Monday, October 31, 2011

Big Society or NICE Big Bang?

After a summer off NICE have come back big style and drawn up a briefing document on how a Community Interest Company could, could….well, sort of, er, run Nairn really. Common Good assets could be piled in to get it going. It’s certainly an ambitious project and NICE say they would have to get all the following on board:

Highland Council, NHS Highland,The Co-Op as owners of the defunct filling station, The Co-Op as owners of a supermarket that would benefit from regeneration of the town centre, The owner of the old bus station, The owner of the existing library building and adjacent car parking area, Local Elected Councillors, Community Councils and the Community and NICE’s members”

They envisage the following:"“It has been suggested that the long term interests of Nairn and its residents would be to establish an entity that is (a) owned and controlled by the local community, (b) provides a mechanism for other stakeholders (eg Highland Council and NHS Scotland) to influence and support decision-making, and (c) progressively assumes responsibility for a wide range of local service provision and infrastructure development and maintenance.”

To see how they plan to get there and what they hope to offer why not go over to this NICE page and read the documents concerned. Is it a revolutionary mechanism that could get Nairn sorted or could it be a dangerous leap into the unknown?

Music Nairn

"Music Nairn is one of the best attended music societies with one of the highest memberships in Scotland. We aim to invite only musicians of the highest calibre to perform at our concerts, many with international reputations. Concerts are held monthly and are open to the public, apart from the Members' Evening.

We see the promotion of classical music, both old and new, as an important part of our function. We are very keen to encourage young concert-goers (students are offered tickets at a significant discount), and to promote local musical activity."

More at

"Relevance of Community Councils"

There was an interesting editorial in the Inverness Courier on Friday – It isn’t online yet which is a bit of a shame but long gone are the days when the Scottish Provincial Press journals in the North would put everything out online almost immediately. The article commenced by referring to the demise of Inverness South and Merkinch community capitals in the Highland Capital. Although Nairnshire East didn’t attract enough candidates in time there was no such problem here in the town itself and Nairn will now have a minimum of 27 community councilors spread over River, West & Suburban. Let’s turn for a moment, however to the content of the Courier’s editorial.

“A common theme emerging from community councillors themselves is that they no longer feel they are taken notice of. They complain that much time and effort is put into gathering local views only for their recommendations to be ignored by decision making bodies such as Highland Council. This is in large part due to the lack of statutory powers granted to community councils and is something that should be addressed by the Scottish Government if it is serious about involving people in the democratic process. While we wait for central government to act, if it ever does, Highland Council could make a difference now by finding new ways of including community councils in the decision making process. After all, these volunteers often provide the truest reflection of community opinion and as such deserve not only to have their views taken seriously but also acted upon”

The sentiment expressed in that article would find much support in Nairn. It is not only the community councils that feel ignored sometimes but the population too. The large number of people willing to put themselves forwards indicates to this observer that a lot of people are fairly p****** off and want to have a voice. They want to do something for the community. This observer would venture a mantra that would perhaps also find an echo with some of the candidates: “The sort of town we want, not what the Highland Council or developers or even the Scottish Government want.”

Once the new make-up of the three community councils is established next month then this observer anticipates some interesting initiatives emerging from within the three councils themselves and through the “(Royal Burgh of) Nairn Community Council Forum.” Interesting times indeed for the existing Highland Councillors and whoever is elected/re-elected to serve another 4 years at Glenurquhart Road. They will soon have a busload of community council activists watching their performance.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Allotment news

The Nairn Allotment Society is bidding for funding to establish more allotments at Sandown and the Mill Road Allotments, although only open less than 8 months, are continuing to make waves beyond Nairn and will be the first allotments to ever open as part of the Scottish Gardens Scheme in 2012. Keep up to date with the plot on

Sudden clean-up

Billy alerted the Gurn to a clean-up at the old Petrol Station. What's going on here then, something in the air or has some bright spark at the Co-op simply realised that it helps to sell something if you clean it up first? Or maybe oor Rosemary has set aboot them again?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bus Station planning focus group

Thanks to the regular Gurnite who sent us this picture of one of the principal speakers at the recent bus station focus group. Our correspondent tells us that once again a wide range of conflicting opinions were expressed.

Nairn 2 Turriff 2

County's first equaliser begins its journey into the net. A dramatic end to the game as Turiff scored in injury time only to see their potential three points melt away to one as County also found the net in the dying seconds. The only problem is Forres go three points clear above us at the top of the table as they hammered Cove 5-1. More later

UPDATE: pictures from Donald Matheson, club photographer. Individual pictures here. Match report here.

Will Upland come away Stottered?

Highland Council principal planner Tim Stott has made some policy comments on the webpages associated with the Upland Developments application for the bus station. Here's his conclusion:

"In conclusion, I would suggest that the owner be advised to talk to the Council and other adjoining owners to broker a more suitable, collective and properly serviced regeneration package for this part of the wider town centre. A submission through the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan process (rather than the current full planning application) would be the way to achieve this. "

Lots more interesting policy comments on the web page (as usual, once there, click on documents and scroll down to the item dated 28th of October.)

Saints cup joy down south!

If you'd been up the High Street early for your papers you would have got a glimpse of Nairn St Ninian setting off for the mammoth trek to Rosyth in the Scottish Junior Cup. A very sporting gesture by Rosyth FC in their tweet this evening then. Well done Saints!

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.

Bailey Bridge in need of TLC?

One of our regular readers sends the following contribution and accompanying images:

It's some years since the road section of the Bailey bridge was closed to traffic. Pedestrians have enjoyed the extra space provided by the closed road section to cross the river and admire the scene. However, the road section of the bridge was closed to traffic due to structural concerns, but unless it receives a little attention soon it might be closed to pedestrians as well. The repair work needed at present is not that great, some planks scarfed into to repair a few rotting sections and some new fixings made here and there, a lick of wood preservative would not go amiss.

The pedestrian part of the bridge still looks OK to the naked eye, but it is very narrow and only allows single file traffic plus the joining bars of each section make it difficult to wheel a pram or a wheelchair. Any chance of a wee bit TLC for the bridge before winter sets in?

Looking after the shrub beds on the entrances to the town

Billy has contacted the Gurn once more about the state of certain shrub beds along the A96 on the western approaches to the town and also concerning another bed at River Park on the Grantown Rd. It is a shame that some of these stragtegic plantings are weed infested, more care should be taken over them during the year. The contrast between the state of some of these beds and others cared for by volunteers is striking. There seems to be some debate about whether the A96 ones are the responsibility of BEAR or not. The Gurn has forwarded Billy's concerns to one of Nairn's Highland Council members for their investigation. Previous issues concerning shrub beds highlighted by Billy have been resolved (see here), let's hope there's swift action on the remaining problem areas.
Could the maintenance of these areas be one of the functions that the Community Interest Company envisaged by Alistair Noble could take over?

Planning Centralisation - Liz's thoughts

Liz on Twitter

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Planning applications in Nairnshire – why can’t the Community Councils decide instead of Highland Council?

This observer remembers the sight of the Inverness Councillors debussing at the Lodgehill Clinic for a site visit to help them determine the application for flats/over-development on that particular site. They had a pow-wow and then got back on the bus to Inverness where it was all decided. Why do we need folk from Inverness and other parts of the Highlands to decide the fate of planning applications in Nairn? Aren’t we worthy, as a community, of the right to make our own minds up? You might think things are bad at the moment but they could soon get much worse – read the article on page 4 of the Nairnshire and the editorial by Iain Bain.

Now a potential solution – it might happen if citizens were prepared to agitate enough. Why can’t the community councils decide the fate of all planning applications in Nairnshire? That way we could ensure that we get the kind of development that we want and not what the Highland Council or developers or even for that matter, what the Scottish Government want. The town will have at least 27 community councillors across River, Suburban and West after the dust settles next month. The rural councils will have quite a few too, so why couldn’t each Community Council across Nairnshire appoint a couple of reps to a Nairnshire Planning Committee? The reps would be mandated to vote on each application as per the instructions of their council after consulting their electorate. Does that make sense? A Community Councillor’s salary is £0 per annum so no cost there – yes there is the cost of planning officials but they are full-time employees already aren’t they

What do you think gurnites? What do you think Sandy?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moray and Nairn again?

But only for the Westminster Boundary review. Liz sought and got support from Suburban CC for a proposal she is putting to the Constituency review that will be debated at Highland Council. She is proposing that Nairn goes to Moray and Badenoch stays with Highland. Gurnites might be aware that Danny Alexander's seat is to disappear in the constituency review and he could well be in for a fight with Charles Kennedy over the left-overs. Perhaps Nairn could be back with Moray by then?

Liz: " I think this agenda of centralisation and privatisation is obscene"

Liz attacks the Highland Council administration

There was much concern at the Suburban meeting tonight about the new changes in planning meeting procedure - read your Nairnshire for the full horror story of how decision making will move even further away from Nairn.
As a response to a question asked Liz commented: " I think the way the Highland Council is shifting to centralisation and privatisation is obscene. I was just at a meeting for Crossroads this week and they were supposed to be handing the contract for respite care over on the 1st of October but they are going to have to do it until the the 1st of January because Carr Gomm have got no staff. How can they still a contract to deliver a service when they can't actually do it?"

UPDATE: more on the APT blog on the changes that are proposed to planning. One time we had planning decided in Nairn, now it all goes to the Inverness area but soon instead of Highland Council having 3 planning committee areas it will only have 2 and the one we will be in will stretch from here to Skye.

Bus Station plan divisive in the suburbs too

There was a bit of debate about the bus station plan up at the Suburban CC tonight and there were conflicting opinions there too. Bette Caven (pictured above) said: "I think a Tescos would really rumble them up."
However, Alistair Noble said: "We're getting into really serious difficult water if we are going to approve anything just because it is better than what we've got." Suburban are not going to make any submission however and are to leave that to the statutory consultees River Community Council.

New Blood for the Suburban CC

The new faces putting themselves forward for the endorsement of the suburban electorate sharing a joke at the Suburban CC meeting in the Academy tonight. Watch for the ballot paper coming in the post. Suburban CC will be posting information around their area showing all the new candidates and those seeking re-election.

Spotted at the SNP conference

Liz revealed during discussions at the Suburban CC meeting in the Academy tonight that two high profile members of West Community Council were seen at the SNP conference in Eden Court.

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)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Culbin Desert

The old tale is recycled for the Guardian

First Minister gets his messages in Nairn

One of our regular readers, and self-styled wanna-be Nairnite, Bill reports:

"I'm up from ENG visiting family this week. We decided to finally see the new Sainsbury's last night. Very nice! Anyway...I'm up and down the aisles looking for an obscure brand of haggis flavored crisps when I nearly tripped over the First Minister of Scotland doing his weekly shop! Not being Scottish (or even British) I thought I could get away with a little banter. So I said hello, introduced myself, and offered him a bottle of "London Pride" ale from my basket thinking he's had a big week and might need a drink. Funny...he wasn't interested! "

Bargain of the Week?

Thanks to one of our regular readers who points us in the direction of a page on the HSPC site: "Rare opportunity to purchase and re-develop a town centre site for mixed use development, subject to Planning."

The marketing drive continues just as the Community Interest Company drive gets underway too. Lots of that in the Nairnshire this evening - very NICE - a must for all students of town centre matters. There are comments from Graham Marsden who supports the setting up of a CIC. He says quite a bit this week including; "Councillors want the best for Nairn and it's our job to take things forward as consensually as possible. It's about taking things forward step by step and that all voices are heard."

Meanwhile in this week's editorial Iain Bain hits out at the latest changes in the planning procedures. He thinks that once again Nairn is getting a poor deal out of it all. All yours to digest for only 45p as soon as the shops open in the morning.

Strong offshore winds

Jingle Bangles sends this picture of a blue dinghy, the sort that bairns often play with on the beach. It was witnessed blowing across the beach having come from the direction of the dunes at the caravan site and within five minutes the strong off-shore winds had taken it out almost as far out as the Petronordic.

Vandalism to motor vehicles - Cranloch, Nairn

"During the evening of Friday 21 October to Saturday 22 October, 2011, several motor vehicles were vandalised whilst parked in private driveways of houses in the Cranloch area of Nairn." More on the Northern Constabulary site.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Japenese Knotweed's capacity to damage property values

Every year we have a gurn about the amount of Japenese Knotweed growing along the River Nairn and particualarly in the town centre area. Hoping perhaps that one day the local authority will take it seriously. It not only squeezes out native species but it can also seriously damage property values it seems:

"Couple are forced to demolish their £300k four-bed home after it was invaded by Japanese knotweed"

Could it happen in Nairn? Well the clumps of Knotweed seem to spread very quickly each season and apparently it takes a 3-4 year period of treatment if you want to dispose of it. So perhaps it's time to get seriously started on this stuff when it pops up again in the spring?

NICE looking to move forward proactively

Back on Wednesday night in the Community Centre at the West CC meeting, Mike Barnett, one of the Directors of NICE gave a summary of what is potentially a new phase for NICE in its efforts to ensure the town centre is developed in a manner that is appropriate for the community. Before Mike began to speak however Brian Stewart said: “I therefore, very much hope, speaking personally, that as the new developments begin to take shape that NICE will again mobilise public opinion and try and reflect accurately what the community thinks and feels.” He also said “There is a lot still to be discussed, a lot still to be done, we face huge challenges. How we meet them is going to be a test for all of us.”

NICE seems to be confident that it still has an “active membership” but that has to be put to the test at some time in the near future at a public meeting in which the Directors will seek approval for their latest idea of a Community Interest Company and a draft brief that Mike Barnett is taking to Highland Council for their consideration. It has to be said since the NICE website sprang back to life after a long rest, a flurry of articles are not attracting the volume of comments that were be seen earlier in the year. Will the rank and file be willing to be summoned back into action after the long summer hiatus or have they drifted away like the website regulars? Will the Community Councils once again be willing to all fall in line behind NICE too as a new direction is contemplated? Mike Barnett said that he thought the passage of time and the actions or lack of them by other parties had been to NICE’s advantage. Perhaps he’s right and everyone will come back refocused and ready to contribute once again when what is essentially a bit of meat and bones on Alistair Noble's vision of returning more democracy to our parochial affairs.

Mike’s briefing document will be going to the Highland Council before anyone else sees it (this observer is slightly worried by that but takes the point from Alistair and Brian Stewart that any move of this kind would need the support of the Council given they own or administrate so many of Nairn’s assets). After Council feedback the paper would be in the public domain via the membership of NICE once there was feedback that it was “in the right ball park, that it’s hitting the right spots.”

This observer awaits with interest that paper going into the public domain. Can NICE once again “mobilise public opinion and try and reflect accurately what the community thinks and feels” or has their moment passed?

Hopefully gurnites will turn out in large numbers to air their views when a public meeting is eventually called by NICE. It may be that a Community Interest Company is the vehicle that could change things in the town centre for the better and most people seem to be agreed that we need change. Sometimes we know what we don’t want but the problems may come when we look for consensus on what we do want. Potentially a major step in the right direction however, but as Brian Stewart says there is still a lot to be discussed.

Development in recent times

More pictures from Tommy here of sites that have been developed in recent times. Individual images here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Shrub Bed Clean-up by Council

Earlier this month we published pictures of the seriously untidy shrub beds in the cemetery field nearby to the areas that volunteers had planted up with thousands of bulbs. Billy reports that the Council have cleaned these beds up now. Billy sent a couple of pictures and here's a before and after comparision.

Scottish Cup: Peterhead 2 Nairn 0

Nairn exit the Scottish Cup and to compound the agony Forres go top of the league as Nairn had an awayday in the East. Pictures from club photographer Donald Matheson. Match report from Kenny MacLeod here. Individual pictures here.

Donald told the Gurn: "I don't think we were that far away from Peterhead. Not the gulf that we could or should have expected and we ran them close and could have come away with a draw but hey ho thats football. Back to league business next saturday."

Friday, October 21, 2011

More way back when

Thanks to Tommy for these two interesting pictures. If the bus station application goes ahead and the flats get built it wouldn't be the first time that flats were built on a garage site in Nairn. Just across the river from this eventual development site the controversial Maggot Flats were also built on a former garage. It is interesting to note the lack of tree cover on the east bank of the river in these two images, they will enlarge a little.

UPDATE: The images published above have prompted Joe Telfer to send the Gurn a picture of the new building just prior to completion. Interesting comments coming in too.

Before Salty colonised the Bus Station Garage...

Another flickr image - the Nairn skibus express?

UPDATE: Murd remembers the two vehicles that were converted to ski-bus use. He actually refused to drive one one day because of the lack of adequate heating to melt the ice on the windows. Murd also recalls the orchard that stood on the area that now compromises the bus station and car park areas. He says the high wall went all the way round and aside from the piece that survives along Viewfield Drive there is also a piece left along the rear of the Albert Inn.

Nairn Gaelic Choir win at the Mod! - Rinn Coisir Ghàidhlig Inbhir Narann a' chùis aig a' Mhòid

naidheachd a' briseadh:

"Nina MacKellar and her Gaelic Choir have just won the Margaret Duncan Trophy - pushing Dundee into second place.
The choir also had the top marks for music and will bringing that particular trophy and a silver baton - back to Nairn as well.
Slainte Mhor (as they say over here!)
Colin Macaulay"

'S math a rinn iad, tha mi an dòchas saoilidh mi gum bi fìor dheagh phartaidh aca a-nochd ann an Streòrnabhaigh

Maximising benefit for the Council

The Courier has their eye on the town centre redevelopment plans and has quotes today from Dick Youngson, Tommy Hogg and Rosemary Young. All three of them make a plea for the retention of the former social work building. Worries abound in the town that these fine buildings could end up being destroyed as part of the Highland Council sell-off. A Highland Council spokesperson is quoted as saying there was no price tag on the buildings and the value to a prospective purchaser would depend on the proposed use. “But we would seek to maximise the income to the council and will consider all offers,” he added

Maximising income to the Council – that proves more than ever that we need more control over our own affairs. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the spokesman (no name given) had said that they were out to maximise income for the Community or for a top-up to the Common Good fund?

Let us once again quote the wisdom Alistair Noble on Wednesday night on this issue:

“Alistair Noble expressed to the meeting his desire to see things done in a different fashion: “Before we sell things, let’s look at other ways and this Community Interest Company can be a vehicle to use the Common Good assets properly, and still retain the ownership.” Alistair thought it would be a disastrous mistake for the Highland Council’s 76 Councillors to sell off the properties. See more in the Gurn article below.

Nairn Bus Station of Yesteryear

An interesting photograph has appeared on Flickr recently - could anyone put a date on it perhaps?Another picture here that looks slightly more modern and you can clearly see some passengers on the bus.

Back to the modern day issues again for a moment. Recently we published an article which showed a segment of the last NICE masterplan drawn up this spring as an alternative to Highland Council plans for the town centre. The NICE plan had removed buses out of the bus station and created two bus stops further down the A96. We had suggested that perhaps this could be an option to aid future development of the site. This is not an idea that appeals to River Community Council's Stephanie Whittaker though - she told the Gurn:

" If members of NICE use buses they should be aware that a bus stop has been removed from the A96 between the Bus Park and Peter Green's to avoid holding up traffic that is stopped by the lights. This has caused problems for elderly people who regularly got off the bus there to go into Fishertown and they now have a longer walk .

It makes no sense to impede traffic further by stopping buses elsewhere on this route. In addition, often several buses come into the Bus station at once which would create difficulties on the A96. Moreover the bus station has a shelter which is important for passengers. If the bus park were removed it would be at the expense of bus users and we should be encouraging this use and using our cars less."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bus Station Development - Transport Scotland Recommends refusal!

A Transport Scotland document recently posted on the Highland Council e-planning pages for the application reads:

"The Director advises that planning permission be refused." The reasons for refusal state:"There is insufficient information to determine this application."

A note underneath the reason for refuse goes on to say: "The developer should provide a traffic statement showing predicted generated traffic and its affect on the existing signals at this location."

This observer would imagine that this is not an insurmountable hurdle for the developer but will obviously have cost and time implications for the overall proposal.

River CC continues campaigning on sewage issues

Regular students of River Community Council affairs will know that over the 30 year plus history of that organisation they haven’t been shy in fighting for better sewage treatment facilities in the town and stuck to their guns often in the face of fierce argument from former Councillor Nigel Graham and the late Bob Farrow. They continue in the new millennium to demand that Nairn’s sewage infrastructure is kept up to date. On Tuesday night after their meeting with the Bus Station developer’s rep they discussed a number of matters including the continuing discharges, in periods of heavy rain, from the inspection covers on either side of the Sewage Bridge, the outfall pipe below the Maggot flats and the inspection chamber at the bottom of Brocher’s Brae. River’s strategy is to write to Scottish Water, SEPA and Highland Council to ensure that the full nature and extent of the problems are revealed and also to discover if there are plans to fix these ongoing issues and to ensure that the authorities are satisfied that there is no risk to human health given the constant discharges at times of heavy precipitation.

River’s campaign received support from Brian Stewart at the West CC last night. He was concerned that the town’s sewage infrastructure would not be able to cope with any more housing developments. Brian stated: "I'm raising specifically that current and recent evidence confirms beyond doubt that there are existing infrastructure problems with drainage, waste water and sewage capacity in Nairn and that is without any of the new buildings that are planned for Nairn South or anywhere else."

Town Centre sell-off could be decided on confidential “Pink Papers”

There was lengthy discussion with the Westies last night in the Community Centre on the subject of the town centre sell-off. Representatives from both River and Suburban CC’s were also present as grave misgivings about Highland Council’s town centre policy were expressed.
Alistair Noble expressed to the meeting his desire to see things done in a different fashion: “Before we sell things, let’s look at other ways and this Community Interest Company can be a vehicle to use the Common Good assets properly, and still retain the ownership.” Alistair thought it would be a disastrous mistake for the Highland Council’s 76 Councillors to sell off the properties.”

As you can see in a previous post NICE has also recently discussed Alistair’s Vision of a Community Entreprise Company (CIC). It is an interesting concept and it is good to see the debate, of how more elements of local democracy can be reclaimed, moving forward at Community Council level.

Seonaid Armstrong then spoke. Seonaid is the secretary of the West CC and is not perhaps one of the more high-profile vocal members but she works hard behind the scenes and when she does make an intervention it is well received and gives a deeper Nairn perspective perhaps than some of the other members. This observer does hope she is re-elected in the forthcoming contest to chose a new Council. Seonaid said:

“I just want to take you back in time to the days when the Rosebank Church was sold off and there were no conditions on that . It’s a listed building. I sang in the choir at the Rosebank Church and it just breaks my heart to see that. Originally it was going to be a Clan Centre and it keeps going on and on. They put scaffolding up and nothing is being done. There should be when the Council sells a building, that it is developed and developed in a certain length of time. If it isn’t developed in a certain length of time, there should be a clause to say that the council can buy it back for what it was sold for.

Rosemary Young then pointed out that Sheena Baker had tried to ensure this had happened in the past but hadn’t got very far through the Nairnshire Partnership

Sheena then told the meeting of back in the days of the Nairn Initiative of how she had been fobbed off and fobbed off and been told that the Council had looked into it legally and made sure that everything was going to be hunky dory, it was going to all be in hand but it wasn’t.

Liz then intervened and said that Shena and others had a very valid concern and her other point was that the sale would probably be decided at the Resources Committee under “Pink Papers” which would mean in secret. Liz said: “A lot of buildings and things in Council ownership are sold through the Resources Committee on pink papers.”

That’s the latest on the town centre Gurnites. Let’s keep paying attention to this and support the usual suspects in their endeavours to see that we get something that the community want and not something that suits just Highland Council.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

“I find that unacceptable that the town is going to have something imposed upon it!”

The title of this post is a quote from Sheena Baker earlier this evening at the West Community Council meeting.

A rough ride for the representative of Upland Developments “up west” this evening at the Community Centre for the last meeting of the Council before they throw themselves to the mercy of the electorate who will pick any 8 from 11 candidates on the coupon. Mr Johnston outlined potential changes he was able to consider given the constraints placed upon him by the developer and other factors such as the number of storeys that he was not able to change. He also indicated that the developer would not oppose an extension of time for the community to consider the application and also indicated that revised plans would be submitted. A photo-montage showing the building in relation to the surrounding landscape should also be shortly available.

Brian Stewart gave Mr Gary Johnston a forensic questioning on the local plan and whether the application for 12 flats and a supermarket fitted into that. It has to said that Mr Johnston performed very well in the witness box however and gave as good as he got on the vexed issue of the local plan. Gurnites would surely appreciate a few more notes on that exchange and we will hopefully put more up when time permits. There were some other wee complaints but it was Sheena Baker that made the most forthright attack on the proposal however, she told the meeting:

"I’m absolutely delighted to hear that Mr Cameron has suddenly woken up to the fact that we have a blot on the landscape here and is going to do something about it. I would actually echo the words earlier by Brian. Why is there such a rush? We want something to happen but whether it happens in three months or six months or a year, what we want is for it to be right when it is done and this is not right.”

West CC also debated NICE, South Nairn, the town centre, sewage problems in Nairn and a few other items. A lot of interesting material was aired tonight and hopefully we will get round to it over the next few days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bus station plans - tweaks in the air?

The Gurn understands that the River CC enjoyed a very constructive meeting with the developer's agent this evening. As reported in the Nairnshire the River meeting was private. Tomorrow (Wednesday) the West CC have a meeting with the same mannie and this will be open to the public in the Community Centre at 19.30.p.m.

Update: One of our regular readers who is less than impressed with the proposal has asked us to point out that the period for submissions on this application is drawing near, the advert was placed in the Nairnshire on the 11th and a period of 14 days takes this application up to the 24th/25th?
So far the plan has attracted no objections or supporting comments. If you do have views it may be worthwhile submitting them soon even if a "tweaked" plan is submitted and an extension for submissions granted to the Community Councils. In the (unscientific) Gurn poll in the sidebar voting was initially heavily against but now there is a broad majority of yes and yes (with tweaks) votes over the Nos and this observer would imagine that that wouldn't be far from feeling in the town generally at this moment in time.

Accident by traffic lights at Rosebank

One of our regular readers took the above picture while waiting at the Leopold Street lights this afternoon and gave us the following report: "An accident occurred today at approximately 2:30 pm on the A96 at the junction with Albert Street. A car mounted the pavement just outside the entrance to Rosebank School destroying the railings. It's not clear at this time if anyone was hurt in the incident, emergency services attended and the vehicle was removed."

Here you can see the section where the railings were destroyed.

Here is a salutatory reminder of the power of even a small motor car and what can happen if something goes wrong. A reminder of just how busy traffic is in Nairn these days perhaps and how much safer we'd be if there was a by-pass around town? No doubt more information will emerge about this incident in the near future.

Nairn mum's warning over anti-cancer vaccine

"A Highland mother is urging care over an anti-cancer vaccine she believes left her daughter crippled with pain for months.

Nairn teenager Deborah Halliday, 14, says she suffered a string of health problems after taking two Cervarix injections to protect against the Human Papilloma Virus." More on the STV Highlands & Islands pages.

Carrbridge News

Gurnites might be interested in the Carrbridge News site - an incredible multi-media news resource for the Highland village run entirely by young people:

"Carrbridge News officially launched on the 26th of September 2009. The project came about in response to the lack of any news sharing platform in the village. Carrbridge Films, local entirely youth run film company, decided to spearhead a new, innovative, independent news sharing media production which – contrasting greatly with the previously traditional print newsletter – would present the news in the form of a quarterly digital video news programme." Carrbridge News is here.

Geese overhead

They herald colder weather yes but they are still a magnificent sight when they return. Here is a picture taken by Iain Fairweather on Saturday of one of the massive flocks of geese as they passed over the High Street. Picture will enlarge.

Monday, October 17, 2011

NICE coming back to life? Getting into “thought leadership”

The Nairnshire reports a NICE AGM last week but the group’s website states that it was a “director’s meeting”. Some confusion there then, surely an AGM would have been advertised?( UPDATE 18/10/11 confirmed by NICE - the meeting was not an AGM) Anyway, a document posted on line indicates a new director and chair were appointed and some discussion was had about the next steps NICE will take. As we reported last week, the NICE site has come back to life too and the first posting since March of this year has now turned into a flurry of digital activity with NICE seeking views of the population. Earlier this year some postings on the NICE site elicited quite a few responses but so far, this time round, little comment is coming forward. Are folk bothered now, with NICE having been dormant for just too long or can the inner circle of that organisation bring it back to life? Will the rank and file be willing to turn out on parade after the long hiatus? Mrs Gurnmeister was asked several times over the summer if she'd heard anything from NICE. Things are moving again however, on the 11th of this month NICE stated on their site: “It is time to take stock. Over the next few days, the NICE think-tank will be posting a series of observations and questions. The future direction and activity of NICE will depend on the level of response.”

Not much response so far for NICE then but there’s still time perhaps. Here’s an interesting section from the minutes of the Directors’ meeting last wee:

“It was thought that a radical approach is required, and the directors were aware that Alastair Noble had been in discussion with Highland Council representatives about a “community enterprise” taking on an active role as regards the long-term management of leisure, health and recreational functions in Nairn. Alastair believes that the town centre and common good assets are a vital ingredient of the development of such a plan, and had advised that Highland Council would welcome a “thought leadership” briefing paper on the subject. Michael Barnett said he thought that a Community Interest Company (“CIC”) would be a suitable vehicle because of the “asset lock” that is its essential feature – any profits are subject to a very rigid distribution “cap” to shareholders, and surplus profits can only be re-invested for the benefit of the community. But a CIC cannot be a charity, which precludes NICE itself assuming the proposed role unless it gives up its potentially valuable charitable status. NICE, however, could be a shareholder if the CIC were established as a different entity.” More here.

It will be interesting to see the reaction from the NICE membership to the document that Micheal Barnett intends to draw up and whether there will be enough interest at a public meeting at some time in the future to allow NICE to continue, once again with a strong public mandate. The town’s three community councils will have a new complexion soon, will they still want to support NICE? One has to ask also why any Community Interest Company should restrict itself to leisure, health and recreation? What about housing for example, shouldn’t Nairn be trying to get control of that again? And just what is the best mechanism for the community taking back a bit more control of Nairn’s civic affairs? Is it through the like of NICE or would it be better through (the Royal Burgh of) Nairn Community Council Forum? That is a group now established that will have a membership of at least 27 community councillors come next month. Why not say something to the NICE folk?

County stay top

Nairn stay top of the Highland league and Forres still there chasing 2 points behind the County who have 24 points form 11 games. Read Kenny Macleod's report of Nairn's 2-0 home win against Fort here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nairn images on Flickr last week

The large numbers of geese seen passing West over the town in the morning and returning from their shift in the evening were captured out towards Cawdor by "Deabiaspin". Bratach meanwhile spotted a bit of dereliction up at Ardclach. Bratach is often also on beach or harbour patrol and posted this shot of a seal at the harbour mouth.

Wednesday evening initially looked pretty hopeless for sunset spotters but there was a last minute turnaround and here's a picture from the railway station from "Dave SUFC". This sunset was also captured up at Cawdor too. "RG IV12" captured some of the year round resident birdies on the beach while another image of Nairn appeared on Didier Fournet's Flickr pages.

Spooky Cinema Nairn

Nairn – famous for Tilda Swinton’s Cinema of Dreams – is about to get a Cinema of Nightmares!

Fans of frightening films are being urged to help decide the second half of community group Cinema Nairn’s spooky double bill on Friday 28 October by voting for one of four cult movies rarely seen on the big screen.
Votes can be cast by visiting The poll closes at midnight on Tuesday (18 Oct).

Cinema Nairn will get into the Halloween spirit by making the first half of its double bill, starting at 6pm, “The Ghost Goes West”. This cult comedy from the 1930s is about a Scottish castle shipped to America along with its resident kilted ghost.

The Highlander who does the haunting is suave Robert Donat, best known for his role as Hannay in Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. The film is a U certificate and bound to delight all ages.

The public vote for the second half of the double bill, scheduled to start at 8pm, is between the following four films:
The Haunting
The Innocents

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bulb planting on the Links

Keeping Nairnshire Colourful have been active once again today, planting eight thousand crocus bulbs down by the viewpoint near the baths. They also planted some more bulbs at the Cemetery field and on the A96 verges. This picture from Billy who expresses his thanks for all those who helped today. Well done Keeping Nairnshire Colourful!

Friday, October 14, 2011

"London launch for Nairn firm's Carbon Black wheelchair"

"Andrew and Mary Slorance, who run their firm I-Imagine in Nairn, will launch their Carbon Black chair at a mobility exhibition in London next week." More details on the BBC site and the Inverness Courier.

Autumn Colours River Nairn

Regular Nairn Blogosphere readers will remember the Swan Blogger highlighting the manhole cover and pipe (under the triangular coping stones that run alongside the river just down the wee brae opposite the Harbour Street Stores) that are likely to allow sewage to flood out in times of heavy rainfall. The pipe under the coping stones heads down to the sewerage bridge where there are also problems in times of heavy rainfull. Since this video and pictures taken in 2008 new manhole covers have been installed there but you can still see similar scenes once there is a considerable amount of precipitation.

What is concerning however, is that today, in dry weather, sewage was flowing out from below manhole cover seen in the swan blog pics and dropping down the wall directly into the river. The picture above is of the sewage in the vegetation on the river side of the manhole cover. You can see the edge of the wall where the effluent is falling into the river. Time for Scottish Water to sort the whole section leading to the sewage bridge under the triangular coping before things get worse?

Coming soon to Nairn - Street Pastors!

This observer had heard that Inverness has had Street Pastors for quite a while and that one of their purposes was to help people chill at the weekends should they be in too much of a tired and emotional state after a night out etc. The BBC site reports:

"Some patrols have handed out flip-flops to women struggling on high heels on their ways home after Friday and Saturday nights out." More on the BBC pages.

The Street Pastors site quotes Andy Burrowes MP: “Street Pastors is about Christians rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in practically responding to the problems of crime and safety. They are like beacons on our streets and I want to see them shining brightly in every constituency”

Here's the Street Pastors site. As we see from the weekly lists of incidents in the Nairnshire there are a few people that lose the plot at the weekends, if the street pastors manage to reduce that then their presence should be welcomed.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bus Station development - Parking solution - no buses?

Could the above segment of the NICE masterplan (Version 5) drawn up earlier in the year as part of their deliberations with Highland Council demonstrate a potential solution for the parking difficulties that might arise should the suggested development of 12 flats and a supermarket go ahead on the site of the former bus station garage? Obviously there could also be a lot more spaces in front of the flats/supermarket. NICE had planned to create two bus stops further along the A96 to do away with the need for a Bus Station. See the full document here.

The NICE website has also sprung back into life in the last few days and they want your views and feedback, they state:

"It is time to take stock. Over the next few days, the NICE think-tank will be posting a series of observations and questions. The future direction and activity of NICE will depend on the level of response. It is becoming increasingly clear that regenerating the town centre isn’t a sprint. It looks likely to be a marathon. Has the town got the interest, the stamina, and the enthusiasm to keep up the campaign." More here.

Sainsbury's Roundabout - take care!

Take care citizens when using the Industrial Estate side of the new roundabout on the A96 at the entrance to Sainsbury's. The pressure of vehicles that are going straight over the blockpaving part of the roundabout has had an effect on the drainage and kerbstones in the centre of the roundabout. This image has been sent to Transport Scotland.

UPDATE: Reply today 13 October from Transport Scotland:

Thank you for highlighting the problem at Sainsbury’s Roundabout and the attached photograph.

Bear the Operating Company responsible for trunk road maintenance for the A96 were aware of the situation and have programmed to undertake the necessary remedial works on behalf of Sainsbury’s Contractor, Barr Construction, next week.

Yours, Stuart Edgar.

Well obviously they have seen the picture and the situation for themselves, this observer would think it is dangerous enough to merit immediate action but he is not an expert. Take care until it is fixed Gurnites.

further update: a correction from Transport Scotland: "It will be Barr’s sub contractor who will be carrying out the work not Bear."