Back in the dark days of the winter of 2010 the organisation Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise was formed to fight the “Berlin Wall” of flats plan that emerged for the area in-between the High Street and the A96. Eventually the organisation became a partner with Highland Council in seeking a better solution for redevelopment of the town centre. In the embryonic Inner Moray Firth Plan in regard to the town centre it states:
“The Highland Council will participate in preparation of a development brief led by the local NICE community group. The Highland Council to consider adoption as Supplementary Guidance.”
There are still issues to be resolved between NICE and the Highland Council over acquisition of the old Social Work Buildings etc but the template is there for regeneration to commence at some point. NICE had several of its very early meetings in the Sailing Club and it was to that venue tonight that the committee returned for a brainstorming session this evening, the focus moved away from the town centre as the NICE folk met with members of the Kayak Club, the Sailing Club and two Highland Councillors, Colin and Michael. Over tea, coffee and a big tin of Cadbury’s Roses chocolates some very big ideas emerged.
Much concentrated on some tlc for the existing harbour infrastructure and for regular dredging of the river and harbour basin, Alistair Noble said: “If we don’t do something over the next 10 or 20 years the harbour will fall into the mouth of the River Nairn.” The feeling was to go beyond repairs however and to extend the east pier a quarter of a mile into the Firth, the possibility of a second basin being created too was floated. Mention was made of how boats heading for the
Caledonian Canal would prefer
to stop at a place like Nairn rather than head straight for Inverness.
A symbiosis seems to be rapidly developing between the dingy training element of the Sailing Club and the Nairn Kayakers. Both expressed their desire to continue training local young people and dispel the myth that Sailing and Kayaking are elitist sports. Presently both organisations are based down at the former McDermotts yard at Ardersier and given the possibility of industrial development there again they both face an uncertain future in that location. Ideally they would like a purpose built building in the harbour area to enable their training initiatives to develop. It was mentioned that hundreds of local children had experienced sailing activity now but that to develop further they, paradoxically, needed to travel to other areas when with some investment training facilities could mean that the ideal range of sailing conditions in the Moray Firth could be maximised from a base in Nairn. One of the children trained was now a member of the British team. In their turn the Kayakers told how their 90 member strong organisation that had been formed 4 years ago was now the dominant club in the north and was in need of waterside access in Nairn to enable it to develop. Both organisations talked of Olympic outcomes and the need for specialist gym equipment that would take this forward. Of the two the Kayakers seemed extremely well motivated to pursue this course of action independently or in sync with the Sailing Club but either way they expressed their determination to try to get such a facility.
Rosemary Young was very interested to hear this and asked for more details on the potential impact on tourism. There was suggestion that any building (a centre of excellence perhaps) could have bunkhouse style accommodation and restaurant facilities that could be open to the public and thus whilst attracting visitors for courses etc a steady revenue stream could be secured.
Colin and Michael offered their support and practical suggestions about how to approach HIE and other possible sources of funding. The NICE folk were very much prepared to help those present think big and be an umbrella organisation to assist them take forward their ambitions. Alastair Noble didn’t want to see overdevelopment when it came to any building that might be constructed but something that “looks like Nairn and is beneficial to Nairn.” A small steering committee is to be formed with members of NICE, the Sailing Club and the Kayakers and invitations to the local CC and the Angling Society and perhaps others will go out too.
Big ambitious ideas coming forward then, ideas will be fleshed out somewhat and presented to the community for further discusssion. The arguments for developing the skills (and inevitably the personalities) of youngsters in sailing and kayaking are very compelling and the construction of a centre of excellence a potential benefit too but there will have to be a trade off with environmental considerations as Alastair suggests. Then there’s the even bigger idea of an extension of the east pier which is an interesting one to throw in the mix. Obviously there is a long way to go for these potential projects but community activists in Nairn have delivered the goods before and it may be that these ideas too will catch the mood and support of the population and become reality within a few years.
This observer is hopeful that none of the above attempt at paraphrasing some of the content of a very interesting and dynamic meeting will lead to any of the detail being out of context; hopefully a reasonably accurate account of the proceedings has been provided.