Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Charrette final session in the Golf View

Oor Sandy once again introduces Jim MacKinnon, the Chief Planner to the Scottish Government.

It was quite a meeting with Jim answering some awkward questions that led to some lively debate. There were a couple of no-nos from the beginning however. Sandy started: " I think we are all aware that Sandown is Common Good land, we're not going down that road tonight, if there are any issues with common good land we are not discussing any issues anyone may have. There's a meeting on Monday night with the community councillors so we'll be discussing it in full on Monday night. So we will not entertain anything regarding the legalities or otherwise of the Common Good."

Jim stated that he understood that there were anxities about the Common Good: "As the Scottish Government we have no locus with this and from what I've seen from correspondence that has passed my way I guess that this is something that could well end up in court."
Jim outlined the other no-no too: " The other point I made and I made it a month ago in the town house, we're not revisiting the principle of development on Sandown or anything else in this area, that has been established for quite some time and it has been through a development plan examination, the reporter recommended basically endorsement of everything that was in the Highland wide local development plan. Some of you may well disagree with that, well the reporter's recommendations are binding and as I undstand it Stuart (turning to Stuart Black) you'll be taking it to the council for final endorsement as the second local development plan and the most up to date local development plan in Scotland. So revisting some of these debates really isn't on the cards."

The planning high heid yin then went on to open the debate: "What I do want to do tonight is having heard from Tim is really asking two questions. How was it for you? Is this a better way of doing business than the council say here is the plan what do you think of it? Were you able to contribute effectively to the process. Were there barriers that you felt in terms of the timing of events? I know that people were concerned at the last meeting that there wasn't sufficient notice. So I kind of think yes, we need to learn from some of the successes but also maybe we want to learn from things that maybe haven't gone so well too. At the end of the day however inclusive you find the process or however bad, at the end of the day what you will judge this by is the quality of the development that arrives in Sandown. That is the ultimate test."

There then followed a presentation by Tim Stott who showed drawings slightly amended from the previous versions and he made a plea for those present not to try to undo all the work that had gone into the charrette so are and to suggest fine tuning in the future rather than radical change and to put in what everyone could agree on but to leave flexible those areas where was presently no agreement. This observer found one part of what Tim had to say extremely interesting, he spoke on the taboo subject of the common good fund but on in the sense of its relevance to planning. He said, "It's worthwhile that the common good retains an interest, an ongoing interest in the site, we talked about a design code and one way to enforce a design code is the for the landlord if you like, it is far easy to enforce a design code if it is written into the title rather than relying on planning conditions to do that."

Tim also spoke about long leases rather than selling off the entire site. He also suggested what might be a solution for the complaint that local people are not getting their fair share of affordable housing that is built in Nairn. He said, "If you a benevolent local landowner then the Highland small communities housing trust can actually have an allocations policy that favours local people. If you are getting government grant aid for affordable housing then the allocations policy has to be on the basis of need but if you have a benevolent local land owner and a housing trust involved that doesn't rely on government hand-outs then you can alter the allocations policy in favour of local people."

After Tim's presentation Jim made reference to the unsatisfactory situation the community faced with Deveron's application for 550 houses and then opened the meeting to comments and questions. John Hart said that Sandown had been allocated for 100 houses originally to which Jim responded: "I'm always very nervous about the arithmetic of housing supply and demand, what we are trying to create is get quality out of..." He was then interrupted by laughter from a small section of those present. At this point he was pretty firm and told those amused by his comments:

"It's all very well sniggering and all of that, there are some serious issues here, we are trying to transform the planning system, there are more opportunities for public involvement in planning, guaranteed by statute than any other area of public policy and this a genuine attempt by the council to do things differently, and what I want to know is, you may have reservations about the principle of development but that debate has been had, as a way of influencing how this area was developed, do you think this was a good way of going about it."

More later

Sandown Charrette gig - Golf View tonight (weds) 7.p.m

The maps are on display and the plush seats have been brought out for the occasion and Tim Stott was fielding questions from the Highland Press Corps. It kicks off at 7.p.m and more details are available here.

Word on the street is that some of the usual suspects may be asking one or two tough questions tonight. Jingle Bangles our investigative reporter has been following up rumours that one or two folk are tooling up for a stushie down at the Golf View tonight and has discovered what could be a secret training camp up the riverside.

Former Harbour Street Post Office ready for a new start

Posters in the window tell their own story.

Common Good “Death by Powerpoint?” meeting offered to CCs after an out of the blue e-mail.

At the Suburban Community Council meeting last night the latest goings on in the long running Common Good Fund stushie were made public. John Hart told the meeting:

“The original start point was a the Charrette opening, Jim MacKinnon the Chief Planner (Scottish Government), did point up with William Gilfillan that we would have a meeting between the Community Councils, ward Councillors and himself(WG) to discuss the Common Good and he asked us for an agenda which we submitted and agreed amongst ourselves, which suggested that the Common Good should be run by the community councils so there is a separation between the decision making and the managing. That agenda was rejected with the suggestion that the meeting would be a waste of time.”

John that said that an attempt was made to hold a meeting anyway with the four councillors. He continued: “On Monday I still hadn’t heard anything so I sent an e-mail to Mr MacKinnon saying we still hadn’t got a meeting and that matters relating to the Common Good as they are managed and as it’s been seen by people to be poorly managed we hadn’t moved further forward, having had the 1st March meeting effectively cancelled and out of the blue a few hours later after my e-mail an e-mail came from Louise Clark saying there was a meeting on the 5th of March of all the community councillors – that’s all 30 of us in the Courthouse at 7.p.m on the 5th at which they are going to do a presentation on what they have or haven’t done with the common good and we’ll see what that brings."

Brian Stewart expressed that the forthcoming meeting might be a “Death by Powerpoint” event and it should not be the Highland Council lecturing the community but rather them listening to the community.

There was then some considerable discussion on matters which serious gurnite students of common good affairs will be au fait with. It did emerge that there had been some confusion between the three CCs over the formation of the agenda but Tommy Hogg indicated that he was generally happy with the final result. There was talk of whether a meeting should go ahead before the new Highland Council is formed after the 3rd of May elections given that faces and policy may well change. Alistair Noble was forthright in the view that all 3 CCs should be present in the best interests in Nairn given the dangers of what he perceives as divide and rule mechanisms and people playing games. He was adamant that there was a need to “focus on looking forward.” Tommy Hogg agreed and he more or less summed up the feeling of the meeting when he stated: “I think we should go for it, holding off would be a mistake to me.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jubilee celebrations for the Links instead of Viewfield?

Suburban CC met in the Academy tonight with representatives present from River and West CCs. The Big Lunch proposals for Viewfield were discussed but those present seemed minded to see something happen on the Links instead. Coincidentally the Gurn poll in the side-bar finally reached 100 votes today and below is the result (image will enlarge). Voting has been very slow indeed, it looks like there is a growing faction in Nairn that is not bothered either way as far as the Jubilee is concerned.

Sandown Ward Forum tomorrow night (Weds) - Golf View Hotel

See the plans, have your say and hear Jim MacKinnon the Scottish Government's Chief planner give his thoughts on the Sandown Charrette so far. More details here.

Oor Graham wants a full time traffic warden for Nairn

An example of how one selfish local motorist abused the Highway Code in Leopold Street.

Oor Graham is into campaign overdrive this week with articles in both the Nairnshire and Inverness Courier calling for a full time traffic warden for Nairn. Above you can see an example of what happens in Nairn when there are no traffic wardens around. Graham seems to think traffic wardens shouldn't give out too many fines and hits out against the blitz by recent visiting yellow perils from Inverness

“We need to protect and support the businesses and shops and cafés in Nairn, they are feeling the impact of the economic downturn, the last thing they need right now is the added discouragement of customers afraid they will receive a hefty fine for parking," he told the Inverness Courier. Sorry Graham, that is just silly, the priority must be to protect pedestrians and other road users from the like of the dangerous parking shown in the image above and a fine is the best way to do that. It is astonishing how some drivers in Nairn believe they have the right to park more liberally than others - that has to stop.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oor Sandy not standing in May

The stream of faithful readers heading into the Co-op tonight to buy tomorrow's Nairnshire Telegraph were soon digesting the shock news that Sandy Park, Convener of Highland Council, is not standing again in the forthcoming elections. Rush and out get your Nairnshire now (still thirty minutes at the time of writing this 9.30. p.m.) for the full story.

Earlier this year Sandy had indicated that he would be standing again. This observer would have had him pencilled in as one of the four candidates that would definitely get past the complicated PR quota system that is used for the Council elections. That leaves the field open now to six candidates (that have declared so far). That'll be Liz, Graham, Laurie, Colin, a Labour mannie and a mannie from Newton Gate who keeps writing letters to the Nairnshire that are very hard to digest. Of course others could emerge from the woodwork yet. In the meantime however pick 4 from 6.

Profiling Community Councillors

Monday morning and a chance once again to browse Iain Bain’s editorial “The Usual Suspects” (February 21,2012). Iain Bain sees this phrase as “developing a certain amount of notoriety locally.” He sees the make-up of the usual suspects as something rather more fluid than this observer might: “It depends on who you think is in your circle , and who you think is outside – in or out of groups,” he suggests. Here we would think that the usual suspects comprise generally the community councillors and the NICE folk plus the Concerned Residents group and one or two others that gravitate along this axis of protest and debate. For some prominent individuals who have multiple memberships of those groups it is perhaps hard for the untrained observer to distinguish what hat they are wearing sometimes. However, it was revealing when Provost Laurie Fraser recently addressed Jeanne Tolmie at the event to celebrate her 34 years on River CC.He said; “We refer to you as the usual suspects, you refer to us as the guilty party.” He said it in good humour and it was received as such. Popular myth has the current usage of this phrase originating from Oor Sandy at a ward forum meeting in reference to some of the more vocal of his community council sparring partners at these events.

Iain Bain’s analysis last week looks too at recent consultation events and raises the concern that the usual suspects “may represent very particular points of view and by dint of assiduous attendance in lieu of others, their arguments assume undue importance.” This is a view held by some and it is painfully obvious unless those with alternative points of view in the community can find the common ground and means to express them then it will be those who are presently to the fore that will have first say in articulating their thoughts and it has to be said in recent years the usual suspects have generally served Nairn well.

It is with Iain’s profile of community Councils that perhaps a few eyebrows will perhaps be raised: “The usual suspects have sometimes been described as well-heeled, older and with plenty of time on their hands. We have certainly noted this and been disappointed ourselves that other aspects of local society tend not to be represented at meetings from community councils to consultation sessions.”

These observer would suggest that perhaps Iain is a little off-beam here, older maybe yes ok, and while the West CC might conform most to Iain’s template, within the new make-up of Suburban and River CCs there is a fair mix of the social strata.

Firhall scene

Ship parking

Two of the regulars and another vessel out there yesterday. Larger picture here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dog lost/stolen Forres 24/02/12

"By car park and children's play area at Grant Park in Forres, Moray between 12.30 and 12.35, 24th Feb.

She looks younger than her nearly six years. She has a short haircut with no feathers. She is a working cocker spaniel so longer legs, slimmer and shorter ears than a traditional cocker- looks a bit like a red setter puppy.
0780 8063523 "

Nairn 1 Broch 1

More later.

Just told a lie...

"I dinnae hae a computer, cannae understand them." Was my reply to a very pleasant sounding asian gentleman who had phoned to offer to help me with problems on my computer. That's twice this week that we've received similar calls. Must be a succesful industry, how many do they successfully scam, 1 in a 1000 perhaps?

Free range eggs now available on the unofficial by-pass

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oor Sandy, Liz, Graham, Laurie backing more plots for Sandown

It goes before the full Highland Council meeting on March 1st. More details on the NAS web pages.

Big Lunch poll - slow turnout

Interest in the Gurn's latest poll in the sidebar just doesn't seem to be there. Turnout so far is only up to 74 voters, that's to midday today (Friday 24th). Perhaps gurnites are not aware of the issue or disinterest in the Big Lunch extends to not even being bothered to vote on the idea. If you wish to find out more about what the Jubilee Big Lunch proposal for Viewfield is all about then click here for a read.

Firhall Bridge - Update from Murd

Why I will not surrender and give up on the rights of people less fortunate then me

1) I believe every one has the same rights to enjoy what a circular walk has to offer in the way of wildlife and the wonders of nature.

2) Close by to this walk is a care home for a large number of the less fortunate. The more fortunate among the population can get up the steps, myself included at the moment, but who knows what the future holds for us all.
I have asked the carers would they like to be able to cross the bridge. They answer yes, for them it would be an alternative to taking the residents into town, something which is not always a pleasant experience for some wheelchair bound citizens for various reasons.

3) Mothers and grandparents who can't get prams/pushchairs up the steps and if they do as I have done when younger, have to descend in a backward motion so I am now denied the pleasure of taking my youngest grandchild on that walk. We also have a large group of other people who can not negotiate the steps owing to them being steep and narrow.

4) Remember this is a holiday town where people do come to enjoy the peace and tranquility and recuperate from all kinds of illness. And not looking for Brownie points here but the walk up from the jubilee bridge to Firhall is kept tidy of litter and dog dirt by myself and others who do take a pride in the walk. The pleasure of being able to walk, talk, push a pram without having to look where you put your feet is a pleasure, Over 400 people use this path per week at the moment.

5) As a young man I took an oath to defend my country and all in it. To day you have young servicemen and women doing the same and suffering some horrible injuries but if they were to cone to Nairn would be denied the walk around the river.

6) I appeal to all those of you who can, try the walk and judge for yourselves the need for a ramp, and remember there are people who need your help as well as mine to achieve this. Please add your voice to this, it's is a long hard road on your own, so now you know why I have quoted a wartime saying.

7) I would urge our four Highland Councilors to press for the Education Committee (yes strangely the Firhall Bridge is their responsibility) to fulfill their recent promise to install a ramp at the bridge as soon as possible and obtain a definite start date during this current term of office of the council which ends in May. Perhaps just a little cash could be put to the Education Committee from the discretionary fund. Maybe too the bridge could be included in the next list of projects to be completed by offenders under the Scottish Government scheme. I note today that the Inverness Courier informs its readers that Clach Football Club are to get a Scottish Government grant of £54,000 for a new concrete pathway and a raised area for disabled people. Well done Clach, now how about the authorities seeing to it that the Firhall Bridge gets sorted in the next list of such projects.

Firhall Bridge campaigners will not surrender.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Woolies Nairn 1953

Can any gurnites out there help one of our regular readers identify members of the Woolies workforce of yesteryear? The picture was possibly taken on the first day of the new shop. Names so far: Freda MacGee, Nancy MacLeod, Audrey Clark, Margeret MacNair, Betty Stephen, Baba MacGillivray, Jeannan Hannah, Sonia MacGillivray, Margaret Milne, Eleanor MacMillan, Florrie Duffus, Peggy Matheson, Isobel Melville, Iris Clark, Catherine Stewart, Mairi Corbett, Katie Nicolson, Eileen MacDonald, Jean Grant. Click to enlarge picture.

Common Good meetings

One that slipped through the notes last week. Last Wednesday the 15th of February and Rosemary Young said at the West CC that there had been a meeting of community councillors (that morning) to discuss Common Good issues and that there would be another one on the 1st of March. Rosemary said: "Your community councillors are working very hard making sure that the Common Good is behaving as it should."

As far as the Gurn knows the meeting on the morning of the 15th was not open to the public and neither will be the one to be held on the 1st of March. Obviously the three community councils are formulating a strategy to go to the Highland Council with proposals concerning the Common Good Fund. This observer has noted in the past that the Highland Council has been accused of a lack of transparency concerning Common Good affairs. Perhaps it is time now for the town's three Community Councils to let the public in to all of their meetings concerning the Common Good or at least publish minutes of them, otherwise there is a danger that they too will be eventually accused of a lack of transparency.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oor Graham on the propaganda trail - " 'Number 1' to get things done for Nairnshire"?

Oor Graham has been out and about with a massive A3 size "Focus on Nairnshire" newsletter. A copy was given to the Gurn by a co-conspirator in Broadhill. Will this endangered species be consigned to Nairnshire polictical history or will he be the May election's comeback kid? The leaflet proclaims that he is 'Number 1' to get things done for Nairnshire and presents a load of articles where he claims to be achieving things locally.

You can offer to send the local LibDem mannie a donation or pledge your support on May 3rd. You can even tick a box to get a "Support the bypass" sticker for your car. See what you make of it for yourself here (it was too big to scan in a oner, hopefully you will be able to read it). This observer would contend that Graham has a bit of ground to catch up (remember this Gurn article) but a week is a long time in politics.


King Street pavement fix

Repairs continue to King Street pavement. There had been several comeplaints about the dangerous state of the footway in this area.

Cawdor Village Store (closed)

The empty village store faces an uncertain future. More here.

Nairn "Combination" workhouse

Interesting details of the former Nairn Workhouse that was situated in Balblair Road and demolished in 2000 halfway down this webpage, including a list from the census of the unfortunate occupants in 1881. This observer remembers, whilst working at McD's down the Carse in the early eighties, being sent up to search for a timecard amidst hundreds of thousands of others stored in the building, part of the former workhouse was hired out for long-term storage of documents.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rainbow Craic

Milder weather again and a rainbow adds to the afternoon ambiance above the Fishertown. Full screen slideshow.

Jubilee Crack

Time for some cement on the Jubilee Bridge?

Rusty West Pier

Bratach captures the rusty piling on Nairn harbour's west pier.

Nairn resident, International Soccer Star

"GIRLS’ and women’s football is the fastest growing sport in the world — a fact former Scotland women’s captain Finella Annand is keen to shout about.

As the Scottish Football Association’s development officer for girls’ and women’s football in the north region, a role she took up in October last year, Miss Annand is determined to create pathways for future stars in the Highlands." More on the Courier site.

Sandown Ward Forum - "Everyone is welcome to come along"

The view across Sandown Lands earlier this week

Highland Council press release:

The Nairn Ward Forum taking place on Wednesday 29 February will focus on the steps been taken to prepare a development brief for the Sandown site in the town and the Highland Council is encouraging people to come along and have their say.

The forum will take the form of a follow-up to the recent charrette event which was held between 30th January and 2nd February.

In the chair again will be the Chief Planner with the Scottish Government, Jim MacKinnon who launched the recent charrette. During these design workshops people from the community came along and participated giving the Council many ideas and opinions on how the future Sandown should look. The Ward Forum will focus on these ideas and how they can be taken forward to produce a Development Brief for Sandown. Council officials will be present during the afternoon exhibition and will make a presentation at the evening meeting.

Convener of The Highland Council, Councillor Sandy Park said: “There was a good turnout for the charrette sessions and Jim and the Council's consultant architect Julian Farrar did an excellent job in facilitating community discussions and getting people involved. The Ward Forum on the 29th is another chance for people to input their ideas and suggestions for the next step which is preparing the Development Brief. The Sandown site is not only visually important as it spans a main tourist route, but is a key asset for Nairn so it is vital we produce a Brief which captures the essence of what we want for the future of Nairn and reflects the aspirations of the whole community.”

The Ward Forum will take place at 7.00pm at the Golf View Hotel, Nairn. Plans will be on display in the hotel from 3pm onwards and planning officials will be available to answer any queries. Everyone is welcome to come along.

Attempted phone scam in Nairn

Phone calls received at Uncle Bob's and Jacko's. Glaswegian "Big Ian" then tries a scam. More on the Northern Police site.

Nairnshire Telegraph letters column – political fire-fight

Oor Graham wades into the SNP this week, political boots and fists flying. The LibDem mannie claims the SNP proposals to restore area committess are “unaffordable and unrealistic”. Newly declared Independent candidate Ritchie Cunningham has it in for the SNP too, he thinks the SNP proposal is “laughable”. This observer would think that the SNP proposals have been costed, no doubt more will be revealed next week Mr Cunningham also seems to think it is Holyrood that is taking power away from local communities. Colin MacAulay fights back for the SNP in response to letters fired at the party last week. All very laudable but perhaps we could have a bit of debate too about things like the Common Good Fund and whether it should be under the control of the Highland Council's 80 councillors?

If political debate hits the spot for you try page 8 of the Nairnshire this week, there is also a, perhaps, refreshing spotlight on a local issue as Rupert Furze (not a candidate) explains his alarm that the by-pass will have no exits between its start and finish points, according to information provided to him at the recent West CC meeting..

More in this week’s Nairnshire including a top of the range editorial entitled “The Usual Suspects”.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Usual Suspects Watch - minutes of West CC 4th January 2012

Interesting reading for all followers of Nairn's Usual Suspects.

New building at Gordons Sawmill – Council TECS dept gurn

Last Tuesday night River Community Council briefly discussed Gordons application for the erection of building to house new timber sorting line. No problem there, the watchdogs were quiet happy with the company’s plans. Not so Highland Council TECS department however, they state in their submission to the plan:

“It is clear from the submitted Transport Assessment that the proposed development will result in an appreciable increase in heavy vehicular movements on the local road network; a network that consists largely of relatively narrow roads with poor geometry and limited drainage. The length of Balblair Road fronting the sawmill site ( including adjoining footways and verges), has, in particular, suffered considerable damage through heavy traffic associated with existing sawmill operations. The road drainage system over this length has also been adversely affected by mud, debris and surface water emanating from the sawmill premises and bark and debris from the sawmill boundary embankment adjacent to the public road at the south west end of the sawmill. As a result of this road safety has been compromised, an additional maintenance burden has been placed on the Council as Roads Authority, local residents have suffered loss of amenity and the travelling public have been inconvenienced.”

They then go on to list a series of improvements to the roads and footpaths that they want to see before they can support the application. This observer was interested enough to have a look at the documentation provided by Gordons transport consultants but for some reason or other their detailed document appears upside-down on this observer’s machine.

A series of documents relevant to this application can be viewed here on the Highland Council’s e-planning pages.


One and a half cheers

In last week’s Nairnshire Telegraph editorial Iain Bain muses on the SNP’s promise to resurrect Area Committees if they win the Highland Council elections in May. He applauds the initiative but limits himself to one and a half cheers. Iain states that the Nairnshire has been calling for steps in this direction ever since the Highland Council was created.

He continues later in the editorial: “It is locally disappointing that no future is seen for a separate Nairnshire which must coexist in a possible committee with Badenoch and Strathspey, an area with which Nairn shares nothing but adjacency on a political map. An it is somewhat worrying that Inverness is to be given more primacy in the region. This usually means counting Nairn as one of its suburbs.

The move must be welcomed but we wonder if the truly radical path would be to involve community Councils which, in this area at least, are bidding to be the real lower tier of democracy.”

Will the SNP follow a “truly radical path” if they win power at Glenurquhart Rd? Rob Gibson MSP who has been the driving force for a move a way from centralisation in local government within the party in the Highlands would seem to want to go further if you analyse his suggestions. Over the weekend one of the Caithness SNP candidates tweeted:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Nairn St Ninian 1 Colony Park 1

Full screen slide show here and individual pictures here.

Meanwhile elsewhere Forres slip again at Harmsworth Park.

Firhall Bridge promises emerge

Murd took his campaign to both the River and West Community Council meetings during the week and received their commitment to continue supporting his efforts to see improved access installed at the important and popular river walk crossing.

Liz mentioned the possibility of some cash for the improvements coming from the discretionary fund but there would be difficulties with that as so many other groups and organisations rely on contributions from the fund. Liz went on to say that the fund is more amenable to help with matching funding etc.

Since then Murd has received a copy of a letter from Ron MacKenzie the head of support services for Education, Culture and Support dated the 17th of February. (Bizarrely the Firhall Bridge is the responsibility of that department). The latter states that the redundant pipe on the bridge is to be removed by May. That will be a step forward in itself and give more manoeuvrability to pushchairs etc that have been pulled up the steps. On the subject of ramps there is a promise and perhaps more of a promise than Murd has received up to now. The promise is a sort of a commitment but to this observer there do appear to be get-out clauses in the text.

Maybe in this election year Liz, Sandy, Graham and Laurie could put their heads together and get this sorted for 2012 and the river walks could be made disabled friendly for visitors and locals alike with a Jubilee Ramp for the Firhall Bridge? See the letter from Ron MacKenzie here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Cawdor Village Store

The store ceased trading on the 5th of February. The shop had opened in the Barn in the centre of Cawdor in the summer of 2011. The shop’s demise was discussed at the Cawdor Community Council meeting last Monday night in the Village’s community centre. Present at the meeting was the former proprietor of the store Sandy Matheson.
He was asked by a member of the public present why the store closed, “Apart from probably Sainsbury’s opening was it a lack of people coming in?”

Sandy replied: “I just didn’t have the amount of people in that should have been in, it’s as simple as that.”

Angus McNicoll for Cawdor Estate then gave the meeting some idea of what might happen next with the empty premises: “Our desire would be that there will be a Cawdor village store in Cawdor at some point in the future and that’s very much the target.” Angus then talked about the need to have a critical mass of footfall, etc and then continued: “For the foreseeable future I see the shop, it’s a beautiful building in a very good location with its open green space right in front which it could actually incorporate within the premises or part effectively of the trading floor space. So we’ll be seeking somebody to take it on, not maybe as a village store but as some sort of enterprise. We’ve already heard people talking about a café or some other sort of specialised shop. Something that’s actually going to be a destination shop. With that model it might be possible to dedicate a corner of the shop to basics, milk, papers and bread.

Sandy Matheson wanted to speak out against rumours that had reached him: “It was all to do with Cawdor Estate doubling the rent and that was just a load of nonsense. That was never the case, this is one of the reasons I’m here to emphasise that.”

The chair responded: “Thank you for sharing that and I’m glad you’ve dispelled the rumours that were floating about”

One member of the public present had a strong opinion to express and pointed the blame in the direction of the villagers: “Was it not just simply the fault of Cawdor, simple as that, I’m not talking about “the Cawdor”, I’m talking Cawdor village.” He claimed it was the same with the old post office.”

There was then some conversation about Cawdor now being a commuter village.

Sandy said a little later: “I actually thought maybe there would be a lot more passing trade. I looked out that window so many times and seen the amount of people passing at 60 to 70 m.p.h. in the mornings and late at night.” He went on to give a warning, “I dread the day will come when somebody’s going to be really hurt […] There’s cars going through that village so fast, they’re not even stopping at the lights, the lights are at red, I’ve seen it umpteen times.”

Fort V County off - waterlogged pitch

Bad news for the Wee County, seven weeks in a row without soccer. Claggan Park in Fort William is waterlogged. Here in Nairn the Saints game is still on and scheduled for the Showfield at 2.p.m.

West End bargain?

As seen in the Inverness Courier.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Viewfield tug-o-war training 1963 paid off

From our correspondent Murd: "The 51st Battalion Queens own Cameron Highlanders T.A Don Company Nairn.
Tug-O-War October 1963 Perth. There was 23 other teams competing for the trophy on the day. The final pull Cameron's V Gordon's which was a very hard pull but victory was ours Don Company Nairn.
I would like you to take note or our pulling position at the time of the photo was taken. The opposition was heard at one time to say when we hade one leg of the ground that was our weak point but I can assure that movement was very fast. I do wonder if the memory to this day is still with others and how many of us are still around Nairn team only two of us Nairn lads left."

"This where we did all our traning the team in the photo. Front of the rope Jok Willox---Ally BAIN-----Davie Gray---Murd Dunbar------Hector MacKenzie----Comrie MacKenzie ????any one out there know----Do Mackintosh and the Coach Jimmy Shewan."

Little enthusiasm for Big Lunch?

Recently we reported how the Lord Lieutenant of Nairnshire Ewan Brodie had explained to the joint community council meeting how he would like to see Nairn get involved in the Big Lunch with an event in Viewfield on Sunday the third of June. Basically it seems that the Big Lunch would in fact be a big picnic sort of event.

On Tuesday night River CC deferred discussion on the whether they should get involved in organising Jubilee events until their next meeting. Last night (Wednesday) at the West CC meeting Rosemary Young speculated whether the Community Councils were the best vehicle for organising such an event and said: “It isn’t really a community council thing, because it’s hard enough to get you to come to a meeting let alone to a big lunch.”

Rosemary continued: “If we had somebody in Nairn heading it up who really felt keen about this then I think everybody would embrace it.”

This observer feels that it isn’t that the Community Councillors are anti-jubilee, they are prepared to back events if they happen but they generally don’t want to get lumbered with the time consuming organisation that will inevitably be involved. Rosemary also indicated that the Rotary have a similar position: “Rotary are quite happy to join in but they didn’t want to sort of be there in front saying this is what we should do but if someone puts something on, they’re going to support it and I think that is what everyone feels really.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lucky Nairn

Up at the Cawdor and West Nairnshire CC meeting on Monday night residents from the village and beyond were discussing the state of the roads. There are plenty of potholes it seems and even places where it is claimed entire sections of road are disintegrating and if that isn’t enough there is a shortage of white lines on the roads too. Cllr Roddy Balfour explained that there would be work going ahead in the dryer spring weather as a lot of extra cash would be available in the next few weeks he went on to say something quite depressing however: “But I must stress there’s not going to be a lot of money around in the next few years and the roads are going to deteriorate and we just have to accept it.”

Last night (Tuesday) Liz told the River CC meeting that complaints that Andrew Purkis had raised with her over the state of roads in the Fishertown would most likely not be dealt with. She explained how John Fraser of TECS had told her that his department were not even getting high priority works done. Part of the problem seems to be a manpower issue as Liz explained that a number of staff in tech maintenance were being deployed for example to the recycling centre or to the bin lorries.

This evening (Wednesday) at the West Community Council meeting there was discussion once again over the rat-runs and the Sandown Farm Lane, Altonburn Road and Marine Road route was described as an A96 by-pass. At times that would be an accurate description to this observer. How do you solve that problem or that of large numbers of vehicles driving at high speed on the Croy, Geddes, Auldearn alternative route too? The only real 100% effective solution would be a by-pass and it seems we might have to wait until 2020 for that to start. Will we be lucky enough to see that come to pass or will priorities change by 2020?

Could it be that money will have to be diverted just to keep many minor roads in the Highlands passable? And what of the unexpected. Many Gurnites might have seen the situation with the A890 Stromeferry by-pass which has now been closed for three months. Last week the West Highland Free Press had a major gurn and Nairn gets a mention. Here’s part of the editorial talking about a new by-pass as a long term solution to rock fall problems:

“Any such option will cost a lot of money. Amounts between £40 and £70 millions have been mentioned. The sound like formidable sums.

But this week the Scottish Government proudly announced that it is spending £300 million merely on improving another Highland ‘A’ road. The A96 between Inverness and Nairn is to become a dual carriageway, and Nairn itself is to be by-passed.

Lucky Nairn. The A96 is certainly busy. But the last time we looked it was perfectly passable. It has never ben closed for three hours, let alone three months by rock-falls.”

Tonight it was stressed that we should all write to Keith Brown the transport minister to keep putting pressure on to help the case for a by-pass. The sad truth is that communities throughout Scotland are competing with each other for road improvements. If we win somewhere else will lose and vice versa.

Carers save the public purse £280,000,000 per annum in the Highlands

From 5 years old to 95 - carers are there, working hard and they need more support from Society. More facts about carers in the Highlands now on the River Community Council pages.

Tommy happy with Charrette, Simon “A bit of concern"

Tommy opened discussion on the Sandown Charrette at the River Community Council meeting last night, he said:”It went down very well over the four days, and the chap that came from the Scottish Parliament, Jim Mckinnon, he was really up for getting things to happen. Over the four days it was so informative, it was very well done and a large amount of people turned up. I was very impressed.” Tommy then told the meeting that Jim McKinnon was coming back for the ward forum meeting in the Golf View on February the 29th with the end product.

Graham Marsden then added that the drawings would be open to public view in the Golf View from 3-7 p.m.

Simon Noble said: “One of the things I’d like to express a bit of concern about is, I went along to one morning session and though it was being run extremely professionally, and like Tommy I was impressed by the event, however I was also struck by the fact that there wasn’t anyone younger than me in attendance there and from what I understand there wasn’t throughout the whole of the four days. So it is clear to me that the representation of Nairn was singular and not broad. So I think it is misleading on the basis of the charrette to describe the shape that is presented to the developer as being something that is endorsed by the people of Nairn.

Ian Gordon critisced the publicitiy for the event and said, “They did not go about it correctly.”

Liz then spoke: “It’s going to be an ongoing process of development, they’ll stage in development, parts of it, stage by stage. We’ve already agreed that the allotments can go ahead and that will be going to the March Highland Council committee. We’ve got that plan, but that’s not the end of it, it’s only the beginning.”

River CC unhappy with the way joint community council meetings are going

Discontent with the way the joint Community Council meetings are being run emerged at the meeting of the River CC yesterday (Tuesday). Leslie Boulton was the first to speak out, he said:

“I went to that meeting in the Academy and in fact it wasn’t a joint meeting it was another Community Council meeting. That’s going to be four times a year, we have 11 meetings a year. Already I’ve heard the police report 3 times this year.”

He then went on to give a list of subjects that he thought should have been talked about at the joint meeting but weren’t, such as the by-pass, the co-op and the garage.
Tommy was the next to speak: “That’s what I say Leslie and they keep telling us we should be meeting to discuss this and it’s the same thing we’re discussing.”
Stephanie Whittaker was the next to contribute, she said: “Our meeting is next and we’re leading the next meeting so we’ll show them by example how it should be done.”

Simon Noble asked whether there was any discussion beforehand about what the agenda should be.

“No,” replied Tommy.

Simon Noble then proposed that the three chairs of the Community Councils should have a discussion about what the agenda should be and it should be items of common interest.

There was then some more discussion before Steph said; “I’d expected us to talk about the Common Good.”

Tommy then said, “That never came up.”

Steph continued:” If we’re going to talk about the Common Good it should be a big meeting, everyone and a chance for the public to come as well.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cawdor village to get flower-power?

Cawdor could soon be following a trend set by Ardersier last summer. The Community Council were most impressed on Monday night by Highland Councillor Glynis Sinclair’s suggestion that hanging baskets and tubs were placed around the village. The Council had been discussing Community Initiatives and Glynis told the meeting how a feel good factor had emerged from the Ardersier initiative. She went on to say:

“It would be quite nice if you sort of colour themed it as well, because it is all red doors. You could really colour theme the whole village and if you are talking about the Jubilee, you maybe do the colours of the Union Flag and all these sort of things which would be particularly pretty.

Glynis is an SNP councillor but obviously a little bit of red, white and blue is still fine by here if the occasion is the right one. The community council set up a sub-committee to take the floral ideas forward.

Presentation to Jeanne at the Courthouse Saturday

Some pictures now on the River CC flickr pages.

Cawdor and West Nairnshire usual suspects

This observer headed up to the first meeting of the Cawdor and West Nairnshire Community Council under the new chair Janice Douglas. They seem a competent bunch and their first meeting went very well with Highland Councillors, Sgt Graeme Erskine of Northern Constabulary and Angus McNicoll of Cawdor Estate present too.

Cawdor is a part of Nairnshire but in the best traditions of Glenurquhart Road centralisation it has for some time been part of the Ardersier, Culloden and Croy ward. Thus the presence of Councillors Roddy Balfour and Glynis Sinclair at the meeting. To the best of this observer’s knowledge a lot of the West Nairnshire area is still in Nairnshire (Ward 19) as deemed by the powers that be, and surely the meeting should also have merited the attention of one of the four members that represent that ward. After all, even if they are experienced councillors, are folk that sit on the Inverness City Committee appropriate to represent what is an historical part of the County of Nairnshire? Will any of the candidates for the election in May have restoring Cawdor to Nairnshire proper as part of Ward 19 in their manifestos? Anyway back to the meeting…

The meeting discussed potholes, planning, community improvements, the Cawdor shop and the Jubilee. Janice began by telling the meeting her vision of the purpose of the community council:

“I believe that we are your vehicle for any issues that are brought up within the community, brought to this group for us to take forward to the relevant powers. I’m not sure that we can solve everybody’s problem of every issue within the community but we’ll certainly do our best to address it. But this is your meeting. Now we’ve got some things on the agenda but obviously we would hope for participation from yourselves.” Janice then went on to introduce Angus and Graeme and then a discussion on the state of the roads began.

More from the meeting later. Minutes of the previous meeting here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Old Community Centre - Start date 5th March

Gurnite Rob recently reported a conversation with a contractor mannie taking pictures of the old Community Centre prior to his firm (Morrisons) starting demolition. We hear now from Liz that the official start date is the 5th of March and she hopes there won't be too much disruption to parking in the town centre during the work. Liz tells us that talks are in hand with the Co-op over the former petrol station. Liz has an updated leaflet out now see it here.

If you are standing in the Highland Council elections in May and have any leaflets or other information that you are putting out then please forward them to the Gurn and we will offer you the same treatment for your material.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Week Ahead

Tuesday night is River Community Council night and the Sandown Charrette is up for discussion plus the Nairn by-pass and a talk from a Connecting Carers rep. On Wednesday it is the Westies and they will also be discussing the Charrette, the town centre and planning issues. It'll be interesting to see what they have to say. Both meetings are in the Community Centre at 7.30 p.m. Cawdor CC also meet tomorrow (13th) again a 7.30 p.m start.

Murd will be heading to West and River campaigning for improved access to the Firhall Bridge. Gurnites will recall the support expressed at the joint CC meeting for Murd's long-running campaign.

Murd told the Gurn that he is hoping the CCs will have some suggestions on obtaining funding that would enable much needed ramps to be built on either side of the bridge. He is asking supporters to please keep lobbying community councillors and Highland ones too in a push to get the bridge sorted in this Jubilee year. "A Cameron never shall yield" is a phrase a young Murd picked up in his TA days (picture above) and it certainly seems appropriate to describe the older Murd's efforts to get the Firhall Bridge improved.

Why not pop along on to see what the usual suspects are up to?

"Sainsbury's boss calls on high street to shrink or die"

One of our regular readers wonders what our High Street traders might think of the thoughts expressed by Justin King the chief executive of Sainsbury's as reported in the Telegraph.

"Justin King, the retailer's chief executive, will say that all too often high streets were a 'poor second' to out of town shopping centres.

Mr King, who has run Sainsbury's for the past eight years, will criticise local shops for failing to cater for the local population - for instance by refusing to offer customer loyalty schemes.

He will also call on town centres to be cleaned up and made safer while insisting that supermarkets should not be blamed for the demise of the High Street." More on the Telegraph

Pictures: St Ninian 6 Whitehills FC 0

Individual pictures here. Full screen slideshow here

Video: Celebrating Jeanne Tolmie's 34 years as Chair of River Community Council

Tommy opens, Margaret starts 1.19, Fergus 5.58, Jeanne 9.32, Laurie 16.31

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jeanne's 34 years at the helm of River CC

A fantastic couple of hours up in the Courthouse chamber today as River Community Council members past and present plus our four Highland Council members and Fergus Ewing MSP celebrated 34 years of service to the Community by Jeanne Tolmie. More pictures and hopefully a video later.

Happy 84th Geoff!

Geoff Skeet is one of the regular musicians who perform in the Vic on a Saturday afternoon. Here he is above captured by Ian MacRae heading for a very special performance.

This observer popped into the Vic for a light refreshment on the way back from the Saints game and took this picture as the regulars sang Happy Birthday to Geoff.

Update: A few more pictures here.

Sharpie's Showfield six-up spectacular

Could have easily been seven - apologies from the referee according to word on the street. Never mind football finally returned to Nairn after the big freeze and Ronnie starts his Saturday night with a bigger smile than Harry Redknapp's. Nairn Saint Ninian 6 Whitehills FC 0. More pictures later.

Plus ça change...

Nairn River CC correspondence from yesteryear now on Flickr

County v Deveronvale off

Another Station Park Saturday fixture bites the dust. The pitch failed a 9.30 inspection. No word from the Showfield yet but Saints were confident last night that their game would go ahead.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Early sign of spring?

Hugh McBean, the greenkeeper at Nairn bowling club was down at the green today, he found this peacock butterfly in the middle of the green. "The butterfly was quite lively," Hugh told the Gurn, "I Don't think I've ever seen any this early in the year."

Traffic Warden Blues

The Gurn had heard that the traffic wardens were coming through from Inverness on regular blitzes and going home having more than raised enough cash for their days wages every time. The Gurn has heard some complaints but also praise for the wardens for sorting out selfish motorists that take advantage of those more liberal moments when there are no wardens around and making the pavements a danger area for pedestrians by their illegal parking. See picture below. Brian from MyNairn has strong views on the matter however and thinks the wardens are going too far : Traffic Wardens making town centre No Go area?

Hamish home on leave

Thanks to Murd for sending these two pictures to the Gurn. The top picture shows a young Hamish Dunbar home on leave during the Second World War and visiting his father Duncan at 15 John Street. The Picture on the right is of 1st World War Veteran Duncan, who also served in the Coastguard during the 2nd World War.

Local press review or “Do you feel well and truly charretted?”

A chance for a leisurely look back at Iain Bain’s editorial this week and a remarkably incisive and articulate piece it is (the hand at the helm of the Leopold Street Thunderer truly at the top of his game). He begins:

“And was last week’s exercise in design engagement everything it promised to be, or do you just feel well and truly charretted after three days intensive discussion of the future of the Sandown Lands and the future of Nairn?”

Iain weaves many of the current strands of local opinion together and questions how much development might happen anyway given the current economic climate and that Lochloy isn’t even finished yet either.

There is one element to Iain’s analysis that this observer has heard reflected on the street too:

“Highland Council is desperately trying to restore the credibility of its planning process after what has been a debacle at Sandown. This exercise is spiced up by the real political needs of present councillors who intend standing in an election now only three months away. Their record is tainted with what has been a failure at Sandown and the council is leaning heavily towards its critics whose views eventually won the day. That was the nature of last week’s charrette process.”

Here at the Gurn we have thought for a long time that Sandown would go all the way to the ballot box and maybe with a strong bite too. It remains to be seen if the charrette has taken any of the toxicity out of the issue? Will the public give a favourable reaction at the public meeting in the Golf View on the 29th (master of ceremonies, Jim McKinnon, Chief planner to the Scottish Government) or will it all go badly. This observer detects that some of the more belligerent folk upset with Sandown issues may have calmed a little but others are still deeply concerned and will probably want to air their views.

Concerned about Sandown is Heather Corran who has a letter in the Nairnshire this week. She states: “These lands should be developed, but not necessary for housing. We need sustainable income generation for Nairn, not a short term boom leading inevitably to bust.” A good point from Heather and there are still those that are opposed to any housing on Sandown and wish to see the area kept as green space. Can that voice crystallise, articulate itself and gather momentum for the meeting on the 29th ? And what happens if no developer can be found for any of the phases at Sandown? How does the Common Good make any money out of the Sandown lands in the short term with the debt on the Community Centre gathering interest all the time.

To the Common Good then and Brian Stewart too has a letter in the Nairnshire. A correction and an apology from the former diplomat: “I was wrong to say that the Highland Council’s corporate manager William Gilfillan, has been unwilling to discuss the subject of the Common Good with the people in Nairn.” Brian is looking to a meeting soonest however with William appearing before the massed ranks of the usual suspects at a joint Community Council meeting. Sandown & the Common Good - two issues that have never gone away.

Two more letters in this week’s Nairnshire, Liz takes a pop at Oor Graham over roads cash. She gets intae our libdem mannie for claims in his letter last week. Another letter this week too from Colin Macaulay strongly refuting some of the claims about how Independence would adversely affect Scotland.

The Nairnshire Telegraph, streets ahead of the rest of the dead tree media when it comes to local information and views.

(Spurtle, stop reading this, your subscription has been cancelled)