Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grass cutting contracts - River Community Council bid latest

The Chair of River Community Council Tommy Hogg was at the Subbies meeting at the Academy on Tuesday night. He told the meeting: "We're actually in the process of getting our final ideas and costings etc and we will speak to the ward manager in the next couple of weeks."

Also present was Murd Dunbar who said he fully supported Tommy's suggestions but in the meantime he wanted the Community Councils to put pressure on the existing contractors who Murd said had the job and were getting paid for it. He suggested that if the contractors couldn't fulfil their obligations they should get more men off the dole to help them. 

Tommy then said it would be more cost effective to have local men doing the work: "Plenty of local firms are looking for work. If that is the case don't tell me it can't be done any cheaper. It just doesn't stack up."

"And better," added Dick Youngson."It's the quality of the work.".

"Well the quality of the work," affirmed Tommy."They'd have a pride in it."

Friday, August 30, 2013

“The whole planning process is little more than a charade”

Firhall resident Douglas Flett has had a letter published in the Inverness Courier today, in it he dishes out scathing criticism of Nairn’s Highland Councillors. Here’s a part of his letter which comes after he describes the site visit of the Planning Committee to Nairn last week before the eventual decision to pass the South Nairn application:
“Our tribunes then returned to Inverness and, after lunch, nodded through the planning application unanimously.
Nairn Councillor Michael Green is reported as saying: “Even if we had gone for refusal it would have gone ahead anyway and we would have lost local control:” What a spineless attitude! What local control is there to lose if his reason inaction is correct?
His colleague, Councillor Colin Macaulay, backed the development because he trusted transport officials’ assessment that the situation would be manageable. I wonder who else agrees with that viewpoint? The remaining Nairn Councillors Provost Liz MacDonald and Councillor Laurie Fraser remain conspicuous by their silence.
The case shows all the signs of another council planning debacle and begs the question of why a very expensive planning department exists at all. One can only conclude that the whole planning process is little more than an expensive charade. Local democracy? I think not.”

Douglas Flett is wrong however, Laurie did speak of course but most of it was versed  in terms of tweaking what Liz told the Gurn was in her view a fait accompli (more in this previous Gurn article).

"Take to the streets" plea - article in today's Courier on South Nairn Decision

Rosemary Young wants to see the decision reversed at the meeting on the 18th that will discuss the Highland Council planning department's mistake - a mistake that means the South Nairn application must be debated again, she is quoted in today's edition of the Inverness Courier:

"I think there is very little chance unless the people of this town get behind their community council. There's 10,000 people in this town and if they don't want this being built they have to make their voices louder," she said."

An article with pictures is on page 7 of the Courier today. There is  comment from an SNP Councillor in the article but not one of our local ones Liz or Colin, Richard Laird the SNP member for Inverness Central is quoted. Last night on twitter he told the Gurn that he had commented to the paper:

 For more information on the South Nairn decision see several Gurn articles below this one and/or watch some of the video in the sidebar. Also in the Courier today a letter from a Firhall resident very critical of our local Highland Councillors.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Repair/renovation work about to start at the War Memorial?

Thanks to Stephen for the picture sent to us via twitter. The barriers would indicate that the long awaited repairs to the memorial are about to begin perhaps?

Michael Green: "How do we get local democracy? More of a voice here? How do we influence things? "

Michael Green was the only Highland Councillor that spoke at the meeting on Tuesday night although Colin MacAulay was also present.  You can see a video of the meeting on this thread here complete with a timeline of who spoke when if you want to get a flavour of the event yourself. Anyway, below is what Michael, one of Nairnshire's four Highland Councillors had to say Michael made reference to the days when  Nairnshire had its own District Counci before everything was centralised in Invernessl:

“I don’t wish to cop out but I don’t wish to say to much. I certainly don’t want to prejudice my ability to talk on the 18th. But what I can do is reiterate what I said, which is a matter of public record: how much I absolutely agree with everybody and for very good reasons. We know the reasons why we don’t want this development in Nairn at this stage. At the end of the day we need the bypass.

Brian (Stewart) hit the nail on the head. We are ill served at the moment for local democracy. I would suggest that if it had gone back to the District Council they would have refused this application. Possibly, that’s just speculation but I think that that is what would have happened. But when it is on a Highland wide basis – south part, north part, we are in a minority. It’s very, very difficult. I don’t really want to say much more other than I’ve always had the feeling, I did say at the time, you can see on the webcast: it was a joint Community Council objection to the process.

 I would actually stand up for Highland Council and that the submission, it was an act of omission rather then commission but it is not really the main point. What I’m trying to get across is how do we get local democracy? More of a voice here? How do we influence things? That is where the trick is. We know what we wish to achieve, it’s just how do we actually achieve it?”

Local Highland Councillors criticised over South Nairn decision

There were those at the Suburban Community Council meeting in the Academy on Tuesday night that are disappointed with the performance of our Highland Councillors over the decision to grant planning permission for over 300 homes on the Cawdor Road, there was some praise for Michael Green for his efforts in speaking out against the proposal however. The criticism was polite but this observer senses that for some the disappointment goes very deep indeed. To get a flavour of that meeting you can listen to the proceedings  yourself on this 45 minute long video on Youtube. Here's what the Chair of Suburban CC, Dick Youngson had to say about the four local Highland Council members:

"And really for our team of four ward councillors who are really there to represent us. They’re there in post, salaried with expenses, to represent the interests of everybody in Nairn. They’re not and shouldn’t be Inverness based councillors that are representing Highland Council on committees. They are they to speak up and convey everything that we have put to them and after all we do brief them extremely well. Anything which we put out to Highland Councillor goes to our ward councillors. So they all knew that all of us had objected and we’ve all got these points that which we cannot agree to."

The wisdom of Iain Bain: "Nairn is no longer in control of its own destiny"

Well worth reading - Iain's editorial  in this week's edition of the Leopold Street Thunder again. There can be few in Nairn that will not agree with this piece:

"One thing was striking about last week's planning meeting. Nairn is no longer in control of its own destiny. Whatever local councillors who attend may contribute, they are a minority in the face of an opinionated majority."

South Nairn Planning mistake - Highland Council Director of Planning apologises unreservedly

On Monday Tommy Hogg signed a letter on the behalf of all Nairnshire's Community Councils complaining about the way the South Nairn Planning decision was handled (more on the content of Tommy's letter on the Gurn article - "The six Nairnshire Community Councils are hereby making a serious complaint about the alleged deliberate misleading of councillors by the planning department of Highland Council."). 

The following day the Director of Planning Stuart Black wrote a reply offering an unreserved apology. You can see a copy of the text of that letter below. 

"Derelict" Alton Burn Hotel - concerns expressed to Police at Suburban CC meeting

The Subbie's meeting in the Academy on Tuesday night was not all about the South Nairn planning application (althought the Gurn intends to return to what was said on that over the next few days). There was also discussion on a variety of local topics. Here's what was said about the state of the former Alton Burn Hotel:

Dick Youngson told the Police Representative at the Suburban CC meeting on Tuesday night that the old Alton Burn hotel “is really a pest for quite a lot of us in that area.” He asked the police to help his organisation to put pressure on Highland Council planning to get onto the developer to do something about it. Dick was worried that the insecure building could be set on fire.

The police rep stated: “We had two calls down there last night, again they scarpered when we got there. We caught up with the main group of kids a wee while up the road”
Dick added: “Every night they’re down.”
The constable said he would add that to their briefing plan and try and get down there a bit more when out on patrol. 
Dick mentioned that there was not a lot they could do because there were so many routes in and out.

Graham Vine then intervened: “I understand anecdotally that in fact the developers are being held up by the Highland Council who won’t give them a straight answer about traffic access. So I think if that is correct it is actually the Highland Council who are causing the problem rather than the developer.  

Dick agreed: That’s right we must do this through planning because it is the access onto the A96, they’re being asked to fund a bell-mouth junction. In the days when it was an hotel all the traffic came along Alton Burn Road beside you and down off the main road really without a lot of problems. I know Sandown Farm Lane is single track and it is used as a rat run but it is a question of who should pay for this safer bell-mouth.”

Graham Vine then said: “When you consider that Transport Scotland were insisting that that Road actually had to be closed 12 months ago. And as you say it was a 30 bedroom hotel with a 100 odd person dining room. How are a dozen houses going to create more traffic?”

“At the moment traffic can at 60 m.p.h. along that, right down until it joins the junction with Alton Burn Road,” said Dick. “It’s a de-controlled area and a lot of the traffic does move at High Speed."

West CC’s Brian Stewart then joined the debate on this item with a further suggestion for the police : “Of course what Graham did just say is absolutely right, there is a kind of stalemate at the moment because Highland Council planners are trying to twist the arm of the developer to extract a substantial chunk of money to do whatever road works the Council seems to think is desirable and of course the developer who has done his arithmetic on what he was intending to build is kind of digging in his heels and saying, “No I’m not going to contribute a whacking great additional sum of money towards a road scheme. That debate is going to run and run and we’re not going to solve it tonight. 

I was just going to suggest under the police heading, given that we all recognise that there is a problem with what is now effectively a derelict, abandoned building, pending any eventual rebuilding or development or the resolution of this complicated argument about roads and access and all the rest. I wonder whether it would be useful for you as the police to say to Highland Council because it is insecure, because it is a risk, because there are safety and other hazards, is there a way in which the Council can, either themselves, or in collaboration with the developer, put up effective barriers around the site such that young kids, fire starters or whoever, ne'er-do-wells certainly can’t get access to the building." 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Strong community reaction against South Nairn planning decision - the next steps - video of Community Council meeting Tues 27th August

It is a rather long video but it is essential viewing for anyone that cares about the future of Nairn and the relationship (or now the lack of it?) between our community and Highland Council. The representatives of the local Community Councils that gathered in the Academy on Tuesday night want to get a better deal for Nairn and to stop the one-way traffic from Glenurquhart Road. Those that spoke made some very forthright comments. If you have a moment today make a cup of tea and listen to the video - it's the future of Nairn they are talking about Gurnites!
The video begins with Dick Youngson, Brian Stewart speaks at 08.00, Graham Vine at 19.48, Leslie Boulton 21.09, Alistair Noble 23.15, Tommy Hogg 30.48, General discussion 33.30, Michael Green 41.00. Another Highland Councillor was present, Colin MacAulay, but he didn't speak. When time permits the Gurn will list the points raised against the time line.

There is some text of parts of statements made at the meeting in the article below - we hope to make more of that available too when time permits.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nairn united and determined to win back democracy – hard hitting speeches at Nairn Suburban CC meeting - demands for a new start

A palpable sense of unity tonight among the ranks of Nairnshire Community Councillors and members of the public present at Nairn Academy, there was a determination in the air that things have to be put right and that Highland Council have to listen to the people of Nairn. It seems the South Nairn planning decision has been a tipping point for many in the town - Dick Youngson, chair of the subbies, was the first to speak, followed by Brian Stewart of the Westies, then it was the turn of Alastair Noble, then Leslie Boulton of River CC. They and others were explicit about the situation as they see it and they want change.  

Gurnites will know that the town has had a few battles with Glenurquhart Road in recent years but, to this observer, the talk is now much, much tougher and open rebellion is in the air. Highland Council might have control but tonight it was evident that they are close to losing all respect from the representatives of the local population that sit on the Community Councils. The Gurn will  present a few more details from the meeting on this thread later and we are also working on a video of the proceedings that we hope to have on line some time tomorrow. 

Extracts from individual statements to the meeting - more to come plus video:

“It’s really atrocious that we are employing professional planners and if that’s the quality of their work, we can’t live with it and we are certainly not going to accept it. It has to stop now! We’re not going to go ahead now and work with Highland council staff when they can’t really do a professional job. It’s reached that stage and our four ward councillors, they were almost bullied into supporting this one by saying that if they didn’t support it the application would go to Edinburgh on appeal and be granted – well hell mend them!”  Dick Youngson.

“I think the problems that have surfaced that Dick has described illustrate a pretty serious and fundamental failure of the local planning process and to some extent they call into question the Highland council planning apparatus. I actually think the Nairnshire got it right with their headline: “Council ignores community’s voice.”  Brian Stewart,

“I’m putting down a question for the debate between Fergus and Danny. Don’t know if it will make any blinking difference but the question is: “Some Nairn residents consider that Highland Council is now completely beyond local democratic control, would independence make the Highland Council more or less accountable to the local residents.”  Graham Vine.

“I think tonight we have to fully support what the Community Councils have already done in writing and I think we really need to ask our four councillors very strongly and very clearly and very directly to find a way that allows them and Nairn to move back to some sort of democratic local control of all the decisions but particularly these planning decisions, which to my mind are completely out of line with any sort of common sense or Nairn’s best interests.” Alistair Noble

"The six Nairnshire Community Councils are hereby making a serious complaint about the alleged deliberate misleading of councillors by the planning department of Highland Council."

The anger and the sense of injustice felt in Nairnshire over last week's South Nairn planning decision is reflected in a letter signed by all six Nairnshire Community Councils and addressed to the Chief Executive of Highland Council Steve Barron. The Gurn has received a copy of the letter, here is the text from the body of the letter below. We hope to put a copy of the letter and all the appendices on line as soon as time permits. 

" Dear Mr.  Barron
Re: South Planning Applications Committee 20/08/2013    Nairn South Development

The six Nairnshire Community Councils are hereby making a serious complaint about the alleged deliberate misleading of councillors by the planning department of Highland Council. 

We invite you to investigate the alleged deliberate misrepresentation of their statutory responses to the Nairn South development.

In 2011 Nairn River, Nairn West and Cawdor all sent letters of objections/representations. Nairn River also objected to bridge safety proposals.    Copies attached. (appendices 1, 2, 3, 4)

On January 23rd 2013 the three Nairn Community Councils all attended a joint meeting about Nairn South in the United Reformed Church at the request of Brian Mackenzie. He asked if Malcolm Macleod could attend and this was welcomed. We attach the minute of that meeting. Clearly there was unanimous opposition from all three Community Councils to the Nairn South proposals. Both Malcolm Macleod and Brian Mackenzie were in no doubt about this and they both heard the opposition from all attending. We also have an audio recording of this meeting. (appendix 5)

The three Nairn Community Councils followed this up with separate written objections. Copies attached. (appendices 6, 7, 8)

There was then, on 25/04/2013 in Nairn Community Centre, a joint meeting of all eight Community Councils  including Croy and Ardersier,  where all eight agreed to emphasise to HC  their objection to these developments until the basic infrastructure problems were solved. Copy attached (appendix 9)              this letter was sent to HC and widely distributed. Nairn Suburban also objected to the Allenby proposal and cross referenced all the Community Councils previous objections. (appendix 10)

We were therefore amazed to see it stated in the papers for the meeting that, specifically,  Nairn River and Cawdor had not objected, and apart from Nairn West, the objections from all the other community councils were not recorded or mentioned.

In spite of attending the meeting of 23rd January 2013 and having  received  all these written objections/ submissions, Malcolm Macleod reinforced the misinformation at the 20th August 2013 planning meeting by speaking to a slide which specifically stated  ‘Objection from Nairn West CC’    ‘No objection from Cawdor...CC and Nairn River CC’.  There was no mention of the other five Community Councils’ objections/submissions.

We believe this was an apparent deliberate attempt to mislead the councillors into approving this proposal.
If your investigation finds this complaint upheld we will expect you to take the necessary action.

Please inform us about what other avenues of redress are open to us.  We discussed the ombudsman, judicial review and police investigation of alleged fraud. Are there others, for example, professional bodies?
This complaint will be circulated to our four councillors, MP, MSPs and the press.

Signed by all Nairn shire Community councils

Nairn River CC                                         Nairn Suburban CC                                      Nairn West CC 

Cawdor& West Nairnshire CC                      Auldearn CC                        Glenferness & "

Copy of letter here. 

Copies of appendices below

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Miscellany - South Nairn to be debated at the Academy on Tuesday night?

Suburban Community Council (The Subbies) have one of their regular meetings on Tuesday night at Nairn Academy. We hear from one of the Gurn's extensive network of unreliable sources that members of the town's two other Community Councils could well be present and the unpopular decision made last Tuesday by the planning committee in Inverness will be discussed. It could be an interesting evening. The meeting starts at 7.30 p.m. and officially up for discussion according to their advert are the proposed Moss-side playpark, the local bus service, Sandown Farm Line, dog litter bins and seagull nuisance and overgrown hedges. With regards to South Nairn, it was suggested to this observer over the weekend that the decision was proof that when it comes to issues of local democracy Nairn lives under a planning dictatorship. Decide for yourself, scroll down the Gurn and see for yourself - interesting comments from Liz included in those articles. 

The former bus station garage is disappearing rapidly and there will probably not be much left by the end of this week. Picture of the demolition so far here.  Today starts off fine and sunny - will the warm weather continue throughout the week? The forecast is a bit iffy but the Moray Firth can sometimes escape the worst. Pictures from Donald Matheson of the sunshine activities on the beach/links and out in the Firth here and here.  Donald also sent us an image of a rather strange sight in the water. 

And the Leopold Street lights - will they be back to normal after the recent visits from the BEAR maintenance squad?  Have a good week Gurnshire - perhaps see some of you up at the subbies meeting tomorrow night. 

Nairn 2 Lossie 1 - more pictures from Saturday's game at Station Park

Individual images here and full screen slide show here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Nairn 2 Lossie 1 - pictures from club photographer Donald Matheson

Thanks to Donald Matheson, official Nairn County photographer, for another set of exciting images from Station Park. 

Individual images here. Full screen slideshow here. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nairn 2 Lossie 1 - a good game, a good crowd and some visitors from down south

The cheerful group of footballing enthusiasts pictured above were in the Highlands and chose to visit Station Park. They are a bunch of pals who support various teams and are based in London. They met a few of the locals up at Uncle Bobs and then some more of the fanbase (including the Nairn Stormtrooper and one of his buddies) and a few of the players up at the ground. Larger image here.  
UPDATE: Info from Donald:
Six likely lads from London had a good day out at Station Park on Saturday.

The groundhoppers who have travelled all over the UK and Europe to sample different cultures, meet new people and get a taste of football at different levels chose to hop on the sleeper from London to Inverness.
When they arrived they wanted out of the big city – good choice lads – they could have ended up at Grant Street watching Clach beat Forres but chose to head to Nairn where we met up in Uncle Bobs.

They were suitably impressed by Station Park and Nairn’s performance in their 2-1 win over Lossie. Told them we normally play at lot better and score more goals!
They left with pics with some of the Nairn subs and Darth and Stormtrooper. Not every game they meet these two characters on the terracings at a football match.

Claimed going to these matches keeps them away from the beer for a couple of hours – not true from what I witnessed at Bobs and after the game at the Legion. Got some nice pics to take home with them and they boarded a train for the night life of the Sneck at 6pm with plans to visit Loch Ness on Sunday before returning south on Sunday. I was able to give them a potted history of the club and they very impressed by the ground. Hope you all had a good day lads.

The lads in the pic are Sam Cleary (Villa fan) Graham Scobie (Wigan) Frank Hamilton (Tranmere Rovers) Joby Carpenter and Stuart Hood (Crewe Alexandra) and Scott Neil (Altringham) – not in any particular order.

 They were to witness a pretty good game with Lossie putting up a fair bit of opposition and also Daniel Moore scoring his first goal for County. A great day too for Calum who was the club's mascot today. Picture below and larger image here.

More later.

Gurn Food review 2 - Good lunch time nosh at Mosh’s

One of our regular readers gives us another of their occasional reviews:

For a beautifully cooked lunch or snack you can’t beat Mosh’s at 77 High Street, Nairn.  Mosh’s café was previously the function room of the adjoining Royal Bengal restaurant.  There is ample seating, and due to the banquette seating around the walls also means that it is very flexible to numbers of guests as tables can be easily joined together for bigger parties – this was put to good use by an extended family of ten the day I was there.  The décor is modern but the café also gives a cosy feel, once through the doors you feel nicely hidden from the outside world! Unlike some other High Street cafes when the outside noise is still clearly heard when you are within.

The menu offers a selection of reasonably priced starters, filled rolls, sandwiches, paninis as well as meals such as macaroni cheese and lasagne, all freshly cooked. Child portions are also available. A good selection of home-made cakes are also on offer with the lemon drizzle cake being a particular favourite!  Mosh’s, in my humble opinion, also do the best cup of coffee in town!

The service is very friendly and efficient, whilst still being relaxed – and a lovely moment when I was there was the waitress remembering a family who came in, who had holidayed in Nairn the previous year, she welcomed them back and asked how long they would be there this year and their plans for their holidays, a lovely personal touch which can be missing in other establishments
All in all this is an ideal place for a morning or afternoon coffee and cake or a light lunch, excellent food with excellent service!

Previous review of the Westerlea available here. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Leopold Street lights meltdown

It was the turn of the Leopold Street set of lights to play up today. This incident was the latest in a long line of hiccups that date back to the installation of the new sets of traffic lights in Nairn. That installation being part of the conditions on the planning permission for the Sainsbury's store. Today  would have been a good day to do a new traffic impact assessment on the effects of building 300 plus homes in a field on the Cawdor Road! The image in this article from Donald
was taken at 11.35 this morning

Donald told the Gurn this morning: " This time it's Leopold Street that have gone faulty. I sat in the traffic for 9 minutes to get out onto the A96. No school run, just the usual drivers  parked on the left on the double yellows restricting the road and could  the council get the top 3 bays removed so we can get two proper lanes  going onto the A96?  There is the pinch bit where the post is outside the  Nairnshire, quite rightly to stop people driving on the pavement but  usually left lane is clear and drivers cannot get onto it until the 
right lane has cleared."  

Donald  phoned BEAR about this incident and he remains unimpressed with their customer service, he spent 28 minutes trying to get through to someone in authority. He is waiting for a high heid yin to call back. Donald had also phoned them recently  after the the tailbacks to Delnies. He didn't get a reply to that call but didn't give up, he phoned twice more then phoned Transport Scotland and after that someone from BEAR rang to speak to him. Donald is also worried about the impact these delays are having on businesses in Nairn. 

This observer went for a look at the situation around five o'clock and the BEAR engineers had just about finished correcting the timing.

South Nairn houses go ahead - Jimmy Grey asks for review - error made by Planning and Development service

Here's the latest twist in the tale from the Highland Council press release pages  - looks like Colin was very much on the ball:

"Chairman of The Highland Council’s South Planning Application Committee (PAC) Councillor Jimmy Gray has asked for a review of a planning decision following receipt of a query from Nairn Ward Member and Vice Chair of South PAC Councillor Colin Macaulay into information contained in a report presented to South PAC on 20 August 2013. The Council’s Planning and Development Service has confirmed that a mistake was made in the report.

The particular report was on the application by Scotia Homes Ltd, Barratt North East Scotland and Robertson Homes on land at Cawdor Road, Nairn South, Nairn, for a residential development consisting of 319 units (232 houses and 87 flats) and associated infrastructure and public open space.

Comments made by Nairn Suburban Community Council were incorrectly ascribed to Nairn River Community Council.  Nairn River Community Council, in a letter dated 30 March 2011, did in fact formally object to the planning application, and this should have been clearly stated in the report. 

Members feel that it is best to reconsider the decision made to grant planning permission subject to legal agreement.  As a result, a Notice of Amendment referring the matter to the Planning Environment and Development Committee on 18 September 2013 is being submitted.  This will ensure that the views of all of the Community Councils in Nairn are accurately reported to Members of the committee.

The Planning and Development Service very much regrets this error and the Director will write to the Community Councils in Nairn and the applicant to apologise unreservedly."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

South Nairn Development go ahead - What Laurie said at Tuesday's meeting.

Here's most of what Laurie said:

"“I’m not really in favour of losing good agricultural ground but well we have, it’s in the local plan. What I am concerned about though is any restriction on John Gordons the sawmill because that is a prime employer within the town and we really do need this. The phasing of houses, I would like to see it phased down, possibly down to 50 houses instead of 100 houses but I suppose I’ve got to accept this.”

”Will there be a demand for buses because I’ve seen some areas in Nairn where bus use is not that high.”

“I’d like to see the sub-development plans coming back to local members because I’m very concerned we
have 320 houses – fine we are knocking it through just like that and there’s no further council examination. […] I think that needs to be covered in some respect because you get the very frustrating situation where something goes wrong. Your green space goes wrong and suddenly you want the whole thing to stop and you can’t. I do agree that sub-development plan should really back to local members in a public forum.”

”An issue that has not been raised here is if you put 360 houses with an average of two cars per house, that’s about 650 cars including the odd one abandoned. We haven’t really got that parking space in the town centre. We haven’t covered any town centre car parking. There will be a small majority of people taking their cars into the town centre and our town centre car parks are pretty well full at the moment so what I would like to have seen here is like a hundred thousand pounds planning gain for town centre development in relation to car parking or even additional bus spaces which I think we might need if we are going to have additional buses.”

“Pedestrian footbridge, yes you’ve got a thousand pounds a house. We’re looking at something like twenty years for this and I don’t think that is fair on the community and certainly the stresses on the road and children walking to Nairn Academy. Yes they could go across the railway bridge but that is not ideal. Can we have this footbridge brought forward and if need be possible a temporary footbridge – maybe a Baillie style footbridge.  "

"The last thing I’ve really got concern about are these green spaces, the open area maintenance with these contracts because if the companies go bankrupt. You’ve got three building companies in here and we’ve seen the effect in Nairn when building companies go bankrupt. You’re left with real problems on your hands these factoring agreements that’s what I’m talking about.  I’d like a wee bit of strength in the factoring agreements. What does happen if a building company goes bankrupt or a factoring agreement company goes bankrupt – that’s another problem. As a Council we should actually be taking over these areas. That’s what we are here for we are a Council, we should be taking responsibility for these areas." 

The South Nairn planning decision - Further comment from Liz "In my view the outcome was a fait accompli" and Colin

We asked all our four Highland Councillors if they had anything further they'd like to say about the decision on Tuesday to pass the South Nairn planning application in the face of considerable opposition from Nairn residents. Liz wasn't at the meeting she told the Gurn:

 "I had a Nairn Community Transport meeting and a funeral so couldn't attend the planning committee." She continued: " In my view the outcome was a fait accompli. There was no way the application could be refused or the applicant would have got it passed on appeal. This site visit was just playing to the galleries. There have been several site visits recently about applications that were impossible to refuse under planning regulations including Tornagrain and a wind farm. These in my opinion are a waste of time and money, unless a recomendation can be overturned what is the point of hiring buses, taking councillors and officers around the countryside to no avail.
If I had thought for one moment that there could have been a vote and the application would have been significantly altered then I would have made a point of being present.
Applications coming forward that are in the Highland Wide development plan and the Inner Moray Firth plan will be difficult to overturn as there already is an acceptance of them."

Here are Colin's specific answers to questions we put to all the Councillors. Each Gurn question is in italics  followed by Colin's individual answers.

Seeking comment on the suggestion that when the bus arrived at the sawmill and parked on Balblair Road the Councillors on board were advised to stay on the bus on Health and Safety Grounds as HGV's regularly use the road?

If Councillors had wanted to get out at that point and proceed up to the ridge, then we would have done so - no doubt being careful. Mention was made about the traffic and about the fact that no permission had been sought to enter the field. We stayed on board outside Firhall - because we could see the site well from the roadside. We got out at the manure/silage corner - to get a perspective of site rising up in the direction of the Gordon's Sawmill. One Councillor expressed a desire to enter the field, but the consensus was that we could see the site well enough from the bus.

Any comment on the outcome of yesterday's meeting would also be welcome if anyone feels so inclined.

Full recognition that many people - particularly the residents of Firhall - will be extremely disappointed with the granting of permission. I don't know when development work might start and I have no idea how it will actually be phased given the fact that the economy isn't yet resurgent. Although mortgage rates are low, many folk are unable to find deposits and others are cautious about future rate rises in a couple of years. The 100 limit pause and review is key as is the local liaison arrangement. I was surprised that a couple of Members actually praised the quality of urban design proposed - "beauty in the eyes of the beholder" I guess.
There are some positives - but the pressure on infrastructure - really outweighs all of these.
I hope that there is very little development on-site in the next few years and that the bypass is advanced as early as possible - but it is just a hope at this stage!

Did Nairn have no chance of stopping this application given it fitted the requirements of the Highland Council's Highland wide development plan - a plan that has been endorsed by the Scottish Government?

My view, based on advice from officers was that if permission had been refused, then it would have been successfully appealed by the developer. The site is zoned, there is a masterplan - and although we could have blocked it, a majority of the Committee would have had to have been persuaded that we has "material" reasons to refuse. The ability to have our officers negotiate the pause and review and the local liaison and all the other Section 75s - made the risk of an appeal being upheld outweighed.

Can we expect more of the same in coming months and years?

I hope not, but it does evidence the need for development planning to become more local - because it is the development planning that then directs the application process. The Area Committee structure will help - a step in the right direction after years going in the wrong direction.
I keep lobbying to see a full-scale reorganisation of local government across Scotland - based on natural communities. It is clear following the summer Cabinet visit to the Northern Isles that the Scottish Government has agreed to consider greater devolution to the island authorities - and I've already requested that they consider that aspect within a national context. Communities the size of Nairn could very easily run a range of services - we've done so in the past - and we need to do so once again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

South Nairn approved - what Colin said at the meeting

Most Gurnites will know that we usually use first names for our four Highland Councillors but for the benefit of any new visitors, Colin is Colin MacAulay (SNP) you can see a screenshot image below of Colin in action at the meeting. This is what he said at Tuesday's planning meeting in Inverness that approved the South Nairn development despite a large number of objections from Nairn. You can watch the webcast here - the South Nairn application begins at around 18 minutes into the video. Colin was sitting at the top table as he is the South Planning Applications Committee Vice Chair. This is what he had to say:

"I’d just like to say, this is a major development for Nairn. It’s a particularly complex development for Nairn with a lot of constraints. It’s clear from the representations, and I’m a relatively new councillor but I don’t think I’ve seen such, you know, detailed representations in terms of the issues that have been raised. On the positive side I think that people can see that officers have looked at these and they’ve tried to come up with mitigating elements for each and every one of them. If it is a major development and I do think the decision made will be held to account for the decision in terms of how some of these mitigating factors come into play.

 The major concerns that have been raised are about a lack of infrastructure, of narrow roads and so on. Our road systems are already congested, I have to say there was something inside me today that hoped that the bus would be stuck in a queue either on the A96 or going down Wellington Road or even going out Cawdor Road. That didn’t happen but it does happen. There are log jams there are narrow bits and pieces. The A96 itself can be horribly congested. The local newspaper had that as a front page issue in terms of through the summer and it clears but its there and its going to be added to by this development. I mentioned Wellington Road, the roads round about particularly.

The water and sewerage systems, again there’s a view if they are not at capacity they are close to capacity. Again some of the objections referred to the pressure on the system but also of the waste water. Nairn’s one of these places where the manholes occasionally blow out and we’re left with the detritus from that. I read from the report that Scottish Water have raised no objections and they say if there is requirement for additional capacity then the developer will be responsible for these works. The proximity to a major
employer and again I appreciate members going out and spending time in the sawmill and seeing just how proximal that site is. It’s our biggest employer, our best employer, our longest standing employer. It’s a key element to Nairn and I think again any mitigating factors put into play have to protect that enterprise going forward. The Station Brae, again members walked past that and looked at the junction of Cawdor Road and Balblair. I thoroughly believe that that isn’t going to be sorted in any kind of satisfactory way, except, I think it will, lights in there will make it safer for cyclists, it will make it safer for pedestrians than it currently is but it will add to queue times and I think people, if we approve today, will have to put up with that."

In relation to this matter, the Gurn hears from one of our regular network of unreliable sources that the bus carrying the Councillors around the site visit parked up on or near Balblair Road and the Councillors were possibly asked not to get off because of the busy volume of traffic on the road. If this were the case it would be perhaps a little surreal due to the nature of the discussion that was to follow in Glenurquhart Road about the state of local roads etc. We have asked our four Highland members if this was the case. We also asked them to give us comment on the decision if they feel so inclined.  

Nairn wildlife scene - Gull eats pigeon

Iain sent us the above picture and told us: "Not a great photo but never seen a Gull having a pigeon for breakfast before!"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"...along with everyone else in Nairn must be shaking their heads in disbelief that we are even considering a development on this scale"

Here's what Michael Green had to say at the planning meeting today (Tuesday 20th August) at which the planning application for South Nairn was rubber-stamped despite a large number of objections from Nairn: 

"This is a complex development especially as there is another 250 house development waiting in the wings. Malcolm and his team, and I thank them for their efforts; have carried out extensive consultation in Nairn. They’ve been to joint community council meetings, they read the Nairnshire, they’ve see a large number of objections. They know that this is not a proposal that has large public support. They know this is deeply unpopular in Nairn and is deeply unpopular for two very good reasons. The first regards  the local infrastructure and its ability to cope with not only the current traffic levels but the increased levels in the future. In Inverness you may speak about the weather but in Nairn when you meet somebody we traditionally speak about the gulls. The gulls have been superseded by the traffic congestion, that’s what most folk talk about now. In fact I was thinking the other day they say that you can see when the Earth is viewed from the moon the only thing you can see is the Great Wall of China but I’m sure that at certain times, if viewed from the moon the A96 traffic tailbacks at Nairn could be seen. Nairn is the new Fochabers, where people really, really resign themselves to the fact that going through Nairn at certain times they are experiencing something pretty close to gridlock.

Many people are not prepared to accept this and they go through Nairn, they take the back roads. They take the back roads through Nairn South, through Cawdor, through Auldearn, they create their own bypass. We call it a rat-run, it is an unofficial bypass. The fact that we are having to consider an application on this scale, 232 houses and 87 flats when another development, as I’ve said already, of 250 houses is in the wings – before we have the official bypass is at best putting the cart before the horse, at worst it quite really beggars belief. We’ve currently got Balblair Road beside the sawmill and Cawdor Road, two old fashioned B-class roads that have to deal with the traffic from Nairn South to the town centre and at the narrow junction with Cawdor Road and Balblair Road merge there is a one lane choke point which results in tailbacks and congestion at either side of the chicane. Now the traffic impact assessment states that the road structure can cope with the increase in traffic from the development and yes it still can cope to the extent that you would still be able to get to Nairn South from the town centre but at what cost?  Greater risk of accidents, localised rat runs, delays. I feel nothing but sympathy, especially for the residents of Queen’s Park and Firhall, along with everyone else in Nairn must be shaking their heads in disbelief that we are even considering a development on this scale.

The second area of concern lies with the impact that this proposed development and the additional development that will be coming along shortly will have on the largest employer in Nairn, John Gordon and Sons the sawmill. Now Gordons have raised all too real concerns that are genuine and completely understandable - even at one level with technical and complicated issues such as noise levels and noise mitigations. How damaging could the proposed development be to its future viability? At  the end of the day once that development is in place there may be new noise regulations coming forward which may mean we may have to address further concerns. It’s a real concern for Gordons going forward. There’s a potential for this and other developments not only to jeopardise future development but also threaten the viability of Nairn’s largest employer. In summation, you’ll be glad to hear Chairman, Nairn needs affordable housing, Nairn needs houses for its ageing population, it needs small scale private developments, all designed to cater for local demands. Nairn does not need, or really want developments on this scale. Now if this development goes ahead I’m very pleased to say that they’ve accepted from our earlier discussions the pause and review after 100 houses so that we can have a traffic impact assessment. But I think it is vital that we have a local liaison group because this is a very complicated development. That we have a local liaison group, it is set up and will be able to report back to this committee. Thank you." 

Nairn South planning proposal passed

No surprises there. The development was enshrined in the new Inner Moray Firth Local development plan and although there were considerable local concerns expressed in objections and  presentations by local members it seems that none of these concerns were ever going to be enough to have the proposal rejected on competent planning grounds. What might seem sensible to folk in Nairn is seen differently when it comes to official chapter and verse on the way things are meant to be. There are a massive amount of conditions imposed on the plan however and much of the debate concentrated around clarification of points in these conditions and how they could be best implemented or amended to the benefit of the community.

It goes through but with a pause and review clause after the first 100 houses have been built and the phases will be subject to local community liaison being set up that would include local members and the relevant community councils. Despite this this observer would suggest that there will be many that will feel a sour taste in the mouth as Glenurquhart Road once again imposes its will on Nairn's future. 

Above an image of Michael Green as seen on the webcast this lunchtime. He spoke extensively of local concerns including traffic and to this end in reference to the jams he said: "Nairn is the new Fochabers."  More from this meeting later on the Gurn if time permits. 

Nairn and District Gardening Club - Annual Flower Show Saturday 31st August

Nairn South planning decision day

There is a "Community empowerment and Renewal Bill" being formulated at Holyrood to give communities more say in their own affairs. The Highland Council also promises Nairn a better deal through the new Badenoch Strathspey and Nairn area committee. Today it will be business as usual however  as the planning committee councillors arrive in Nairn to see the site proposed for a housing development at South Nairn and then go back to Inverness to make their decision. Maybe one day this community will be able to make such decisions for itself? 

The plan includes 233 houses and 87 flats and the way into town for all the potential future citizens of Nairn that would inhabit the housing scheme would be via the Cawdor Road railway bridge - already a scene of much controversy. Once past that they could join the current tailbacks that are building up most days on the A96 through the town. Iain Bain makes the South Nairn proposal the subject of his editorial today and states:

"The thought that a housing development of this size, staged though it might be, could be built on the basis of the current road system beggars belief."

The planners are not so concerned though, they recommend that the councillors grant planning permission to  the development. You can read their report here. There is a plan of the proposed development here.   The committee proceedings will be webcast live on the Highland Council site. It will be interesting to see what our local councillors have to say at this meeting in light of the seventy plus objections the proposal has received.  

Delnies Circular Path now looking a lot better

Greg Riddle sends us the above image of the Delnies Circular route which was recently cut by the Community Service squad. Greg told the Gurn: "Still work to be done I would suggest but now passable - thanks to those that cut the grass. The onus is now on walkers, runners and cyclists - use it or lose it !"

Monday, August 19, 2013

Station brae trees still presenting problems? Plus walls disintegrating

Murd reports that the high winds brought down some branches on the dead and dying elms on the corner of Station Brae and Balblair Raod. He is concerned that larger pieces of wood could soon fall down. He  raised this issue at several community council meetings earlier this year. Opposite  this spot on the other side of both Cawdor Road and Balblair Road there are sections of wall that look like they are in a very poor state. The Station Brae isn't much fun for pedestrians at the best of times, perhaps these bits of wall could be fixed before anything falls on a passer by?  Images of the walls in question here on the Gurn flickr pages.

BMX track back in use

Thanks to Gurn Riverside reporter Murd for this image of the bairns back on the BMX track. During his campaigning for this area to be cut Murd tells the Gurn he was asked: "Well does anyone use it?". 
Not so easy for the young ones to use a track covered in weeds and undergrowth as high as the average person suggests Murd. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Showfield MG Rally - picture

Thanks to Jacob Christensen for this image of the rally in the Showfield. The car club visitors helped swell the Games Day crowds. 

Class of '75 Nairn Games day reunion - Picture

Thanks again to Donald Matheson for this picture - again taken in the Legion

Fishertown Links School pupils - Class of 68-ish - Games day reunion picture

Thanks to Donald Matheson for this picture of the Links School Class of 68-ish taken in the Legion on Friday night. "Great night, great venue," said Donald.

Names L to R (maiden names for the girls);
Susan Laird, Norman Brown, Anna Mackenzie, Gail Mackintosh, Willie Devine, Linda Ross, Andy Bain, Donald Matheson, Bob Mcgregor, Yvonne Green and Fiona Donaldson.  Larger images here. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cove 1 Nairn 2 - Pictures from Donald Matheson

Individual images here.  Full screen slide show here. 

Nairn Highland Games 2013 a few pictures

A couple of heavy showers in the morning but by the finish of the games it all had a very sun drenched feel to it. Did you take any pictures and put them on line? If so send us the URL to link to.

Individual images here, full screen slide show here. 
UPDATE: Some images here on Bratach's Flickr pages.  And some more here on RG's pages.

UPDATE: Some images from Murray MacRae below. Individual images here. 

UPDATE: several sets of images now on Kenny MacLeod's flickr pages

Hugely significant news from the east - Cove 1 Nairn 2

In the nineteen years that Cove Rangers have been in the Highland League Nairn County have not beaten them at their Allan Park ground once - that is up until the 17th of August 2013, it all changed today. Today Conor Gethins and Andy Neill both both scored to secure a massive win for thee Wee County through at the Champion's home ground. The action included Calum saving a penalty and a red card for Robbie.

This win is the perfect news to round off another sun drenched games day in Nairn. It's also the perfect lift after losing the opening games against Fraserburgh and Brora. Details of the game are available on the Nairn County Twitter page here.

Congratulations to Saint Ninian too - following result seen on twitter in the Grill League cup: Glentanar 2-4 Nairn st Ninian.

Have a good games day Gurnshire

It's a little overcast  as the early morning team make the final preparations to ensure the arena is ready for the competitors and the crowds. Behind the bandstand a beer tent is also being prepared - not an inflatable one this time round so no explosive drama this year. Have a great one folks!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Nairn rooftop trees and shrubs No 3 - The Elm

This young elm looks quite attractive against the background of the blue temporary roof surface, nearby a couple of pigeons are going about their business. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nairn rooftop trees and shrubs - No 2 the Birch

Enjoying the wonderful Nairnshire summer weather today this splendid Silver Birch. Hard to be certain but it looked to be 6-7ft high and in excellent condition. Are there any that can beat this? Send the Gurn an image if you think you have a record breaker or a picture any other tree or shrub making the most of life on the rooftops.