Saturday, November 30, 2013

Highland Council Nairn tourism report is certainly not Rosemary's baby

For Gurnites Rosemary Young will need no introduction, for anyone just passing by however, here is a bit of profile: she has been involved in the tourism industry locally for a considerable time, she is an active Rotarian, having held the high heid yin post in the Nairn branch of that august organisation. She has street cred too for direct action see this article here. She was also instrumental in the massive peaceful protest that influenced a “seismic” planning decision by Highland Council (images here).  She is the chair of Nairn West CC and when
you will have had the pleasure of seeing her sitting at joint CC meetings along with Tommy Hogg and Dick Youngson, of River and Suburban CCs respectively, at the top table, then you will have witnessed a formidable fighting team doing their best for the interests of Nairn. Rosemary has given the Gurn her thoughts on a tourism paper that the Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey committee will be discussing next week. Some gurnites have already given their thoughts in the comments section  on this article here. 

Anyway Gurnshire, this is what Rosemary told us:

"Once again we are being subjected to a long paper from Tourism HC to instruct it seems (although some sentences need to be read several times over to get the sense) our new group with Team Leader to look at tourism.
Well it’s just too late to start thinking about it all.  What needs to happen is highlighted below in five items. We don't need interfering council officials telling us about tourism because they don't know as much as we who are actively involved in it.  For twenty years now I have thrown myself into tourism in this town and it is a thriving industry and could in fact be even more successful with very little effort.  Now is the time to stop the rhetoric and the consultations, let alone the charrettes, workshops and blue sky thinkings. We know what tourists want:

A good place to stay
A good place to eat
A good place to play

We have all those in abundance in this town but what we don't have is the following and these are the things which are most often pointed out to us by our visitors and this is what they say:

Town Centre looks dreadful
Traffic lights gridlocked us
Lovely buildings look dilapidated and derelict
Harbour could look a whole lot better
You need a fully functioning tourist information centre

I add the last one with some reservation as the Community and Arts Centre have done amazing work for the tourism industry but they are wholly underfunded.
Just a few thoughts from a tourism and hospitality person at the coal face.  Elected councillors take note and use what funds we have to do the list and not keep talking about the list".  Read the report here. 

Saints 2 Portgordon 3

Unlucky Saint Ninian missed a chance to get off the bottom of the table today as they put up an impressive fight against high-flying Portgordon. More images later.

Yes campaign activists report very positive reaction on Nairn High Street

The Yes Campaign told the Gurn that they'd had a very productive time on the High Street today. One wee problem however, a unionist seagull sitting on the top of the lampost above the information table made its own contribution to the debate in the time honoured way according to one of the activists.

South Nairn housing development refusal – Consortium to appeal to Scottish Government

Back in September after a demonstration by Nairn residents, Highland Council refused planning permission to the South Nairn planning application by the consortium of three house building companies. Pictures of that day here

This morning the PandJ reports that there will be an appeal. They quote a company spokesman Derrick Thomson:  “Having considered our position in great detail, the consortium will be lodging an appeal against the decision relating to our last planning application in Nairn South.” 

How the appeal process works and the responsibilities of the Reporter who will be appointed by the Scottish Government is outlined on this web page – it has been suggested to this observer by some of the usual suspects that there will be a public local inquiry held with evidence given locally. Also currently going through the Highland Council process is the rival application for South Nairn which has been submitted on the behalf of Charles Allenby. 

At the Subbies (Nairn Suburban Community Council) meeting on Tuesday night  held in Nairn Academy Dick asked Colin when the Allenby application would come before the Council, he said: 
“Colin will probably know, is it in January?”

Colin (Vice Chair of the Highland Council South Planning Committee) replied: 
“It’s scheduled January, but who knows, kind of thing, it is scheduled for January.”

Dick went on to say: “It will be quite interesting because really it’s not quite the same area of ground, it covers Lochdhu as well as the Balblair area. He hasn’t got quite the same access onto the Cawdor Road, he’s very dependent on Balblair Road. It’s not quite as easy or as difficult as the case may be.”

Charles Allenby’s application submitted by Muir Smith Evans can be view on this Council e-planning page. The application has attracted objections just as the previous one from the consortium did. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Championing Nairn town centre.

Michael Green was present at the Suburban CC meeting on Tuesday night and he had news of a town planning conference he’d attended in Inverness. He told the Subbies:

“Basically this is the Scottish Government’s response to the town centre initiative; it’s very, very encouraging. What the whole report speaks about is putting power back to local communities and trying to get life back into town centres. I attended last week the Highlands and Islands Institute of Town Planners conference and it was a fabulous day. The amount of activity that is going on the length and breadth of Scotland in various town centres that I was totally unaware of from Orkney down to Biggar – it is absolutely fabulous, the activity that is going on. I read the reports, having looked through everything, having discussed this with a lot of the delegates: Craig MacLaren, the National Director of the Institute of town planners; Professor Cliff Haig; leading experts in their field. I spoke to Derrick MacKay on Thursday at a breakfast meeting and put forward the idea which I am putting forward to the area committee. Which is for the area committees to have town centre champions. Because the report and the response is all about ownership and it is all about leadership.

At this conference there were only three councillors there and I would suggest that to leave it up to Highland Council, councillors, under the current structure I don’t think is going to get us where we want to be. I think if you can get town centre champions, folk who will take on the role, who will actually engage with these various people who will draw in resources, will actually drive the whole project forward. If we do it on a broad front I think it just creates inertia. I think if you can have the concept of town centre champions who will actually pick up this project and drive it forward, I think will be a real step in the right direction. So I put that on the agenda, it’s going to be discussed, I’ve already circulated it to the Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey committee and I’ll be speaking to Thomas Pragg about getting it adopted to the Council because I do think this needs, as the report states, it’s not just my opinion it’s what the report says, it needs ownership and it needs leadership.”

At this point Martin Ashford made and intervention: “Who will it be Michael, these town centre champions? Will the be employed or volunteers?”“Absolutely not, they will be councillors. They will roll their sleeves up and get on with it.”

“Are you volunteering,” asked Martin.

“Yes,” replied Michael. […] I’ll make time because I can think of nothing more important than this.”

Michael’s optimism and suggested initiative was well received by the usual suspects and also a few members of the public in attendance. 

Plans for Nairn’s development – will you be affected? You have until Dec 13th to comment

This observer went to the Highland Council’s information event last night in the Community Centre. It had been billed as a 4-8 p.m. event, I arrived around half seven and about 30 folk were sitting in rows receiving a presentation and it was after 8.30 pm before it was all done and dusted. See picture below of all the colour coded areas that the Highland Council wish to see developed in the future. 

Serious concern was expressed about the traffic impact on the town and the countryside of any and all of these developments. Particular mention was made of Lochloy Road with existing development and the proposed NA2 area* which is now a preferred Highland Council site for 90 houses; how traffic would impact with 30 houses on half of the Showfield, particularly with the existing conditions on Waverly Road; the continuing use of Auldearn as a rat run to avoid Nairn was mentioned and the general dangerous driving conditions that are now emerging in many areas locally as impatient people seek alternative routes. There were other concerns too that have often been heard at meetings in Nairn over recent years. 

To their credit the planners did say that future traffic levels in Nairn would be alleviated by the construction of a bypass (a must for them just as much as it is for the townsfolk) but those assembled remained highly sceptical of these plans and unconvinced by the presentation. On Tuesday night at the Suburban CC meeting Colin told that meeting that his gut feeling was that a bypass would be completed in 5 years. A best to middle best case scenario there? Would a future government of a different complexion (perhaps in an independent Scotland) feel bound by any promises made to Nairn in 2013? In the meantime just how much development can Nairn take without a bypass?

You can see the map and the explanation of all the zones detailed here starting on page 63 of this document. If you are either for or against any of these developments you can submit your details online here.

For more details of this plan that is under consultation at the moment there is a Gurn page here with links to Highland Council information and also a Gurn reader's take on it all. 

*Interestingly it was pointed out that this site could contain a through road that would connect up with the existing developments in Lochloy and provide another way in or out of the housing schemes that are at the further end of this area already.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nairn Tourism - article on BBC site

"Seaside town needs tourism boost suggests report" more on the BBC site. Mention there of our positive attributes as a destination. One thing missing perhaps, surely our best beach status is worth inclusion? Regular readers will remember the good news back in Februray when Trip Advisor bestowed the Best Scottish Beach status upon Nairn. 

The Beeb article refers to a Highland Council report that Liz, Colin, Michael and Laurie and the Badenoch and Strathspey councillors will be discussing next week and can be seen here.  No mention of the Trip Advisor accolade there either. Any reaction out there to the Council report from anyone involved in Nairn's toursim sector?

Nairnshire crime wave – suspect in custody.

Sgt Graham Erskine was the police rep at the Suburban CC meeting on Tuesday night and he had good news for the usual suspects and members of the public attending the meeting. He said:

“The major criminal issue in Nairn was theft by house-breaking and theft of cars which we have been experiencing recently and has been attributed to one suspect who is highly active in our area. – splash and splinter type entry to unoccupied houses and if there is cash, jewellery and a car to steal then so much the better. I’m pleased to report he’s in police custody now. I don’t think I’m being over optimistic in expecting that type of crime to seriously diminish whilst he’s not at liberty.”

Sgt Erskine went on to say that a comprehensive police report would be sent to the Procurator Fiscal. He also reported an increase of 101 calls to the police concerning suspicious individuals or vehicles to and attributed that to awareness of that facility being discussed at community council meetings. 

Sgt Erskine said that he thought that the recent incident at the Scotmid Co-op at Lochloy Road (Gurn report here) was a “stand alone” crime even though it was in close proximity to the Bridgemill car wash machines that were broken into. He went on to say that there was a suspect identified for the coin box raids at the car wash, he said: “at the same time the Nairn machines were done there were a number of machines that were similarly broken into in Morayshire. Quite a large number, six or seven of them, Forres, Elgin, Fochabers, basically in a long line along the A96. There was a suspect identified in Morayshire.” He then indicated that investigations were still continuing into those crimes.  

Christmas River Treasure Hunt

Donna Wilson told the Gurn of a fundraiser for the Millbank School Fairbairn trip. It’s a treasure hunt around the river walks  between the Jubilee and Firhall bridges. There are 14 pictures to look for. Competition entry sheets are available from Millbank School. Donna, a regular river walker herself, says there will be a prize and she hopes that the competition will encourage a few moms and dads to take their children up to experience the riverside environment in winter. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Land at Nairn's Sandown worth almost half it was in 2007"

Another of our readers sends us the link to a BBC page (with the above headline) that has details of the latest estimation of the value of the Sandown lands and a precis of recent planning events in Nairn. Sandown is now worth £6m. The beeb have obviously seen the agenda and associated documents for the forthcoming meeting of the the Nairn and Badenoch and Srathspey area committee on Tuesday the 3rd of December. There is a report from the Director of Finance with lots of details about the present position of the Nairn Common Good in this report here

They'll be discussing tourism in Nairn next Tuesday too - here's more from the agenda:

"i.  note the importance of tourism to the local economy;
ii.  consider whether there is any further role the Council can play in assisting
    the tourism industry in the development of tourism in Nairn; and
iii. consider how tourism growth can best be supported by the Area
    Committee, both directly and indirectly through the planning and delivery of
    other Council services."     There's a detailed report here.

There's also an item about a town centre action plan for Nairn here.   The full agenda of the area committee is here. 

The Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee - a new invention that might make a difference for Nairn or a toothless paper tiger for politicians to posture and fire off a few soundbites for the webcam? Time will tell.  

Rosebank Hall for sale

The Free Church have put the Rosebank Hall on the market and are looking for offers over 50K - here's the page on the HSPC site. Thanks to one of our regular readers for the link. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nairn Suburban CC pick their preferred bypass line.

The Subbies had a large agenda again tonight at their regular monthly meeting at Nairn Academy. It was towards the end of their allotted time in the main hall that they got round to choosing which of the many lines on the map they wished to see become the final route for the Nairn Bypass. The Chair of the Subbies Dick Youngson said:

“We are very much against the route that comes in at Delnies and comes in so close to Lochdhu, crossing the Moss-side there and cutting tightly back in again crossing at Broadley Farmhouse and curling back in to meet the A96. It really doesn’t allow Nairn to expand at all. It doesn’t allow for years of development in Nairn. It’s a tight one, it’s like an inner ring road like Aberdeen ended up with.”

Local resident Iain Gordon also spoke and he made a plea for Delnies wood not to be destroyed: 

 “When the bypass proposal came up 5 , 6, 7 years ago, I can’t actually remember when it was. There was a completely democratic process organised by the Council, through the Council. I think there was a reporter brought in. […] The Community of Nairn, round about Delnies, not just the residents there – an awful lot of people in Nairn use the Delnies woods for leisure and recreation. The word in its literal sense re-creation, it’s a place of relaxation. A lot of people use that regularly. If you drive a four lane carriageway through there you will destroy a community asset. It’s a place where a lot of people in Nairn get much pleasure and there’s a lot of wildlife in there and everyone that goes in there knows it. For that proposal to come back in just the way it  was was  absolutely shocking and it is a complete contravention of what was a democratic decision through the Highland Council[…] really I was quite staggered to see that. The possible destruction of the Delnies woods, I think it should be strongly  resisted. 

The Subbies want to see the outer route “2H” around Nairn to come back in to the existing A96 at Auchnacloich and to then follow the Auldearn bypass rather than the options that bypass the bypass.  You can follow the route 2H option on pages 3 and 4 of this document here. Dick indicated there was support for this route too within the ranks of Auldearn Community Council. If Nairn’s other CCs also opt for this route then there could soon be considerable momentum for this option. 

All those plans for houses in and around Nairn - an information event on Thursday (28th Nov)

Read this Gurn page for info and links to both the Highland Council's pages and a Gurn reader's guide to the Inner Moray Firth Development Plan. All the usual ones like Sandown, Delnies, South Nairn on that plan and now a proposal for part of the Showfield and another for 90 houses further out beyond the present land allocated for developments at Lochloy plus other bitties elsewhere.

If you want to know more you can go along to the Community Centre for an information event this Thursday (Nov 28th) between 4-8 p.m.  

A mini-charrette for Nairn Town Centre?

Gurnites will possibly remember the Sandown Charrette organised by Oor Sandy early last year. There were mixed views about the outcome. Not much seems to have happened since then and there is a school of thought that Highland Council (in their role as trustees of the Nairn Common Good)  is poised to allow the fields to be used for a crop of carrots soon - no construction on the Sandown Lands in the short term then? Anyway back to that charrette, as the event progressed drawings appeared on the walls of the courthouse.   A final document that went to committee looked like this. 

It is worth remembering what Julian Farrar, the man that run the consultation, had to say in summing up at the end of the Charrette: ""Town centres, do not forget the importance, the absolute primacy of Nairn’s quality is in your town centre and the protection of that, the articulation of its value, is what is going to in part create for Sandown in success. Your value in part in Sandown and in terms of Delnies is because you are not bolting this onto something which is of an indifferent value, you’re bolting this onto something which is of prime quality and the reason and the people you want to attract into Nairn are based around this town centre and the community and all the community infrastructure and community facilities. And you’ve got another big phase of that, in my mind, when I park out there in that car park, in the derelict bits and pieces. So you’ve got a big challenge, not only in Sandown." More here.

So now Highland Council turns to the town centre once again and  they hope to run their own charrette. They are trying to get hold of some Scottish Government cash to enable this. A recent press release reads:
"The Highland Council has made a bid for funding from the Scottish Government to run mini-Charrettes (interactive facilitated workshops) to focus on actions which will best deliver town centre regeneration in Fort William, Nairn and Tain.
The bid is for £20,000 and if successful the Council will contribute £15,000 of its own funding towards the events, which would be held over a two week period in the new year." 

They go on to state: "Masterplans already exist for Fort William and Nairn, where the Council would wish to bring together key stakeholders to discuss the detail of town centre regeneration."

Hopefully the cash will come in and we get another charrette rolling into town and then the usual suspects, NICE and anyone else with thoughts on the town centre will get the chance to place post-it notes on maps and indulge in other such activities that could lead once again to a laudable goal. As mentioned above, there were mixed reactions to the Sandown Charrette but this observer thought it valuable. More from the Highland Council press release here. 

Laughing out loud at Comedy@Nairn

Many Nairn residents are not strangers to the Community Centre as an entertainment venue, the versatility of the building and the efficient, welcoming staff are the foundation of many a great night out. This reputation was further enhanced when the Centre hosted the second Comedy@Nairn session on Saturday night. Inside, the ascending rows of chairs had been assembled facing the single microphone on the stage. There was a semi circle of three rows of individual seats closer to that stage too - as events were to prove seats for the more daring or uninitiated. Occupants in these seats would be probed for material by the comedians that Comedy@Nairn organiser Michael Green had obtained for the second of what he hopes will be a long run of shows. A series that could, perhaps, eventually lead to Nairn having its very own comedy festival. 

There were a mix of local and visiting faces in the audience, this became evident when the first of the acts and compère for the night, Billy Kirkwood, came on for the warm up session and explored where people were
from and what they did for a living. The long haired young man with his bare, heavily tattooed arms engaged the audience with his animated west Central Belt persona. Swear words were de rigueur but nobody seemed offended by that or the heavy use of sexual innuendo. It was 8.45 p.m, not quite the watershed, but most folk had probably had a few drinks already and they were ready and willing to be entertained with more than a sprinkling of profanity. Nairn’s perceived bourgeois existence came in for some exploration as well. Mr Kirkwood obviously is unaware that we have food banks here and, pro rata, probably as many people in tough circumstances as some of the bigger towns and cities in Scotland. But it was comedy; a stereotype taking the piss out of perceived stereotypes?  Come as yourself, or come as a stereotype, it was optional but it was all good fun. He did well and earned a good ration of applause. 

Joe Heenan hails from Perth and he was next up. He seamlessly kept the smile on everyone’s faces including a few hints about his cosmopolitan career to date which has included a gig in Oxford – yes, you can imagine the culture clash that was mined for material to fatten up his stint on stage in a place not quite as posh as Oxford, but perhaps a bit
posher than his normal venues. Again a polished entertainer, flawlessly inserting his assessments of members of the audience into an instantly available reservoir of other material he drew upon for the performance. If there was to be any criticism of the show it would be perhaps here, I spoke to others afterwards that thought that maybe Joe was more at home with the more explicit material than the lighter stuff but that is not to say that it was in any way a poor performance – it’s all relative. This observer would give a silver star to Joe, gold for both Billy Kirkwood and the third man up, Raymond Mearns.

Raymond maybe edged it too ahead of Billy, if I had to put a 1, 2, 3 order of preference on it. It might have been that he had done a bit more research or was just a little more daring: his impressions of the hospitality provided before the show by Michael Green for example; The Nairn (sic) Telegraph, a scathing ridicule of Findhorn and a continuing plethora of targets for his comic ire. There was more sexual stuff too, plenty of that from all three really but “we are all adults aren’t we?”  Yes, we were and it is after all, no worse or any less obscene than the material that can often be heard in many thousands of workplaces on a regular basis. It’s just that in our daily lives comedy only intrudes for brief intervals at tea breaks, or for the posher folk, water cooler moments. At
Comedy@Nairn you have an onslaught of comedy, the full Saturday night blitz from a central belt troupe of jokesmiths. Nairn isn’t really as posh as you think it is guys but I suspect you really know that anyway :-) 

Too quickly, a couple of hours had passed and a steady stream of the 200 or so cheerful people were making their way down the steps in front of the community centre to continue their night out with some of the special offers that Comedy@Nairn had arranged with local businesses. It all looked and felt good as they contentedly streamed away to continue their Saturday night. 

Tips for anyone going to similar events in the future? Well, if you are a dentist and must sit in the front row (two members of that profession chose to do so) just lie and say you’re something else rather than provide the comic masterminds with enough material to reverse the roles and have you at their mercy in the chair. On the job front too, perhaps think twice when asked, about describing your workplace as an “incubation and innovation centre”. No, don’t worry; these guys were fairly gentle really. Good craic, good night, good Comedy@Nairn.  

Images from the top, Billy Kirkwood, Joe Heenan, Raymond Mearns - a few more images here. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Farmers Market demonstrates the potential?

The space created by the demolition of the old Community Centre was used to good effect on Saturday by the Farmers Market. Shoppers could be seen making their way from the High Street down the lanes to the market and then across to the Craft Fair in the new Community Centre and vice versa. 

Nearby the old Social Work buildings await a new future depending on the outcome of negotiations between NICE and the Highland Council.  Imagine that building back in use with a mixture of community and business users and then perhaps the car park areas revamped (wasn't some stone kept for this?) and maybe  some trees planted too. According to one of the traders that had a stall on the market on Saturday there is now talk of four more markets a year. That would be a good start but surely the ideal must be to aim for a weekly market? Some of the  thousands of drivers that pass through Nairn would soon get the idea and perhaps stop to spend some cash  in the market and in the High Street and beyond. 

As the future of  business on the High Street continues to face great challenges and some shops go under we have to think of ways of putting of bringing more people to our town centre. The switching on of the Christmas Lights in Nairn recently showed how that was possible. That was an evening event however and perhaps there are lessons to be learned for that event and any other potential ones from the way Buckie made a whole day of their Christmas Lights ceremony - Images here Buckie Christmas Kracker. As mentioned in a post below it also coincided with a home defeat for Buckie Thistle by Nairn County FC and the resultant fireworks display at five o'clock was well received by ebullient County fans as they made their way back to their transport in the streets surrounding Victoria Park. 

Stop the Cairnduhie windfarm campaigners take to the social networks

They are now on Twitter and Facebook. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Buckie 1 Nairn 3 - pictures of another perfect day for the faithful as County notch up 8th consecutive win

It was the day they turned the Christmas Lights on in Buckie and the whole town centre was buzzing with showies, a cut off Nimrod, bands playing from the back of lorries, steam engines, lots of stalls and everybody that was capable of putting on some form of entertainment was performing too. "Christmas Cracker" was the name of the event. Just up the road at Victoria Park, not much more than a stone's throw from all the fun downtown it was to be Nairn's day however, and if the cracker was pulled then it was to be County that went home wearing the party hat.

Buckie took the lead and it was only to be in the second half that the inspired County side we saw last week returned to finish this one off too. Great goals for Morrison, Leslie and Gethins and fair play to the Buckie fans that told this observer that we deserved it  - far more magnanimous than Barry Wilson last Saturday.
Just another perfect day and as we left a fantastic fireworks display commenced over Buckie town centre - not really in honour of Nairn County Football Club but it seemed like it as a happy group of fans stopped to admire the colours breaking out across the heavens.

There is now only 1 point between the four teams at the top of the Highland League. Now for Donald Matheson's images - individual pictures here.  

Nairn Farmers Market - pictures of the stalls today (Sat 23 November) - also Craft Fair in Community Centre

Indvidual images here. More images to be added later.


Market Day again in Nairn - also large Craft Fair in Community Centre - C'mon down!

Two images from both events below and more to follow soon.

The picture above shows just some of the Farmers' Market stalls in the car park where the old Community Centre used to stand. 

Meanwhile over in the new Community Centre a large craft fair was ready to start. Both images taken around 10.00 this morning. More images soon.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nairn Academy says NO! 71% - vote against Independence for Scotland

And the pupils have rejected the idea of Independence emphatically. The Highland Council twitter account reports a 64% turnout with 491 pupils voting out of a possible 770.  
The Vote was 71% No 28%. Yes

It is, at the end of the day, only an opinion snapshot of pupils not of voting age but it may be cause for serious study for the YES campaign locally and beyond - Nairn is after all an area with strong SNP support. Nairn's two SNP councillors Liz and Colin will no doubt be shocked too by the rejection of the the YES argument for Independence. There will be the inevitable media ripples far beyond Nairn. Food for thought all round.
This YES man is going to have a cup of tea now...

"Your town needs you" - Nairn mentions in the Inverness Courier today

A picture of one of the Nairn Academy pupils casting their vote in yesterday's mock referendum election on the front page. Inside an article on the Association of Nairn Businesses's "Nairn needs you!" campaign which uses the image from the Kitchener World War 1 recruiting poster. There are also comments from Nairn traders. The ANB campaign is also on line on Facebook here. 
In the second section there is an interview with Michael Green outlining tomorrow's @Comedy Nairn event in the Community Centre. Michael also goes into his ambitions for a comedy festival in Nairn. 
More in the Courier in an artilce "Green wants comics to come to Nairn for its greens."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The wisdom of Iain Bain: “Will we ever see a Nairn bypass?”

An erudite elucidation on the prospects for a Nairn Bypass from Iain this week in the NT. It’s very much worth reading if you haven’t done so yet. Iain talks about the shock delivered by Transport Scotland in the Golf View last Tuesday with all those new lines on the map and much, much more. This observer finds the following wee extract perhaps the most relevant and if reactions this observer is hearing on the street are anything to go by then Iain is bang on the money:

”…When the present Scottish Government decided that the Nairn Bypass would go forward in the context of dualling the A96 there was a feeling that the goal-posts had been moved: that a project which was ahead of many others would now be under reconsideration. Last Tuesday’s revelation indicates just how much reconsideration there could be.”  More in the same vein in this week’s edition of the NT. 

Localism and Community Empowerment for Nairn – could we be in for a disappointment?

Much is made by some of the “Usual Suspects” (our local Community Councillors for those not familiar with Gurn terminology) about the direction of Scottish Government travel with the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill that is going through the Holyrood machine at the moment. They feel that this is the direction of travel and they wish Nairn to be in the vanguard as powers are returned to communities after over two decades, locally anyway, of movement in the other direction. The same thinking permeates the organisation Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise (NICE). Could anyone hoping for a quick transformation in the short term be bitterly disappointed however? The stated aims of the Bill are very laudable and will resonate deeply with many Nairnshire residents aggrieved with the status quo. So it is to the Community Empowerment Bill and the concept of localism it could potentially deliver that those fighting for a better deal for Nairn look to with more than just a glimmer of hope. 
To get a flavour of the stated aims of the Community Empowerment Bill some Gurnites may wish to read this Scottish Government web page. 

One of our usual suspects recommended the Scottish Community Alliance newsletter to this observer some time ago. You just have to sign up on line for the monthly e-mail. It contains much usual information about how some communities have set out to deal with problems facing them – thinking and acting locally to create new positive outcomes for themselves. The SCA is quite a formidable network of grass routes organisations and you can read about them here – “Local people leading” is one of their slogans. 

Thus It was with some disappointment that this observer read the latest missive from  the SCA, it seems very downbeat about the prospects for significant progress for communities from the Bill. It says: 

 “A well-worn philosophy from the world of business says that the way to manage expectations is to under-promise and over-deliver.  An early assessment of the draft Community Empowerment Bill suggests that Scottish Government holds no truck with such Machiavellian ways – in fact quite the reverse.  Initial reaction to the proposals has been underwhelming. Even the Minister responsible, Derek Mackay MSP, in his Q&A session at last week’s Senscot conference, suggested we might have expected more from the Bill. So why promise so much at the outset and deliver so little? It’s such a marked contrast that you almost wonder whether some reverse psychology is at work – massively over-promise (to stir up debate) but deliver just enough (and no more) to whet the appetite for more in the future. We always knew the idea of communities being on the receiving end of ‘the largest transfer of power since devolution’ would meet with fierce opposition– particularly from those who hold so much sway over what communities currently do.  So is this Bill simply intended as a minor staging post in a much longer journey that the Scottish Government wants us to travel?   Now that would be truly Machiavellian.”

There will be many that will be hoping that the SCA are more than a little off-beam with this analysis. Gurnites interested in what the SCA has to say can find their website here.  Serious students may wish to also browse their archive of briefings. 

"Where Nairn goes, so goes Scotland..." Fraser Nelson

Former Nairn Academy pupil, political commentator and editor of the Spectator, Fraser Nelson, obviously believes the decision that the pupils of the Academy take today will be very significant.  
Fraser's tweet has gathered some reaction which can be read here.

Yes or No - Nairn Academy vote today - what will be the decision of Nairn youth?

There's a mock referendum today at Nairn Academy, all 800 pupils will have the opportunity to vote and the result will be known tomorrow. Will Nairn Academy's decision reflect the final result in October next year? An interesting result awaits.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nairn Blockbusters no more

The lights are still on but the shelves are empty and the remaining DVDs lie in an unceremonious but neat pile in the middle of the floor, their fate belongs elsewhere now. A testament to changing times and how people access goods, services - big changes all happening before our eyes  elsewhere on the High Street too. Time once again to ponder perhaps what can happen to some premises  beyond retail. The Gurn had an article on some thinking in this direction earlier this year.

So fast are things moving that the video uploaded by the then Blockbusters employee Magnus nearly four years ago in January 2010 already seems to have the allure of an historical document. Digital evidence for posterity of how the interior of one of our High Street premises used to look.

Will the "market effect" give a lift to Nairn town centre this weekend?

This Saturday (23rd Nov) there will be a farmers' market in the area of car park where the old Community Centre used to stand. An advert in a local weekly newspaper reads:  "Quality food and crafts. Beef, Pork, Lamb, Venison, Game, Vegetables, Bread, Pastries and Cakes, Natural Personal Care Products, Jewellery and Knitted goods." 
The street market held in the summer and the Christmas Lights event last week (images here and here) prove that thousands of residents will turn out for special events held in the town centre. The market on Saturday will not be in the High Street and it will be of a more functional nature than the event that went ahead with an element of public funding in the summer. It will be interesting to see just how many people this event will attract into the town centre, hopefully it will be a success with other businesses on the High Street and further afield benefiting from an increase of local people shopping locally and also vistors coming to Nairn. 

" The 12 days of Debtmas" - Fergus continues the awareness campaign against the dangers of payday loans

Gunrites will recall that Fergus was present at the recent initiative launched by Nairn County FC and Nairn CAB that highlighted the dangers of payday loans (images here).  Earlier this week he also featured in a Scottish Government information video made in Aberdeeen :

A Gurn twitter list - local politics

This observer realises that this topic will perhaps not attract the attention of too many Gurnites but on the Gurn twitter account we have a list that gives you the latest tweets from local politicians that have a twitter account. Most flavours are represented but it is perhaps a little SNP heavy. There are no Tories but we will add any  if they are there. Here's the list. 

If you are a politician or local poltical organisation and are not on the list please let us know.

Here's a tweet we noticed earlier, Liz continues to concentrate on the macro issues.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Three events in the Nairn United Reformed Church

Click on each of the following to see a poster with full details

Phillipines Appeal - Afternoon Tea - Weds 27th November

Accidentals Christmas Concert - URC - 7th Dec

Major Sponsorship deal for Nairn company that broadcasts Highland League Football

A Nairn based company that’s broadcasting the Scottish Highland Football League to the rest of the world is thrilled to announce its first major sponsor. 

Ross J Maclean of SHFLtv has been running an online media business for the past decade. At the turn of last year he piloted a league game online. Including the website launch it received almost a quarter of a million hits with no preview advertising. 

Having secured exclusive rights to the broadcast 37 year old Ross (dad of 3), who’s originally from the Inner Hebrides, has set about negotiating sponsorship to help raise boost popularity, his company profile, and share the success. 

Peterhead company Direct Waste Management Ltd is the first to sign up. The firm is a leading player in the specialist field of managing liquid waste and sludge in the North East of Scotland. Through the provision of innovative waste management solutions it is committed to sourcing environmental uses for the waste and reducing negative impact on our communities 

Ross on the right with Ricky Horne and Jackie Horne of DWM

HSEQ Adviser Jackie Horne said: “We are a family business and we are all big football fans which has been known to cause the occasional heated debated in our household! My brother Ricky has played in the Highland League for four seasons and we routinely go to the games on a Saturday. We think the Highland League has a very high standard of play and it’s great that their talent is recognised both locally and globally thanks to Ross’s expansive thinking. When we found out that the league games were being filmed we knew it was a venture we wanted to be a part of on a personal and professional level. 

“We serve a lot of businesses in the region and we anticipate this channel will soar in popularity and so it’s a fabulous way for us to advertise and support a new initiative we strongly believe in. People love to support football and be part of this community; it also provides us with the perfect platform to introduce some of that love to the environment and waste solutions. It’s a superb way to share an important message in an accessible and enjoyable way.”

Since its launch SHFLtv has continued to build a loyal fan base with repeat viewers spreading the word through social media. As it gathers pace Ross will develop football manager and player profiles, and cup final previews; all of which will now feature DWM’s logo. In addition to the onscreen logo and a featured position at each game, sponsors feature on the website, email signature, social media, and are presented with a branded media jacket for use at the games (sponsors who sign up now will qualify for these incentives). 

Ross says DWM didn’t waste a minute in recognising the advantages: “This is an incredibly exciting time for SHFLtv, and to have already gained such a high profile sponsor at this stage shows the impact that the league games are having. We’re delighted to be associated with such a forward-thinking business. We are open to discussing sponsorship opportunities with any interested parties who are ready to up-level and expose their brand to a new audience who are, of course, their potential customers.

“Online media has revolutionised the way that business operates and we are delighted that DWM is embracing our use of technology to bring these games to the homes of fans worldwide.” 

Extended highlights of the SHFL games are available online on a Monday evening. Ross is keen to provide a broadcast with a difference: “Our fans have direct input regarding the content they want. I’m already influenced by how best to develop the extended highlights program. This is communication at its core because it’s immediate, and I know we can deliver what they want. We already have viewers in Canada, Australia and South Africa.” 

Ross earlier in the season filiming at Station Park

Ross has experience in broadcast and corporate productions in the UK ranging from news, lifestyle, factual, adventure sports, music videos, and aerial filming. His enthusiasm and high quality work has been featured locally as well as on SkyTV, BBC, and online and independent broadcast companies. 

The Scottish Highland Football League has 18 teams covering a significant geographical area that takes in Caithness, Fort William, Inverness, Speyside, Morayshire and Aberdeenshire. 

Ross concludes: “As we gain momentum we will increase the match exposure to showcase the league, and promote local communities on a global scale. For the right companies we can offer a superb way to pitch their services including website advertising, social media plugs, and online branding of programmes with post match interviews. The opportunities are endless.”

Highland Council gritting priority maps for Nairn

Follow the link in the Highland Council tweet below to a document that gives you rural priorities on page 1 and the town on page 2 . 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Changes to Nairn library hours proposed

A scanned copy of a leaflet available in the Nairn Library. The biggest change proposed seems to be an early closing on Fridays compared to the present closing time of 8 p.m.

Nairn 4 Wick 1 - more pictures from another perfect day for Wee County fans

More images from Saturday's action at Station Park available here on the Gurn flickr pages. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

One exceptional man's fight against Myelofibrosis

"Nairn County fans, players and coaches will all be on cloud nine after another impressive win on Saturday against Wick Academy, however this game also marked the announcement that assistant manager Ally
Macleod will miss the second half of the season due to illness.

The popular and ambitious Kinlochbervie native has now received a date for the gruelling treatment programme that he will require to undergo as he seeks to overcome a rare form of leukaemia. While most are shaking off a hangover on January 2nd Macleod will undergo a bone marrow transplant which will see him miss the remainder of the season, and the majority of the year."   More on the Highland League Football Hub pages here. 

A remarkable interview with Ally by Graeme MacLeod also featured in this week's NCFC programme for the game against Wick and also appeared later on the Fans We Believe Facebook pages. In that interview Ally also makes a plea to people to register with the Anthony Nolan Appeal, a charity which tries to find donors with life-saving blood matches for people in a similar situation as himself.

Picture of Ally from Donald Matheson

Nairn County 4 Wick Academy 1 - Pictures from Kenny MacLeod - plus ground improvements fundraising news

Enjoy the scenes from the emphatic victory over Wick Academy in Kenny's collection of images below. The County fans raptuous celebrations were all the more pronounced  given the Wick Manager's reported statement earlier in the week asserting that Nairn County were not a "top team". Much mirth still resonating today over on the County Fans "We Believe" Facebook page. 

The Nairn Tandori fundraiser raised £200 yesterday too for the Fans Ground Improvement fund and another £200 came in for the Panel Beaters initiative now that the first 300 plus names have appeared on magnificent looking boards up at Station Park. 

More details on the Fans fundraising news page including images of the Panel Beaters Board, the Nairn Tandori fundraiser, how to become a Panel Beater yourself (open to all) and news of a signed Celtic top for auction. More here on the links on  the Fans GIF news page. 

Cawdor Rd,Balblair Rd junction - water on the road - a cold weather danger?

One of our regular readers reported water running onto the road at the Station Brae junction. Water does indeed seem to be appearing from somewhere out of the wall below the Council yard and running onto the road at the point where vehicles have to break to stop. It was a dry day today but despite that vehicles were spreading the moisture onto both sides of the roads. Our correspondent is worried that this junction will become very dangerous when the inevitable hard frosts of winter arrive.  Image below and more images here. 

Smash and grab type raid on Lochloy Junction Scotmid Co-op?

The Gurn understands that the Scotmid shop at the Lochloy Road/A96 junction was entered last night after  a pane of glass in the door was smashed and a quantity of alcohol was perhaps taken from the premises. The disruption caused by the raid/attack(?) seems to be minimal this morning with the shop trading as normal. Picture taken around 08.30 this morning.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday morning miscellany.

Friday started off as a dull news day but a few things surfaced during the day (scroll down the Gurn to read them) and there was, of course, always going to be the extravaganza in the evening. The skies looked kind as dusk fell and  the weather stayed mild for the switching on of the Christmas lights and the subsequent entertainment. Another fantastic success for all involved!

Yesterday we reported the survey that has this area listed as the fourth worst area to live in the UK, the survey article is here, Liz commented here and now Colin has reacted - he told the Gurn: 

"A multi-factorial analysis - weighing up all kinds of factors - all carefully weighted and calculated and coming up with the wrong answer of course!
The whole of the Highlands is in there - as is most of Scotland - simply ridiculous.
However, on the one hand its a very sad indictment of Westminster simply disregarding Scotland's interests over the past 50 years.

Scotland resources paid for Thatcher's deindustrialisation - and Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron - used us all as a cash cown to bolster the City of London's vested interests. The lack of infrastructure and low wages and ill-health and an elderly population will be contributory elements - across Scotland, across Highland and of course here in the ancient and Royal Burgh of Nairn.

BUT - We all know that Nairn and the Highlands in general are far, far higher on important quality of life indicators - which is why we've secured inward migration over recent years.
We can't be complacent - we need to protect the quality that we already have, whilst still attracting economic development and a younger demographic profile.
And although not perfect - that is the underlying purpose of the much maligned HWLDP and proposed IMFLDP!"

Colin also recommends a site for what he considers more balanced reporting on Scottish Affairs - Newsnet Scotland.

Meanwhile more anecdotal evidence of Nairn perhaps being first in line once the new A96 strategic road is constructed comes from Dave, one of our regular readers and a Dyke resident. It looks like the Moray section isn't  at the same stage as the Inverness-Nairn is. He told the Gurn yesterday evening: 

"Just come home from the roadshow in the Ramnee Hotel and very disapointed. Only the Inverness to Nairn section is at Stage 2 with all those exciting black lines across the map. The rest of the A96 is only at Stage 1 so they had nothing to show us :-(
The maps of the existing network offer little confidence when you notice places marked like Glenburggie Distillery (sic.).
However, I will fill in a comments form and hope to keep breathing until the next stage."

Have a good Saturday Gurnshire, it looks mild out there again. Perhaps see some of you up at Station Park this afternoon? 

Christmas Lights and Bjorn the Bear - images and video

Images from Murray MacRae here, more  from a Gurn photographer here (more to come over the weekend or early next week) and a video of the bear that stole the show (again) here. 
Well done Michael Green and everyone else that worked so hard to make the event such a wonderful success once again.

Friday, November 15, 2013

No other word for it - simply sheer "Pandemonium" in Nairn tonight!

Another video from St Ninian's High Church featuring "Pandemonium", Nairn Academy's Steel band, here. 
The fantastic night of entertainment had started with carols and the switching on of the Christmas lights at the Courthouse, followed by a march up to the High Church (see video in post below). More video of Bjorn the Bear to come, and footage too of the organiser of the event, Michael Green, thanking everyone who helped. Images too of tonight will also be posted when time permits. 

Nairn on the march - video!

This observer was up the street earlier tonight and thought at first that it was another demonstration against the proposed development for South Nairn and then I remembered that Micheal Green had told me that the Christmas lights were getting switched on. Here's the populace heading up the High Kirk for some fantastic calypso music and a bit of craic with Bjorn the Bear and Neula the Eskimo (or to be more politically correct according to some, Neula the Inuit). 

More videos and images of the night to come when time permits. 

Another Super Soccer Saturday looms for Nairn County FC – and Panel Beaters board now up.

There’s an encounter between  two very on-form sides that are perched on the top end of the Highland League table up at Station Park tomorrow as the Wee County go head to head with Wick Academy. 

Another large crowd is anticipated and many fans will be going up early to see their names on the Panel Beaters board that has been installed at Station Park. Every one that has contributed to the Fans Ground Improvement Fund Panel Beater initiative so far has been listed on that board for posterity. It is quite an amazing to read all the names of the individuals, businesses and organisations that have contributed
so far. More on the fans fundraising news pages here (once there, to browse the names on the board click on the news item Panel Beaters, once a pop up opens click on the lower image to see the bigger picture – most browsers will then let you magnify with a left kick.). The panel beater initiative is still open and another board will be put in place next year to list further contributors).  

Meanwhile preparations were under way at Station Park this afternoon to have the Stadium at its pristine best for what promises to be another Highland League Classic. Picture here.

Cullin FM will be broadcasting live from Station Park tomorrow afternoon and County fans far and wide will be tuning in on the net to listen to the game. One fan will be going on line in Borneo and over in Lifford  Donegal, County Star Conor Gethins's father George will be tuning in. Here's where you too can listen if you can't get to the game. 

CEO required for Nairn Golf Club

Liz reacts quickly to UK Worst places list that includes Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey area

Earlier this morning we mentioned a survey published in the Independent in a Gurn article here -"Inverness & Nairn and Moray, Badenoch and Strathspey - number 4 in top 10 worst places to live in UK"

Liz reacted swiftly to challenge the Survey and gave the following comment to the Gurn:

"It is a very narrow survey and includes Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey with Inverness which has a couple of areas of high deprivation which will affect our position significantly.

It is based on life expectancy and salary and I feel if smaller areas had been surveyed we would not have appeared anywhere on the negative list and may have even rocketed into the best areas based on our high levels of sunshine and mild climate, which were also used as criteria for this survey.

We cannot however be complacent and we must have a closer look at the study and see what is within our power to improve for the folk within our boundary. The Council working with NHS has a programme of preventative spend some of which is targeted to older people to try to ensure healthier, longer more active lives.

If Whiteness gets up and running as an energy base I would expect incomes to raise significantly in our patch.
No matter what this survey says I believe Inverness, Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey along with the rest of Highlands is still the best place to stay in the UK and I'm sure a significant proportion of folk who have decided to stay, work and live their lives here agree with me."

The old Social Work buildings - final steps to ensuring a town centre "gateway" building outlined by NICE

NICE have released into the public domain details of their negotiations with the Highland Council over the purchase of the old Social Work buildings. Detailed on their website are how the latest plans for the derelict buildings could potentially kick start a new approach for the town centre and how visitors perceive us. More on the NICE site here. 

30 houses for the Showfield then?

The Highland Council blueprint for Nairn that is up for consultation just now has one or two areas shaded in in different colours that Gurnites here and there are paying particular attention to. If you wish to know more about the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan then there are links to the Highland Council site and a Gurn reader's unofficial guide here and here.

One of our regular readers Bill, wrote to us this week. He said: "Thought there might have been some sign of chatter on the Nairn Gurn about the  proposal to build on the Showfield, not seen any so far. 
Current plan is for half the field, but once that’s done how long before the other half on the A96 side gets taken for housing.  I declare an interest because I live on the edge of the field, but also feel that apart from any personal concerns that it is a loss of amenity, recreational land for the community."

Legitimate concerns there from Bill, what does the plan itself say however? 

A cropped screenshot from the bottom of page 64 of the plan where all the big and wee bitties proposed for Nairn are listed. 

"Excambion" was a new one on this observer but more erudite Gurnites out there will probably have come across the word before. The font of all digital knowledge Wikipedia states: "In Scots law, excambion is the exchange of land. The deed whereby this is effected is termed "Contract of Excambion". There is an implied real warranty in this contract, so that if one portion is evicted or taken away on a superior title, the party losing the property is entitled to demand the return of the other given in exchange"

So Gurnshire, if you have any thoughts for or against the proposal for the Showfield you had better make representations to the ongoing consultation and/or contact the town's three Community Councils. The Gurn understands that they are considering a joint representation to all the proposals. 

Once again: A Highland Council page about the plan here, their comment submission page here and a Gurn reader's guide here

Still looking for a Gaelic teacher for Millbank

Inverness & Nairn and Moray, Badenoch and Strathspey - number 4 in top 10 worst places to live in UK

A report in the Independent states that the best place to live is Solihull according to the Quality of Life Index conducted by energy comparison site, Scotland is where the worst places to live are to be found according to the survey.  The Independent article mentions lifespan, salaries, and hours of sunshine but it looks pretty much a blunt instrument to lump us in with the likes of Inverness as 4th worst for example. There must be a series of other criteria too but whatever the metholodgy Nairn is mentioned and that has already gathered some self-defeatist traction out there on twitter. Let's hope this survey is just a five minute wonder unlike the Best Beach in Scotland tag that Trip Advisor bestowed upon us in recent times. More in the Independent here. 
Step forward the Political Leader of Nairn, Badenoch and Starthspey to quickly refute this nonsense? What do you think about this Liz?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Motion lodged in Scottish Parliament welcoming the work of Nairn CAB and Nairn County FC on tackling pay day loans

Independent MSP Jean Urquhart has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament, the motion reads:

"That the Parliament congratulates Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Nairn County FC on teaming up to raise awareness of the problems associated with payday loans and what the CAB can do to help those in difficulty with high-interest credit; welcomes the news that Nairn CAB’s ability to advise and help people in difficulty due to payday loans will be advertised in Nairn County’s matchday programmes; commends Nairn County’s approach, which it considers contrasts with that of a number of other clubs in the higher reaches of the game that are sponsored by payday lenders and notes that the club aims to reach out to football fans and the wider community; further commends the work of Nairn CAB, particularly on its use of innovative ideas to raise awareness of what it sees as its invaluable work in helping Scots to regain control of their finances, among other issues; understands that CABs across Scotland are currently dealing with around 100 payday loan issues a week, a figure that has increased by a third compared to this time in 2012; applauds Nairn CAB and Nairn County efforts in helping the local community, and recommends that other clubs follow their lead in this regard."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nairn bypass - still disbelief but very real for some now

Today the bypass is back on the agenda as people pass the time of the day in Nairn, this observer is still hearing the mantra that has been all too familiar over recent years: “It’ll never happen in my lifetime” or words to that effect. Despite a convincing looking exhibition and a room full of Transport Scotland official there are some that remained to be convinced that a Nairn bypass will become a reality. 

It is of course all very real for anyone who lives close to the myriad of potential lines that are now on the map around the approaches and the south of Nairn. They won’t know just where the bypass will go until the consultation is done and dusted and then after that there may be a public inquiry if there are issues that cannot be resolved. Whether a bypass ever happens or not, to a certain extent they now live in the shadow of the lines on the map. It is not an ideal situation to be in but a bypass was always going to upset some. Now given the geographical spread of the many potential routes it will be causing anxiety for quite a few people if the numbers to be seen taking away spare copies of the consultation form from the Golf view yesterday were to be taken as a barometer. 

BBC Alba did quite an extensive report on the Nairn bypass issue last night. Colin was quoted: 

“The reality is that this is something about, you know, decreasing transport times from Inverness to Aberdeen, opening the area up for economic development and for Nairn and its town centre, turning it back into a fantastic tourist destination for people.”

That’s the vision of a happy ending for Nairn and then there was the flip side as a country dweller very much worried about how a bypass could impact on her life was interviewed: 

“We’ve had no consultation about this at all. The first we heard about it was three weeks ago when somebody came to knock on the door to say could we have a look. They were going to look at different routes for the A96. I never thought for one second they would come three miles up into the country from the proposed route that they’ve had for the last fifteen years.”