Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"The old Sandown lags gobbing off"

There was discussion at the joint CC meeting tonight in the Academy about the ongoing Sandown Charrette. Here are a few brief extracts from what was said.

Dick Youngson urged everyone to attend over the next two days if they can. Dick was very happy with the Charrette so far and outlined the work down so far today in the Courthouse.

There was a bit of hot debate about the publicity for the Charrette with Brian Stewart critical here. Brian had other concerns, mainly about the Cawdor proposal being way ahead of Sandown - “ The Delnies tail will wag the Sandown dog” was one phrase he used to outline his concerns about what might happen in the future. Rosemary Young said that she’d heard that nobody knew that it was on and that it was the usual suspects that were there. She thought that was a really bad thing and if they didn’t get the publicity right, they need to run it again and they need to put it in the evening so people who are working can get there. Oor Sandy said that the Community Councils had been informed two to three weeks ago and the publicity in the Nairnshire last week wasn’t as good as he would have expected. John Dolan replied that the press release had been too late for the Nairnshire.

John Mackie, with reference to previous experience said: “You could put posters all over the town, all over wherever you want and you still wouldn’t get a big turnout.

Colin MacAulay (Liz’s SNP running mate for the May elections said however; “It was a good day, it was an open and transparent process. People are genuinely cynical from previous experience about the exercise but I don’t think the facilitators are of that ilk at all. I think it is a very special opportunity to influence a very special piece of land.”

John Hart expressed his concern that the predominance of people there were the old Sandown lags gobbing off. “So we’ve got to encourage other people to go in and make their number and have a look at it,” he said.

Graham Vine said that he didn’t even know that the charrette was on today until he rang to speak to Dick Youngson about something totally different and his Dick’s wife said “oh he’s down at the charrette.”

Tommy said that he was totally happy and he’d been well aware of the charrette but did mention that people were working whilst the event was taking place

Simon Noble thought more could have been done earlier to communicate the message to more people.

You can see the schedule for the charrette here. This observer popped in a couple of times today and enjoyed a coffee and biscuit between two sessions. Why not pop down to the Courthouse and give it a try? If you find it’s not for you then you can always slip away quietly. People seem to be coming and going all the time. It’s your town and your taxes that will be paying for the tea and coffee anyway at the end of the day. Give it a go if in town over the next two days

Nairn and the Jubilee Big Lunch

Ewen Brodie Lord Lieutenant of Nairnshire was at the joint Community Council meeting in the Academy tonight with news of how Nairn might celebrate the Jubilee. He revealed that Nairn Sailing Club are trying to get a boat into the 1,000 vessel parade on the Thames in June of this year to wave the Nairn flag.

Ewan Brodie would also like to see Nairn get involved in the Big Lunch with an event in Viewfield on Sunday the third of June. He told the meeting that he was there to try and sell the idea of getting involved in the project. He told the meeting he thought the best people in Nairnshire were the Community Councils who were all very vibrant in what they do and what they got involved in. He also hoped that it would not only be for this year but become an annual event.

On the Monday night there may be a beacon/bonfire. There will be 2012 beacons around the Country and Ewen would like to see one in Nairnshire. The Lord Lieutenant is working with Lord Cawdor to find a suitable site.

Each of the three community councils agreed to go away and discuss the Big Lunch further.

Capercaillie leaves town

Charrette - Chief Scottish Government planner - "Was it you that was in the kaftan?"

There’s a lot of Charrette material on the Gurn just now, please scroll down for other articles. This observer feels that perhaps Gurnites would appreciate some extracts from what the Scottish Government’s chief planner Jim McKinnon had to say to those gathered in the Courthouse last night. After his speech he fielded questions and there was no shortage of the usual material that has been the mainstay of the battlefield that has been local politics when it comes to Sandown for many years now. If time permits this week we’ll try to give you the most of Jim’s speech plus his encounters with some of the usual suspects. Here we go them with Jim's opening:

“It’s an absolute pleasure to be here, some of you might know that I grew up just along the road in Forres. I’ve got a great affection for Nairn, my first Latin teacher came from Nairn and I still tremble at the thought of him, and I can still decline amare and dominus, not as quick as I used to but I can still do it. Nairn I think is a nice town, I like Nairn. It’s got great golf courses and I can recall many really enjoyable evenings at the Ballerina. I don’t know whether it still functions as a music venue.”

At this point Oor Sandy made an intervention:

“You’re showing your age now,” he said.

“Was it you that was in the Kaftan?” Replied the Holyrood planning top gun.

He continued; I will also remind you that Nairn County are trailing Forres mechanics in the Highland League at the moment. I recall Nairn as a very vibrant small town and arguably less so now. Although I know the Council has put in a lot of money into improvements in Nairn but, you know, pretty much like any town, any city in Scotland, so much of the modern development you see fails to gladden the eye or lift the spirit and that is why we are here tonight. To start a process that gives you the opportunity to shape the future of Sandown. How it looks, how it feels and how it functions…”

more later Gurnites.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Come on down "You're all invited to be an urban designer for a week"

There was a bit of controversy during the meeting about lack the publicity for the Charrette but Sandy, Jim McKinnon the Scottish Government's chief planner and Tim Stott of Highland Council all said they wanted as many people to attend as possible and asked folk to put the word out:

"You're all invited to become an urban planner for a week," said Mr Stott.

"Climb aboard my old charrette" says the Nairnshire editorial tonight with a critical analysis of the charrette process. A must read editorial for anyone with 45p spare in their pocket this week. Well the participants at the top table tonight professed the view that it is all down to us the punters. Why not pop down to the Courthouse and see for yourselves over the next few days. Is the charrette process of any use? This observer came away impressed by Jim McKinnon he certainly felt like a breath of fresh air after all the years of disappointment and heartache that the Sandown planning process has brought to the community.

Why not decide for yourself as the process builds up to the concluding meeting on Thursday evening. See the schedule here. Every wanted to be an urban planner? See previous article for pictures of the opening meeting of the charrette.

Sandown Charrette kicks off - the Courthouse tonight

Oor Sandy with Julian Farrar of architects Ironside Farrar who are facilitating the charrette.

Jim McKinnon, Chief Planner at The Scottish Government with Chairman of the Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee, Councillor Ian Ross. What a class act Jim was, a very interesting mannie - a Forres loon with memories of the Ballerina. More of what Jim said later

Members of the public in attendence

A very interesting night out Gurnites - more later. The charrette runs for the next three days - see the schedule here.

Riverside Cludgies find new homes

The redundant cludgies down at the Riverside that had been daubed with obscene graffiti. (finally removed thanks to Oor Graham) will shortly be moving to new homes. The bigger one is off to the Allotments at Sandown and the wee one goes along to Mill Road. NAS will be paying the cost of removal and installation themselves. The allotment society failed with their funding bid with the Royal Bank of Scotland but relief will soon be on the way.

Station Brae pothole

There's been talk of safety improvements to Station Brae for long enough now and at last there are plans before the Highland Council planning committee. Hopefully the brae will be resurfaced as part of any improvements. In the meantime the temporary repairs to the potholes of the past few years are starting to open up again. Here's one to watch for, a vicious hole half-way up the hospital side of the brae.

It's the last thing you need to contend with when you are watching for traffic coming out of the junction and paying attention to pedestrians on the narrow pavement.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The week ahead

Will be dominated by the Sandown Charrette, kicking off at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Courthouse. Read this Gurn article for more details.
UPDATE comment from APT Sec on that article - she seems very doubtful about the value of the Charrette process to the community

Tuesday night and the combined Community Council meeting hosted by Nairn Suburban CC. Lord Lieutenant of Nairnshire, Ewan Brodie will be giving details to the councillors of a Jubilee celebration to be held in Viewfield in the summer.

Firhall Bridge accessible options

Murd Dunbar continues his campaign for improved access to the Firhall Bridge. In a recent communication with the Highland Council Murd has been told:

"There are alternative accessible options to using the Firhall footbridge."

A slightly perplexed Murd has written to the Highland Council to ask them what the accessible options to using the Firhall Bridge actually are. This observer would agree with Murd when he suggests there are none.

Boat wanted (doesn't need to be seaworthy)

The Keeping Nairnshire Colourful group are looking for a boat not seaworthy, to use as a planting feature It will sit beside the dairy near to the A96 roundabout , size of boat max length would be 20 feet. If any gurnites can help the KNC we would be delighted to forward details.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Red Sky this morning

As seen in Cawdor

Nairn Climate Challenge Panel follow-up

In October 2010 the Gurn reported on the Climate Change Panel that SNH held in the town to gauge the community's reaction to the perceived changes that are coming our way. Here's how the Gurn saw the meetings held by the Panel.

Drier summers and wetter winters was the mantra back then and if this observer remembers correctly it then proceeded to rain for most of the summer of 2011. Now the BBC reports on a follow up to that consultation that was held in Nairn.

"Communities could be encouraged to make their own assessments of the direct benefits they get from nature.
A toolkit has been developed as a guide to understanding the landscape and what are called ecosystem services and how they are affected by climate change.
"Services" include natural processes that provide food and fuel, purify air, enrich soils and prevent floods.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Highland Council plan to run pilots in the Highlands using the toolkit.
The move follows two years of research work which involved communities in Nairn and Dumfries and Galloway and examined their attitudes to climate change." Full article.

This observer is in no doubt that there are changes underway in the climate and ecosystems that support us but wonders how any toolkit project would be received in Nairn - out of the reactions received on the Gurn in the past when climate change has been debated, there have been several responses from people that do not believe it is happening. Maybe there will be a drier summer this year?

No soccer at Station Park or Showfield

Nairn versus Buckie is off - severe frost on the park. Nothing doing at the Showfield today either as Nairn St Ninian v RAF Lossiemouth is frozen out as well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Common Good snapshot

The Gurn has been sent a link to "Sounding Off" by Bill McAlister on the Inverness Courier site. His article this week is entitled "Inverness Common Good Fund is the envy of the Highlands".

Bill details the results of several generations of good management of the Inverness fund and gives details of other Common Good Funds in the Highlands. This is what he has to say about Nairn's:

"Nairn has one but it is around 3 million in debt and the lucrative sale of 86 acres of Common Good land at Sandown, on the A96 on the Inverness side, appears to have fallen through. The land's value, which was 14 million four years ago, has nosedived."

Full article here

"Like Tommy Cooper trying to hide a pea under three tumblers"

Hello Gurn,

What's the current state of play at the Rosebank Church? Noticed all the slates being shipped off a few weeks back by a salvage company, not a good sign, although if the owners are in the market for a new roof for their building they might look a 100 yards down the road, seems a perfectly good building of historic importance is about to bite the dust to make way for car parking, still the longer that building stands the more of affront it is to the new building across the road whose unpaid bill is forcing yet more cockeyed planning decisions. From the outside it all looks like Tommy Cooper trying to hide a pea under three tumblers.

Best Wishes,
Shaun MacDonald

Tribute to Ian Fraser

A moving tribute to Ian Fraser from his brother-in-law Duncan Brown.


Inverness Courier review

The Co-op's seeming reluctance to demolish the old petrol station makes it into the Courier today with pics and quotes from Oor Sandy, Tommy Hogg and John Finnie MSP. Tommy looks very much the man of the people in this article with his fashionable baseball cap in evidence.

A nice pic of Danny on the front page too and the headline: "£500 to meet deputy PM". This is a reference to events coming up in March at the Lib-Dems spring conference in March. What a bargain! More details in the Courier.

There's going to be a labour candidate too in Nairn at the May elections, "...former Highland Council official Ashley Broadbent will bid for a spot in Nairn." That's six declaring that they will stand for the elections in May. 6 into 4 doesn't go, there will be two disappointed candidates. The ongoing poll in the Gurn side bar indicates that there is a willingness to see a wild card or two on the coupon as well. Over 50% of Gurnshire voters who have participated in the poll indicate that they would consider voting for a "Freedom for Nairnshire End Inverness Rule" candidate.

Almost as bad as a carbuncle nomination?

One of our regular readers points us in the direction of a Chavtowns.co.uk. Yesterday there was outrage splashed on the front page of the Highland News about the claims about Inverness on that site. It just shows how one anonymous individual can blow up things out of all proportion.
This observer notes that the article in question was posted in October of last year and it has taken this long for "outrage" to emerge. Normally the web works faster than that.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nairn Allotment Society seeking help from supporters for next week

Nairn Allotment Society are asking all members, those on their waiting list and all supporters to help them by attending the Sandown Charrette in the Courthouse next week or, if they are unable to attend, by filling in a letter of support. More details of how to help on the Nairn Allotment Society webpages.

The plotters have European funding for 38 more allotments and facilities for community groups but have to convince the Charrette that their project should go ahead on the Sandown Common Good Land. For details of the Charrette and the NAS plans see this Gurn article.

Important: The Sandown Charrette finally arrives – your chance to have a say on Sandown!

The “enquiry by design” had been expected to take place before the end of 2011 but nothing ever happened but finally the community have their chance to have a say on what they want to see happen on the Sandown lands. Oor Sandy is quoted in a Highland Council press release published on Monday:

“Convener Sandy Park said: “I am delighted that Jim Mackinnon, the Chief Planner for Scotland, has agreed to chair the opening sessions on Monday 30 January. I would like to encourage as many Nairn people as possible to attend the process at some point and have their say on this important future development.”
So we have a sort of planning “top gun” to help us sort out a brief for Sandown. Hopefully the community will indeed turn out in large numbers for this important event. Plenty of us have had a gurn or two in the past over the Council’s previous way of going about things at Sandown now that we have the chance to make a few proposals ourselves it will be interesting to see how many folk do attend.

The Charrette could do with a bit more publicity however, there was a brief mention in the Nairnshire on the 17th but the Council’s press release on Monday must have come in too late for the Leopold Street Thunderer. There was no advert in the Nairnshire either so it has been a little difficult for the citizenry to be aware of this event that has been mooted for some considerable time now. It kicks off on Monday night in the Courthouse and according to the Press Release:

“The charrette will commence with a launch evening at 7pm on Monday 30th January at the Courthouse, Nairn which will be chaired by Jim McKinnon, Chief Planner at The Scottish Government. The Convener of the Council, Councillor Sandy Park, will be in attendance alongside the Chairman of the Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee, Councillor Ian Ross. Also in attendance will be Nairn Councillors Provost Laurie Fraser, Graham Marsden and Liz MacDonald as well as Council and Scottish Government officials.”

There then follows three days of various topics which you can slip in and out of as you wish. The Gurn has obtained a copy of the Charrette programme and you can see the schedule of events here. Something for everybody there, if you have any views why not get along to one of the sessions.

One group who will be making significant representations will be the Nairn Allotment Society. The group has had approval for 38 allotments next to the existing site at Sandown and has a waiting list that will fill the new plots immediately. The NAS have accessed European LEADER funding too. Community groups participating in the second phase of the Sandown plots also have applications in for funding. The group is slightly anxious that the previous postponements and any possible further delays in the outcome of the charrette may impact on the funding packages as, although they enjoy the active and willing support of the local councillors, they now have to go through the charrette process too. Part of the strength of our community and what makes Nairn such a nice place to live are the many active groups and societies that do so much for the town and surrounding area. Some experts believe that this kind of voluntary and social activity has a spin off in creating confidence in a community and thus economic growth.

The Allotment Society have made great progress over recent years, just look at the transformation of the derelict Mill Road site into a thriving social and horticultural hub. They aim (and this observer confesses here to being a member) to repeat that process again at Sandown with the active participation of other community groups which will enable many others to enjoy a horticultural experience with training provided. It would be a tragedy if further delays would jeopardise a project that offers so many potential benefits to the community.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A96 Inshes-Nairn upgrade to dual carriageway - Consultation

"A96 Inshes to Nairn Project Summary: This project upgrades the A96 to dual carriageway for 24km from the A9 at Inshes in Inverness to the east of Nairn on the A96."

See the plans: Monday, 6 February 2012 (2pm to 7pm) - The Court House, High Street, Nairn, IV12 4AU More information here.

Demolishing the old petrol station - Co-op responds to Facebook comments

A swift response to posts coming from Gurnshire on the Co-op Facebook page:

"we are in ongoing talks with The Highland Council about this and hope to reach an agreement as soon as we can"

You can see the posts here and add your own thoughts too if you are logged in to Facebook. A future without both the Old Community Centre and the Petrol Station - maybe it isn't all that far off?

Time for more community pressure on the Co-op!

Avail yourselves of the Nairnshire Telegraph Gurnites and digest the front page if you already haven't. The Scottish Government has very kindly given 300K to Oor Sandy for knocking down the old community centre and there just so happens to be enough dosh to deal with the old petrol station too. The only thing is that the Co-op seem to be reluctant.

This observer caught a bus to Inverness yesterday and was trying to imagine the vistas without the petrol station and the old centre. The former social work office/police station would stand out and so would the old rent office building. People driving through Nairn would see the car parking area better. The backs of the High Street buildings and the library ( the architecture of that building there questionable perhaps) but given time perhaps that could be broken up a little by planting of trees. We can have a rammy about what we want to go on these sites later but in the meantime let's get behind Sandy & Co in getting the Co-op on board. The facebook campaign page and Rosemary's "Kick-ass" tactics certainly worked a treat when it came to getting a clean-up for the Regal.

This morning John Finnie one of our SNP MSPs in the Highlands has tweeted that he is writing to the Co-op on this issue. Obviously the Council are working on them too but there is nothing better than pressure from the punters. Why not pop along to leave them a message on Facebook?

Also give them a tweet here.

If any Gurnties have any ideas on how to put pressure on the Co-op please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anyone up for a "tweet-up"?

Iain Fraser is the new manager of the Golf View Hotel. He obviously sees the social media as a useful tool in his role. His first day was yesterday and he seems to be enjoying his new job very much. You can follow his posts here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Oor Graham gets to grips with Graffiti

Looks like Cllr Graham Marsden went away from the recent River CC meeting that heard complaints about Graffiti and swung into action. Today the more prominent and offensive graffiti on the Riverside toilets was being painted over. There are still wee bitties elsewhere along the riverside walks but this is a great start.

Access Panel

This observer went along to the open meeting of the Nairn Access Panel held in the Community Centre last week. I’ve heard the work of the panel mentioned by Highland Councillors at various debates at Community Council meetings and thought it would be worthwhile to find out more about the Panel’s activities in Nairn. There is information on the responsibilities of Access Panels on the Scottish Disability Equality Forum they state that the panels: “who work for better access for disabled people in their local community. Access Panels consists of local groups of volunteers, including disabled people, carers and people with a genuine interest in access.” You can read more here.

Many Gurnites will know Liz Bow the chair of the panel who was awarded an MBE in the 2010 honours list for her community work. It was Liz who opened the meeting. She explained some of the regular work of the board. They meet every three months with the Highland Council and also have regular meetings with the traffic warden and the police inspector. At the meetings with the Council will be reps from the technical services, planning and the local ranger. The panel also has a yearly access awareness day with primary school children which offers a hands on experience for the youngsters on what it is like to be not so mobile as others yet still be able to lead a very full life. Liz then handed over the meeting to the floor and said she wanted to hear the views of members of the public present.

One gentleman immediately raised the issue of how he travelled to the hospital in his electric buggy via the riverside path and Queenspark but how this was becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous given the deterioration of the footpath next to the skateboard park. He mentioned how his vehicle had almost flipped over. This observer knows exactly the spot the gentleman was talking about, for most of us the potholes in that disintegrating path are an inconvenience, we have to tread carefully or even ride a bicycle up on the grass perhaps but if you are relying on this route as a safe means of going unaided to the hospital in your buggy then you have a major problem to deal with.

This item led on to discussion of the drop-down kerbs opposite the hospital at Queen’s Park and how they were still sometimes over 2 inches from the road surface. Other problems with drop down kerbs where how they could sometimes be even placed next to drains or how people will park next to them blissfully unaware that someone might need to use them on a regular basis. Liz mentioned how the panel had been raising the issue of kerbs with the Council for some time but how in the past issues had been fixed almost immediately but now because of funding constraints things were being prioritised.

There was debate about the long-running issue of the Cawdor Road traffic calming proposals. One individual present thought the existing dangerous situation would be made even worse by the present proposal. Liz told how she thought this issue was going to be fixed when the hospital was built but was still ongoing. She said; “There’s been huge problems and I have to say there have been a lot of excuses being made about who is responsible for what and who’s going to pay for what part, but it’s a kind of eternal triangle but it’s high on the agenda.”

There then was a discussion on paths in the area and the riverside was quoted as an example of how it was difficult or impossible to complete the walks (as more able people are able to do) with out turning back. The situation with the Firhall Bridge was discussed and it remains very much on the group’s wish list and the panel are supportive of Murd Dunbar’s efforts and want to see the situation improved, but it seems the lack of cash will mean that nothing will happen to the Firhall Bridge in the near future. One member of the panel said that if they insisted that the bridge was fixed then there would be no money left for anything else. Maintenance of paths was an issue for the panel too and again the riverside was mentioned here.

There were complaints about the state of the pavement close to the bus station and the meeting was told that it seemed to be a debate about between contractors and the Council about who was responsible for the situation. It was expressed that someone might break a leg soon.

There is an ongoing attempt to improve access to the beaches on both sides of the harbour with hopes of a 6m square platform being placed on the West Beach near the existing ramp and an improved path between the Bailey Bridge and the East Pier. Seumas told the meeting how Graham Marsden was providing help there. Attempts to obtain funding have now moved away from the more complicated Leader system to a lottery application.

Shortly the Access Panel will be presenting a business in the High Street with an award to the premises that has done the most to demonstrate a positive attitude to helping those with disability enter their establishment. The shortlist is being discussed and the award will be announced soon.

The meeting was an enlightening experience for this observer and I was impressed with the level of commitment the volunteers of the panel give to their work. Well done the members of the Access Panel! Another example of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes all over Nairn that helps make our town such a decent place to live.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More tlc needed for listed signal boxes?

Back in November the Gurn published this picture of the unseasonally warm weather beating down on the former Nairn East signal box. That post attracted a comment today which Gurnites may find interesting:

"Paul Francis said...

Regarding the photograph of the redundant Nairn East signal box I would like to express my sadness st the lack of maintenance. I worked at the station in the 1970's with the other signalmen - Campbell Mckenzie and Gordon Milne. We took a pride in looking after the station and the surrounds including tending the flowerbeds.

Researching on the internet it appears that both signal boxes are Category B Listed Buildings. Apparently, owners of listed buildings may be compelled to repair and maintain such buildings and local authorities are responsible for ensuring that this is done.

Is this something that can be taken up with the Council?

Paul Francis"

It does indeed seem that the two signal boxes are listed buildings. Time for the rail authority responsible to administer some tlc? Perhaps one of our local councillors is reading the Gurn tonight and might have an opinion? Any gurnites out there that take an interst in railways and railway affairs?

Balade écossaise

An interesting image on Flickr by a french visitor to Nairn.

Capercaillie Concerns

Picture from the Nairn Birder

Seumas, the Nairn Birder, writes to the Gurn:

"'I notice on The Gurn that some are suggesting that the Caper might be a Black Grouse. It is quite easy to mix the two, but this is definitely a Caper. Size and colour of wings - and particularly the large bill are the main give aways.

We need to handle this situation very sensitively: this is a lost and vulnerable bird and one of precious few remaining of this iconic species in The Highlands.

Please don't approach it."

More pictures of the Capercaillie on Seumas's blog.

If anyone has sighted the bird recently please contact the Gurn and we will forward the information to Seumas who is monitoring the situation.

UPDATE: Seen crossing the A96, a local motorist stopped her vehicle on one side of the road and a bus driver on the other to allow the bird to safely traverse the A96. Seems like this creature would be better off in a pine forest somewhere. Please take care if driving in the areas this bird has been seen.

No match for Nairn County today

The game at Grant Street Park has been called off due to a waterlogged pitch. Yesterday Clach manager Iain Polworth had been quoted in the Courier criticising the fact that not only were to play in Inverness today but Caley, Inverness City and also the Highland Rugby Club had home fixtures.

Obviously such competition for spectators means that somebody will lose out. Maybe there is a way to avoid to much of this type of situation in the future but it would surely be difficult to co-ordinate fixtures across three different leagues. But due to the weather one clash has been avoided and perhaps Clach will now get their home game against the Wee County on a mid-week date?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Demolition - Liz doesn't want the old Community Centre site sold

More details of what is going on with the old Community Centre have come out today with a picture and small article in the Press and Journal. We reported yesterday that the Highland Council had passed permission for demolition. Today the P&J reports that they are looking for a contractor as cash has become available after delays with other projects. The Gurn beleives this cash is from a special Scottish Government town centre fund as Oor Sandy was speaking about the like last year.

Now what will happen to the site? Liz is quoted in the paper: " I would like to see it left as additional parking for the town centre. I don't think it should be sold."

That might be the best thing because getting a parking place in the town centre can be very difficult at certain times of the week. What do Gurnites think? Keep the site on the books or sell it for development?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Local Press Review – Standing again

Interesting to see that Laurie, Liz, Graham and Sandy are all standing for election again in May. The Nairnshire has quotes from the three Nairn members of the ruling administration so if you haven’t read the local paper yet you can read the “self-assessment” quotes from the LibDem and two Indy councillors. The Leopold Street Thunderer has also has been speaking to new contestant Colin Macaulay who will be standing on the SNP ticket with Liz. The voting system gives you the choice of list preferences so obviously the Nationalists feel that they have a fair chance of getting two members elected in Nairn. It is worth remembering too that last time round Liz got almost twice as many first preferences as Sandy the second placed candidate in the first round (Liz 1576, Sandy 855, Laurie 669, Graham 535). This observer will predict that Liz will increase her total of first preferences, even with one other SNP candidate in the mix. Many voters will still have her “sacking” as Provost by the other three existing councillors strong in their memory when they go to the polls. Here’s a couple of Gurn articles here and here that detail those heady days back in the spring of 2010 when a wave of indignation swept through Nairn over what many considered as a very unfair move by Graham, Laurie and Sandy. The Facebook group that campaigned to reinstate Liz attracted over 500 members and is still there.

In an indication of where perhaps local debate will go during the elections it is perhaps worth picking two key parts out of what Colin had to tell the Nairnshire: “I am well aware of the concerns and opportunities across our Royal Burgh,” and “ “…we will fight Nairnshire’s corner as a part of a strong SNP voice on the new Council.” Royal Burgh and Nairnshire – key words in a potential debate about the County’s identity in the face of the centralising machine that is the Glenurquhart Road administration? It is not only in Nairn that people are upset with the Highland Council, even in Inverness there are the stirrings of revolt over the use of the Common Good fund. Could the SNP pick up on conceptions across the Highlands that the periphery is disadvantage compared to the Inverness? It remains to be seen what the SNP will put in their Highland manifesto for the elections in May but a commitment to more localism could bring them many more votes. If they shy away from that in Nairn however, could it be that other candidates might emerge yet with a more robust “Nairnshire First” agenda. There seems to be a willingness out there to consider such an approach if the results of one of the Gurn’s current (unscientific) polls are taken into account.

click the image to enlarge

Chaos on the A96 for commuters

The Highland News has an article about the considerable delays on the A96 as drivers arrive/leave Inverness. "Lights bring traffic jam chaos on the A96"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Plans to demolish old Community Centre approved

As seen on the Highland Council webpages.

Update: one of our regular readers sends us this picture of the litter and weeds at the back of the old community centre. If the demolition is not going ahead immediately perhaps Oor Graham or someone can arrange to have this area tidied up?

Monday, January 16, 2012

More sightings of the Capercaillie - UPDATED

More sightings have been reported of the Capercaillie in the Merryton/Lochloy/Grants Garage area in the last few days, see previous posting here.

The Gurn wonders if it may be a Black Grouse but after some research it seems very hard to be able to tell the difference. If anyone can confirm, let us know?

Thanks to Billy Milne for the top image and to James Herbertson and his mum for the bottom one.

UPDATE: Video of the bird, thanks to Veronica.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kayaker rescued

A kayaker who got into difficulties just off the Old Bar yesterday afternoon after his craft capsized was rescued by a member of the Nairn Sailing Club. Charlie Robertson, 85, took the cold and wet man and his kayak back to the Harbour. Two RNLI lifeboats also attended the incident. Well done to all who took part and thankfully there was a positive outcome.

UPDATE: More information and details available here. Well done Charlie, life in the old sea dog yet!

Nairn St Ninian 1 - Fochabers 0

St Ninian came away with a 1 – 0 win. All in all, plenty of action in both goal mouths but, apart from the one goal, neither team were able to take advantage from their efforts by hitting the back of the net during the rest of the match. Three useful points for Saints. More pictures to follow.

UPDATE: Pictures now available here.

Shop for hire Harbour Street

The former Harbour Street Post Office building is available for rent again.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sandy up for some "Access Only"

Oor Sandy is quoted in this week's Nairnshire in regard to the Westie's bid for "Access Only" areas. "Last week, Highland Council Convenor Sandy Park said he could support a Road Traffic Order along Altonburn Road but not in Albert Street, Seabank Road and Manse Road."

The ideas can get fed into the Sandown "Charette" it seems according to Sandy. Partial support for the West CC there then. More in this week's Nairnshire Telegraph. All roads lead to Sandown? If you do go and pick up this week's edition of the local paper once again this weekend, then also worth browsing is Iain Bain's editorial entitled "Roads" - an analysis of how difficulties are impacting locally as the road network falls slowly to pieces.

Bridge Street/Harbour Street corner spruce up

The corner building after being prepared by the painters.

Crumbling roads, in the Fishertown, across Nairn and the Highlands

Gurnites will have seen the recent material in the Nairnshire Telegraph about Cllr Andrew Purkis’s call for action on the state of the roads in the Fishertown. There was a wee follow up to that at Tuesday night’s meeting when Liz announced she was having a meeting with Andrew to look at some of the problems he has highlighted in the Fishertown.

Oor Graham mentioned that an additional million pounds was to be allocated to road repairs across the Highlands. This seems a bit at odds with information in the Courier today – that article is gathering quite a stream of comments from angry Council Tax payers but maybe Graham’s information hasn’t reached the Inverness mainstream media yet.

Andrew remarked that that million pounds wasn’t going to go very far. Graham said a bit later on in the debate that to get all the roads in Highland into the condition they should be would cost 150 million pounds, around 73 million pounds should be spent every year too but only 50 million pounds is being spent. Graham admitted that this “just didn’t happen yesterday.”

Stephanie Whittaker, herself a Fishertown resident, agreed with Andrew over the state of the Fishertown but argued that the rest of Nairn wasn’t too good either.

Obviously a problem that has been building and maybe one that will probably get worse in the short term no matter who forms the next council administration, they will inherit a crumbling road network in the Highlands. Has anybody got any ideas how this problem could be solved?

Gaelic in modern Scotland - Free OU course

This observer spends some time on Fòram na Gàidhlig and noticed this post today:

"If you want to learn something about the Gaelic language, its history and and its speakers. the Open University has a free 15-hour course that you can do, called "Gaelic in Modern Scotland" "

It looks pretty good and addresses a lot of issues that you sometimes see mentioned in newspaper letter columuns, there are seven modules full of all the information you need to know about Gàidhlig.

Compost and greenhouse questions

Can you help? More on Nairnallotments.org.

Not much cash left for potholes

"Only potholes deemed a danger will be repaired," states an article in the Courier this mornning. A very alarming and illuminating article.

"The Council only has around £135,000 in its budget to pay for temporary patch repairs across the region as well as other road works including markings, signs and repairs to gullies and verges, up to ist April, while a pot of £250,000 is all that remains to do major resurfacing and restructuring works." More details in today's Inverness Courier.

Oor Graham had a few roads cash statistics when it came to debate about the state of the Fishertown roads on Tuesday night. The Gurn will get round to analysis of that later today. In fact it will be a bit of a roads day here on the Gurn. Oor Sandy seems partially supportive of the West End "Access Only" movement. More on his comments in the Nairnshire later and Iain Bain had an editorial about Nairnshire roads and bridges too. More later Gurnites when time permits.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

River CC online

Nairn River Community Council have published minutes from Tuesday night's meeting on their web address at nairnrivercc.org. Quite a lot of interesting information on there for Gurnites to browse.

Nairn Allotment Society start 2012 training

More details here. NAS training activities are open to all supporters too.

No Graffiti Policy at Glenurquhart Road?

Graffiti was mentioned again at the River CC meeting, it was also mentioned at theRiver meeting before that. Oor Graham admitted that he hadn’t seen it yet and neither had Liz it seems but some of it has been there for several months. The local authority seems to lack equipment. One of the regular Gurnites witnessed three men sent to try and remove graffiti off the Jubilee bridge – they had a pail of water and a scrubbing brush. Is it beyond the wit of our elected councillors and highly paid officials to clean up the graffiti on public property?
What is the Highland Council’s policy on graffiti? This observer tried searching their website to find out the policy and couldn’t find anything. A website graffitihotline.uk gave some idea of a local authority’s responsibility when it comes to graffiti removal:
“Each Council is responsible for removing graffiti from their Council owned properties, parks and the highway, which includes lamp post, traffic lights, rubbish bins and benches. But the policy varies from Council to Council for clearing private properties, commercial properties, utility boxes and other street furniture that is not owned by them. To find out what you Council's policy is select your Council here.”
This observer had a look at the drop down menu for Highland Council – nothing there. Just to say that Highland are not on the list doesn’t mean to say they don’t have a policy however. If any of our regular readers from the Glenurquart Rd ISP are browsing this article perhaps you could inform the Gurn if you have such a policy. Anyway, Aberdeen were top of the list and this is their policy:
“Aberdeen Council aims to remove obscene and racist graffiti within 24 working hours of it being reported and all other reported graffiti as resources allow.
The service is free for graffiti on publicly owned land, street furniture and buildings. There is a charge for graffiti removal from private and commercial premises. To contact Aberdeen Council please telephone 08456 080910 or for more information please see their graffiti pages by clicking here.
Graffiti can be reported online to the Building Cleaning Services of Aberdeen Council or by telephone to Environmental Services”
Along at Moray (not on the graffitihotline site too) they say:
“The council will arrange for the removal of the graffiti in a timescale determined by the content with the highest priority likely to be given to graffiti which is racist or offensive in some other way. Please use our online form to report incidents of graffiti and illegal dumping.”
Please can we have some action on graffiti. It’s the sort of thing we pay our council tax for.

Coastal cash?

The Coastal Cash hand-out announcement is nothing new and caused a bit of a spat back in July: "SNP anger at plan for Crown Estate handout " The SNP want to see all the Crown Estate cash raised in Scotland going to Holyrood.

Fast forward to 2012 however and Danny gets a mention in the Groat web site. There's going to be £3.9 million available in the fund, "The Costal Communities Fund". This fund is UK wide and will be worth 50 per cent of the gross revenues from the Crown Estate’s marine activities, there's more information here on this government web page published in July more information on this web page here. That's a treasury press release page dated 11 July of last year.

According to that web page it looks like the Highlands were in for £1.85 million being 50% of what the Crown Estate revenues. The Groat quotes a figure of £3.9 million however. It looks like the paper is quoting the total figure for Scotland?

Again according to the Groat: "Community and social enterprise groups, charities and social businesses seeking funds for an array of potential projects, which could include renewables and skills development, could be eligible."

Nairn being a coastal community and in the Highlands perhaps we should start getting our thinking caps on as to how we could get a chunk of that cash? Three community councils working together perhaps to do something with the old Police Station/tourist office? Perhaps NICEafarians might have some thoughts that might attract cash? It's worth being on standby perhaps? Maybe some alert souls out there are already ready with a bid? Groat article here.

For more information on the controversy of Crown Estate cash and how it is spent, Gurnites might like to read what Andy Wightman has to say.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cool response for Rosemary's suggestive letter

West Community Council chair Rosemary Young had written to River and Suburban CC calling for a working group or subcommittee to discuss planning matters. Her three page letter which outlines how West CC view certain recent difficulties over planning matters can be seen here.

This initiative received a very cool response from the River members however and this observer detects that perhaps the “cross-border” interventions from West which recently took a different view from River over the Bus Station and Braeval applications. Jimmy Ferguson and Brian Stewart were in the Community Centre last night (Tuesday) to support Rosemary’s letter and reply to any points raised by River members but they had a hard time of it.

River member Andrew Purkis said: “I’m not particularly in favour of this. I do think there is merit in it but we do have organised bodies of community councillors already. Where there are areas where there are developments which affect the town generally, I think those are important for the community councils to get together to discuss those issues.I don’t think it needs to set up another level of bureaucracy. I would trust our chairman, and I’m sure each community council would trust their chairman, if there was an issue which really affected the town as a whole, for those chairman to meet and see if there is any common ground and then come back to discuss and then come back to the committees.”

Jimmy Ferguson said in reply to that and other comments: The issue wasn’t so much about someone wanting to put an extension up in their back garden and that sort of stuff, that’s very local. There are some big issues around the town, like Sandown, like Nairn South, where it’s going to have a massive impact on the whole community. Individuals within each of the community councils have quite strong backgrounds or professional backgrounds and the idea behind this was just to have a get together with a few of those people to discuss what are the bigger issues around the town and try and form a consensus on what the Nairn community really feel about some of those issues.

Leslie Bolton supported Andrew’s point of view: “Why do we need another level, Mr Chairman, I agree with Andrew, we meet monthly, eleven times a year, we have four joint meetings, that’s fifteen meetings in the year and if there was some major issue that Highland Council said they were going to deal with the town centre as a whole, we could always call a special meeting to discuss that. On Nairn South we made our representations, Nairn West made different representations, on Braeval as Stephanie said, we had a view, it was criticised at the West meeting, it was criticised at the Suburban meeting. Now that’s not the way to go. We are entitled to have our opinion on anything that comes within our area. And if we say what we say then that’s it.”

Sheilea Mayer then spoke about the Lodgehill Clinic planning application and how the three Community Councils working in unison succeeding in getting an appropriate result for the residents in that area. At this point this observer spoke of how a sort of procedure has developed in the town where residents of one particular area that are faced with an inappropriate development know that they have to get support from other areas of the town and not only their own local community council. This observer believes that these campaigns when they come are best left to individuals concerned to start things off and go to the Community Councils.

Tommy Hogg perhaps summed up the current thinking of River CC when he said: “The common message just doesn’t work sometimes, what suits one community council area will not sort the other and that has been proved in the past and it’s still the same way.”

Stephanie Whittaker added to this: “I think the town will come together when it is under threat and I think it is quite obvious that everyone will work together, the other thing is there is disagreement. If you ask, I have been spending ages, wondering around town saying to people, “What do you think about the bus station?” “What do you think of the plans.” Wonderful, really great, dreadful, hate it. There is a dichotomy of opinion and there always will be. It may be that it is a difference of opinion between community councils but it may be that the people in the town are thinking different things it’s up to us to listen to what they are saying[…] People are wonderful and they will come together and I don’t think we need to push them too much outside the system that we have already."

Although there was a fairly negative reception towards Rosemary's proposal from River members they did agree to discuss it further and thought it would also be a matter for the joint community council meeting on the 31st of January.

Elected by secret ballot...

...at the River CC last night by the eight members of the Council. The new co-opted members are John Dolan, Simon Noble and Freddie Holmes. Then there were eleven...

Bill Young gathers support for Common Good proposals from River CC

West Councillor Bill Young spoke to the River CC at the meeting in the Community Centre las night (Tuesday). He reiterated the argument he presented to his West colleagues last week, which is to get the Common Good fund under local control. See here and here for further details. He said:

“This is not an attack on the Councillors, they have a very difficult job to do, but trying to square off the books for an area the size of Belgium and trying to deal with the Common Good Fund, the two are not necessarily compatible. I can see no reason why we couldn’t get it back under the local control of Nairn.”

Later as this subject was being debated Liz said: “ I was relaxed about how the Common Good was being managed but now you’ve got a Council that is no longer run by the members it is a political council and the point that I’m trying to make here is that there’s everybody chasing budgets and it’s not going to be people aligned to areas so much. It’s going to be people aligned to political groups. I’m a political councillor but I’m just concerned that will there be the protection of the areas within the political structures[…]We’ve always been comfortable that all councillors looked after their own areas but now it is a different ball game.”

Graham Marsden said he thought Bill was right and there was an opportunity to look again and see if there are other options.

The River Councillors seemed very supportive of Billy Young’s presentation and Tommy Hogg said he wanted the matter raised at the joint Community Council meeting that will be hosted on the 31st in the Academy by Suburban CC.
This observer wonders if Oor Graham will now also call for no sale of any Sandown land until the Common Good is back in Nairn control? Or will it simply be platitudes all the way to the ballot box?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Links School building worries return

Liz revealed to the River CC meeting earlier tonight (Tuesday) that the Health Service had indicated to Highland Council that they will be terminating their lease of the Links Clinic from the 31st of March. The struggle will now be on to find new tenants for the building and fears were expressed that the building may be sold off by the Council and knocked down to allow development. Tommy Hogg said:
"That place is close to the heart of the Community and it is a big issue."

Liz said she had several representations from clients of the services at the Links Clinic. The services provided will now be moved up to the Hospital. Oor Graham indicated that he had previously had talks with COVASS and they had shown an interest in the building and it was now his intention to go and have a chat with them. It was pointed out by Liz that COVASS's funding from Highland Council was now in jeopardy however. This was an issue we reported on in the Gurn recently.

Once again the future of a Fishertown landmark and a valuable piece of heritage is facing an uncertain future. Anyone out there need a suite of offices and meeting rooms? Please contact Highland Council if you do.

Common Good Fund - The way we go about getting it back under Nairn control?

Here's more from Billy Young's comments at the West CC meeting last week. Previous article here.

"Within the three Community Councils you have got an elected body which represents the population of Nairn who are the beneficiaries of the Common Good Fund. I would have thought it shouldn't be beyond our wit to get some representitives, a small sub-committee, to bury whatever differences we may have on anything else, on how we want to spend the money or whether we want wetlands, or whatever, to get some strategy between us, which we can stand up to the Council: well thank you very much for your management, it's rubbish, we want it back and we've got somebody which is capable of receiving it which is the elected representitives from the Community Councils."

Sounds a very good strategy to this observer. The Gurn understands that since last week's meeting the West contacted River Community Council with a view to asking if Bill could speak to the River meeting this evening in the Community Centre at 7.30 p.m.

Community Councils to take over NICE?

We reported just before Christmas how NICE is aiming for Development Trust Status to pro-actively take forward town centre issues. Interestingly at the West CC meeting last week Jimmy Ferguson, during discussion on regaining democratic control of the Common Good Fund, asserted that NICE was moving in a direction where they might seek to take ownership of community assets. He went further and indicated that, “the three Community Councils need to take ownership of NICE.”

It does seem a very sensible move to this observer, maybe this is the drift of current thinking within NICE?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Capercaillie First Footer

Thanks to John Urquhart for this picture of a Capercaillie, he thought Gurnites might appreciate a look at this rare creature, here it is first footing in Merryton on New Year's Day. It seems this bird has taken up residence on the eastern side of the River Nairn with sightings reported in Broadhill and the industrial estate too.

Update: Billy sent the next picture in - nothing like a grouse when first footing.

Highland Council apply to demolish the old Community Centre

Since they are in effect applying to themselves this observer would anticipate an outcome favourable to the Council. Thanks to our regular reader who alerted us to this. Our correspondent adds:

"I think it is generally accepted that the building itself is unsound and can't easily or economically be refurbished and brought back into use. But it is nevertheless a historic building. The later extension added to it has no merit, but those who know about the early history of churches in Nairn think the original building is an important piece of heritage, It was after all the first purpose built Free Kirk?

Even if it isn't usable, the building is not about to fall down. It does seem to me slightly surprising that the Council has decided to go ahead and demolish it without any kind of public announcement or local discussion.

The other point is - does it make sense to knock it down without having any plans for what is to go in its place? Are we going to have another fenced-off piece of unused land? Or will the space be tarred over and made into more (temporary?) car-parking space?"

Good points from our correspondent. Shouldn't the community have been informed before the information went on the Council website? Good to keep the punters in the loop? Any thoughts Gurnites?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Still here

Eviction efforts will probably go into overdrive now.

Nairn for holidays any time of the year

It was a bit of a gloomy day but an intersting end to the evening which looked pretty good from the Links. Pictures here on the Gurn Flickr pages.

Gurnshire at the Polls

Three opinion polls running in the side bar at the moment:

1) Do you support making Altonburn Road and other parts of the West End "Access only"? Article and 40 plus comments here.

2) Do you support NICE (www.nicenairn.org.uk)?

3) At the Highland Council elections in May, would you consider voting for "Freedom for Nairnshire - End Inverness Rule " candidate(s)?

Allegation of unfair funding from Highland Council for Nairn based womens support group

Another case of Nairn getting the short straw from the local authority? The Courier states:

"SUPPORT group which helps women and children who have been victims of violence and domestic abuse in the Nairn area claims its clients are being discriminated against because of where they live."

The Community Violence and Abuse Service based in Nairn gets £8,600 per year funding from the Council but the courier says:

"However, service manager Kim Haywood claims Inverness Women’s Aid receives £229,576 per year from the local authority, Caithness Women’s Aid £158,660, Ross-shire Women’s Aid £243,673 and Lochaber Women’s Aid £102,692."

More on the Inverness Courier site.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Lonesome horse blues

Only the old ragged horse isn't so lonely anymore, he was joined at the roundabout by the brothers just before Christmas. Any requests? "Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the Altonburn Road"?

It's been a busy day on the Gurn. Top of the pops seems to be the "Access only" issue with other 30 comments now.