Thursday, January 26, 2012

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.


Charrette of Ire said...

The programme for the Charrette suggests that building on the Common Good Sandown lands is a done deal. The programme seems to be about subjects such as architecture rather than should we keep it as open space Common Good land for us and future generations to enjoy. Or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

No you are not missing anything.

A Charrette is a multi-disciplinary collaborative design workshop.

Here are a few of my worries regarding Charrettes. That:

The participants, especially local residents, are forced to play a highly circumscribed role, in which the “outside experts” disproportionately influence the process and the master plan is then usually turned over to a developer, who can then interpret the master plan produced according to their standardized templates.

Whether the ‘top down’ and highly prescriptive approach taken by ‘New Urbanist’ associated charrettes is actually compatible with the concept of empowering communities.

If the concept of a charrette is to bring citizens, decision-makers and designers together to build a new or alternative vision for an area or site through a creative process of team work and competition; how can that be reconciled with the fact that the organiser may have their own well formed 'visions' for or restrictions on the developments?

A charrette is simply listed as one of many in a portfolio of methods against a single engagement standard. (Planning Advice Note 3 2010 Community Engagement, part of Standard 4 page 32); so why has this particular method become so popular?


The whole exercise will be driven by an economic need to deliver a master plan that will make development on that land viable for a purchaser in this economic climate.

I suspect that no one attending will know exactly how their views will have influenced the design of the master plan. In fact how can anyone tell what weight will be placed on each of the views in deciding which views to take on board through the process?