list, but another outlet offers this and more, then customers have choice on availability, price and variety.
I don't know about most Nairnites, but in this difficult financial climate, cost IS a big factor, and while it's sad that perhaps individual businesses can't or won't match national store prices (think of a local petrol retailer before Sainsbury came along, and how we all moaned at high Nairn petrol prices), I for one will shop around looking for the best price.

Anonymous said...

Since when does small retail unit equal Tesco??

Graisg said...

"For instance a well know Nairn Highland Councillor who runs a shop on Nairn High Street offered an opinion against new outlet"

If you mean Laurie Anon I don't ever remember him saying anything like that. I do remember him saying however that he wasn't scared by competition and that competition was a good thing.
If you have a source for your alternative view I would be grateful for it however.

Graisg said...

Tesco were mentioned in the media anon and it has all snowballed from there. It's just another one of those rumours that we used to get all the time in pre-Sainsbury days. I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't mind it at all however if it were to happen.

Graisg said...

@anon 8.07 I think I would need legal advice before publishing that one anon.

Brian Turner said...

Objecting to additional commercial use development seems disingenuous.

The High Street is already too small to provide for all commercial needs, for both local businesses and consumers: there is already a slow expansion of small businesses into premises outwith the High Street and harbour area.

There is also the point that the old council offices and community centre are also earmarked for "mixed use" with the intention of providing additional commercial space for business.

I would have thought the addition of another potential commercial premise opposite would hardly go against existing plans and needs for Nairn.

Spurtle said...

I'm not defending Nice's stance on the matter, only their right to express an opinion.

12 people expressing an opinion isn't bad though. It would certainly constitute a very good turnout of members of the public at a Community Council meeting :)

small trader said...

"Objecting to additional commercial use development seems disingenuous."

I'm sure Brian that the comments that have been made thus far are sincere and far from 'disingenuous'

As has been suggested in previous postings where you have stated you observations on the lack of commercial premises in the town why not contact the Association of Nairn Businesses: http://nairnbusiness.org.uk/

If there is a genuine need for more business premises in the town then we need a concerted lobby to obtain more space rather than just passing remarks in the Gurn

Graisg said...

You should try getting to these meetings every time a developer's rep turns up Brian. The last one said there is presently not enough demand to justify building offices. You might have some interesting points for them.