Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Local Community Councils want a change in housing allocation policy in favour of local people – Nairn Suburban CC the first to draft letter calling for a change in the points formula

At the Suburban Community Council meeting held in Nairn Academy earlier tonight the members agreed to write a letter to politicians at Glenurquhart Road and maybe Holyrood too, outlining their displeasure at present Council/Social housing allocation policy. All eight Community Councils at last week's jont meeting agreed on this initiative.  A draft document  read out by the Chair Dick Youngson found favour with his fellow members. The letter approved unanimously tonight by the Subbies contains the following message for Glenurquhart Road and other politicians:
“In terms of housing demand there was also concern that Highland Councils calculations and assessments which are compiled on a regional wide basis do not adequately and directly reflect local needs and demands. There is undoubtedly a need for housing including social affordable housing within Nairn but there is concern about the way in which such housing is allocated. There is widespread perception that the current approach fails to give sufficient priority to local needs and that the housing which is or has been allocated in the Nairn area tends to be assigned, because of the points system, mostly to applicants who have no, or very little, direct connection with Nairn but who are deprived or disadvantaged in other respects. The meeting therefore decided to request both the Council and, if appropriate, the Government to review and amend the current points formula to reflect the localisation agenda. This implies giving much greater weight to local residency, origins and connections in order that, as a fundamental principal, local housing is allocated to local people.”

CCTV Trafic Survey on Station Brae

Thanks to the regular reader that informed us of the traffic survey camera attached to a lamppost on the Queenspark side of Station Brae. The camera looks down towards the bridge and the junction with Balblair Road. Regular readers will know that the bridge has been cited as a bottleneck by Nairn's three community councils and is one of their main objections to any development at South Nairn.Obviously there will most likely be a planning connection linked to the installation of this camera. 

Getting it together in Nairn to go online or helping others to do so

If you are reading this you are of course already online but perhaps you would like to know how to do a few other things here and there about the world wide web. Maybe you would like to help others get online too. The Gurn had a message from the new project officer for Citizens Online today, her name is Brigette Vallance and this is what she had to say:

"I thought I would drop you a line to firstly introduce myself, as I am working as the new Project Officer for Citizens Online – Nairn. I also wanted to let you and the Nairn community know that tomorrow, I will be at the Job Club which is held at the Nairn Community Centre from 1pm-4pm on Wednesday afternoons.

Tomorrow 1st May I will be at the Job Club with Highland Employability Service - Nairn, to run an initial ‘Taster’ session for using computers, getting on the internet, completing job applications and any other specific areas which the members would like assistance with. These sessions are funded by BT as part of the Get IT Together Project. The Project aims to help anyone who would like to know how to use a computer and/or how get on the Internet. For this particular club it will focus on seeking employment, which may well entail setting up an email account in order to receive job alerts. The initial session (with more to follow) will all be about helping the folks who turn up to feel confident, capable and positive. My aim is to provide handy tips and support for those who are unfamiliar with using the internet, so that they can gain confidence and experience with using a computer. These sessions are FREE and over the next few week I shall be contacting local community groups to see how we can help fill the gap in their computer/internet knowledge.

If anyone would like to volunteer to help support novice users in Nairn I would welcome the opportunity to meet up with them so please do tell them to feel free to contact me,(details below) or if they feel that their community group would benefit from some learning sessions and handy tips again I am only too pleased to offer to help."

You can contact Brigette via Citizens Online or through this facebook page. 

Playhouse opens Friday (3rd May) - new venue in Nairn's Church Street

It's been a long time coming as the building formerly known as the Social Club in Church Street has been lovingly and comprehensively transformed but it all reaches fruition on Friday night: 

"The doors to the Play House will open to the general public from 8.00 pm till 1.00 am. We look forward to some great times ahead in our new venue and hope to see you all soon!!" Says a message on the Playhouse's facebook page.

Like many businesses and organisations in Nairn, the new venue is keeping its customer base informed via the social networks, you can keep up to date with Playhouse events here. 

Should tackling deprivation be at the forefront of community activity in Nairn?

Regular readers that have been following the articles detailing the ideas expressed at the joint meeting of the Nairnshire, Croy and Ardersier Community Councils last week might have noticed that Cllr Simon Noble of River CC stated: "There are parts of Nairn which are in the top 10% of deprivation in the Highlands". Simon's comments were reported in this Gurn article.

Subsequently a question was asked in the comments thread: "According to Simon Noble "There are parts of Nairn which are in the top 10% of deprivation in the Highlands". Can he give any more details on this? What is meant by "deprivation" and where is it in Nairn?" 

Simon has replied to that question, he told the Gurn this morning: " I just spotted a question put by one of the Gurn’s readers about what I said on deprivation in Nairn at the joint councils meeting. Sorry I didn’t pick it up straight away.

The quick answer is to recommend that the person goes onto the Highland Council website where they can access Scottish government figures, published annually. The significance of these figures is that they are collected by statisticians who have no reason to interpret the facts or to focus on one area rather than another. These figures record what’s called the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. Deprivation is measured in relation to income, employment, health, education, housing, geographical access to services and crime. Nairn doesn’t figure in the worst 10% for all of these factors, but thanks to notable problems like unemployment, it makes that grade overall. Published in December, these measures show that Nairn South and Moss-side are having a particularly bad time of it.

You don’t have to look at the statistics – there’s been plenty in the press over the last couple of years, for instance about the rise in demand for charity food parcels – but if you do look at the facts, it’s hard not to ask questions about priorities in ideas for the town."   

Readers can find a Highland Council document detailing " The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2012" here which further outlines the details mentioned by Cllr Noble above. 

Two Dippers on the River Nairn - video

Gurnites might enjoy this video placed on Youtube by recently byJake Bain. The Dippers are generally more active now as spring arrives and you might even see the odd frantic territorial battle. Dippers are generally an indication of the health of a river so long may they enjoy the River Nairn. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

"The problem we’ve got is that we seem to be quite successful in solving problems ourselves. It’s been easier to ignore us and just let us get on with it."

Tonight, another few paragraphs describing some of the debate at the Combined CCs meeting held last Wednesday night. Just after Brian Stewart made points about regeneration which mentioned NICE and a Suburban Councillor railed against Sainsbury’s (he perceived a very negative effect on the town centre since they came), the meeting moved on with a few contributions that could almost be the distilled essence of where the Community Council usual suspects, members of NICE and the many, many more concerned citizens of our locality are at the moment in their efforts to redress the democratic deficit that has progressively, over recent years, taken away much of Nairn’s ability to decide it’s own affairs in this new millennium.  Perhaps not all dissenters are pulling together at the same pace and there are suspicions here and there but all realise the direction that they have to go in. Many gurnites are avid students of these matters and this observer believes, would back much of the sentiment reported in the following paragraphs and the potential road map, admittedly rather nebulous at the moment, to redress the situation.

Simon Noble said: “I’m glad Brian knows what NICE is doing, because certainly I haven’t heard, there are a lot of us that haven’t heard what NICE is doing at the moment.”
Alistair Noble began to respond but Simon interrupted, he continued: “Before you start, the point I wanted to make is that actually for the regeneration and really for the restoration of something about the town centre you are not battling with the likes of Sainsbury’s, in fact Sainsbury’s is doing us a favour because it’s stopping us leaking out to Tescos in Inverness for a start, what you are battling with in all the High Streets is the Internet and a lack of the businesses that actually people want to go and visit in the town, and my view would be for any kind of regeneration to be worthwhile it has to be something that you know is going to be sustainable. Although there are pots of money here there and everywhere to do certain things are not to be spurned, they are not the answer either. What needs to be focussed on is some kind of development which actually draws businesses to the town who are interested in developing their businesses and will draw customers in. That’s a really tall order and it’s not going to be easy in the short term. “

Graham Kerr then stepped into the debate: “There’s some good points been made there. The other point I’d like you to realise is that there’s maybe not just the need for the number of shops we’ve got now people are buying from the Internet. Some of the shops might have to go so we have to look at converting these to some other use.”

Alistair Noble then got the chance to respond to Simon: “The whole thing, all we are trying to do is build community capacity. Unless we get community capacity […] every time we disagree with each other, fall out with each other or criticise each other we end up just losing out. NICE is doing its best. It’s all we can do. It takes time, we have to consult, there is a survey out. I hope everyone fills in the survey about the Social Work building.

We are in a Catch-22, if we don’t do something with the Social Work building we don’t have credibility. If we do something with the Social Work building and people don’t like it we have no credibility. It goes round in circles, so you have to just have to keep plodding on but the whole thing that is very clear to me and to echo what you are saying Simon is that this has got to be recurrent revenue and it has got to be Nairn’s fair share of all the recurrent revenue. And I’ve been banging on about that for the last 20-30 years. And the big sums that we are not getting are around Council Spend and around Health Spend and within that amount of money, we are talking millions, then you start to run businesses and have local employment which is where we are fundamentally coming from. So it just takes time, it takes effort.

 The feeling outside Nairn, believe it or not, or greater Nairnshire, is that we probably do understand locality planning than a whole lot of other places within Scotland. The problem we’ve got is that we seem to be quite successful in solving problems ourselves. It’s been easier to ignore us and just let us get on with it. I’m very keen that this amount of brain power and knowledge in the room that we focus very hard on making sure that we get our fair share of our rates and our taxes and everything else that we feed in, and within that start to generate local businesses and local jobs and local job opportunities. So it is a kind of difficult time but my gut feeling is that these meetings and people’s understanding of what is going on, and other people’s perception of how Nairn is getting on is changing in a very positive way. […] If we know how much Nairnshire takes in and how much is recycled in Nairnshire and within that is jobs and job creation. That money disappears out of Nairn then you have lost it effectively. And all this discussion about whether it is Tescos or Sainsbury’s or the High Street or the Internet is the real world that we are living in but, where we can influence it is by making sure that we get the things we should be getting and trying to make best use of that with the money locally. So it is a difficult time and we’ve just got to work our way through it.”

Convincing tax e-mail scam doing the rounds

One of our regular readers Doreen contacted the Gurn this afternoon she told us:

"Received a very authentic looking email this morning from HMRC informing me that. I was due a tax rebate of £1600 and giving me the option to click button 'Repay me now'.
I checked with my accountant who tells me they NEVER contact anyone by email. So be aware....if it looks too good to be true, it usually is and this is a scam.

Little Theatre book swap shop

Two authors and both of them Aberdeen fans

Last Friday night authors Donald Wilson and Richard Gordon exchanged their respective Aberdeen FC flavoured books after the "Glory in Gothenburg" talk by the BBC Scotland broadcaster. More images from the County fans fundraising event here.  And a larger image of Donald and Richard here. The Decor of the Little Theatre was absolutely perfect for this event. 

Rock Garden Club show success in Nairn Community Centre

The event held in the Community Centre looked very busy on Saturday. This observer really enjoyed a look at the exhibits, it's a long time since I've seen such a wide variety of primulas in one place. Primulas were not the be all and end all of the show though. The show secretary David Shaw told the Gurn: 

"The club had a wonderful day and the people of Nairn must have agreed as we had so many through the door. At times the show hall was packed with visitors who all seemed amazed at the plants on show and many left with bags bulging with plants from the sales tables.
As well as local members our exhibitors came from all round Scotland, from Edinburgh to Aberdeen to Berriedale in the north. The star exhibit must have been the display from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. Trophies and awards were scattered across the country with our Berridale exhibitor taking a fair share from his first ever show. Local winners included Helen Macfarlane-Grieve, chair of the Nairn garden club and Tina Finch from Leven.
Thanks go to all our helpers and visitors, the Nairn athletic club for the catering including some super soup, Sam and the rest of the always so helpful Community Center staff, and Gurn for the extra bit of publicity mid-week."

The athletic club certainly provided good value nourishment in their cafe room, this observer benifited from a handsome, tasty cheese and tomato sandwich for £1.50 and although the cakes looked very enticing, held back. Hopefully they made a considerable sum for their efforts. The Rock Garden Club show certainly has established itself as an annual event worthy of considerable mention on Nairn's Calendar. The Community Centre too, once again demonstrating its ability to hold and manage quite large events that draw visitiors to Nairn. Images of the event here on the Gurn flickr pages. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

YES Nairnshire on facebook

Following their meeting to elect a steering committee last week the local branch of the YES campaign have started a facebook group which can be found here. We have added a link in that wee section of the Gurn sidebar that links to local political pages. 
Do any gurnites out there know if there is anything on facebook locally for the NO/Better Together campaign? Let us know if there is and we will add that too. 

More local discontent on housing allocations expressed at Communtiy Councils meeting

The question of who is allocated council or other social housing in Nairn is, as in many other parts of the Highlands and Scotland, a very controversial topic. The meeting of the local community councils debated this subject last Wednesday night and we have already published an article here of how the Chair of the meeting Dick Youngson introduced the matter. We have also previously published articles detailing opinion expressed at other community council meetings that indicates that there is a widespread feeling that housing allocations are weighted against local people and a further feeling that politicians at all levels do little or nothing to change this situation. Anyway here’s details of how things went last Wednesday.

John Mackie was the first to respond to the Chair’s opening of the topic of housing allocations: “ I think we can control to a certain extent through planning, the type of property that is built. I don’t know that we can change the allocation. The housing authority and the agencies are all working together. I don’t know that we would have much of a voice in allocation. We could object to some but they would just ignore us.”

The Chair responded, “That’s absolutely true that’s what is happening at the moment.”

One of the Ardersier Councillors stated: “I think we should ensure that we have a voice.”

Dick: “Yes, that’s it, we want devolved input or management. I think we would have much more of a say with housing associations and where property is going to be located and the type of property because we don’t really have much of a say. All we can do is respond to a planning application.”

Highland Councillor Roddy Balfourt then intervened. He expressed his belief that housing  was now out of Highland  Council’s hands and he blamed a Scottish Government directive. He said that of 22 new houses built at Ardersier only 6 were allocated for local people.

Dick commented: “It’s sad, it’s a sad state of affairs that we have lost local control.”

“How can we change that?” Came a  voice from the floor.

“We can only change it at government level,” responded Dick

A few moments later a councillor from Ardersier asked: “have we any idea of where it is driven from?”

Roddy Balfour was quick to respond: “It’s come about I think, […] by a government who are determined to take every aspect of life into their own hands and mould it according to their own dogma. I’m sorry but that is how it comes across to me and to most other people.”

Simon Noble was quick to counter that assertion: “That’s desperately misleading, the reason that we have lost local control here is because the housing stock is managed by Highland Council which has got regional responsibilities and they apply policies which are governed by principles set down by the government. Those principles are about fairness and equality. There are a number of different reasons but you score points, or whatever it is, to be allocated and that’s why it doesn’t favour people from one locality or another. It simply fills those who achieve the score to get allocated the next property that is available. So that could be somebody from Inverness or from Tain or it could be somebody from Nairn.”
 Simon added that he was not defending Highland Council in response to another comment from the floor of the meeting. He thought that the only way to achieve some measure of control of property in Nairn would be “to build it ourselves”.

Alistair Noble then made a contribution to the debate: “Something that has worried me for a long while: If we are allocation points, as you say Simon, against these needs, by and large the sort of people we are getting are the sort of people should actually stay in their own localities and the worst thing to do Simon, is to transport them to some other locality. So from a very simple point of view it doesn’t make a lot of sense for them and it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the locality. The points system has always been to me fundamentally flawed. To start from what the individual needs he would want to house local people locally because that is where all their support networks are and where their friends are. It is also where they are best known and best understood. That might be difficult for them because it means they might have to change their behaviour and face up to their behaviour. To actually let them keep running away just recreates the problem somewhere else.
So I’ve been in this argument several times, it seems to me that each locality was responsible for housing its own local people and people wouldn’t be asked to move to other localities  and therefore we would be running a much better system. The trouble with all these kind of high level decisions about allocating points or that is you get into these nonsensical decisions where what you decide isn’t actually good for the individual but it is argued that it is fair.  I would like to think we could do much better.” Alistair then added that he thought more points should be added for locality.

Simon Noble raised fears that any changes in that direction might lead to inequality: “…regardless of how you divide it up when you have got a limited amount of stock. There are parts of Nairn which are in the top 10% of deprivation in the Highlands. […] What I’m saying is that it isn’t as simple as saying we should control our own housing, we actually need to target those areas of need that exist and that we know exist.”

Rosemary Young said that it was the same all over and added: “However, it will always be the same unless we start doing something about it. I think for a start we should start lobbying the government from all the councils and start writing, because as a matter of fact government today reacts strongly to what people say – they are so afraid of not being voted in. I think we should start on the bandwagon and I think everybody will join us. I’m not saying that we should have all control of the housing, obviously we are going to have some people who need it a lot but I think we should have some part of our housing for our local people who work here and who have been brought up and can’t get a house and I think we should start today.

Dick Youngson then asked the meeting: “Who supports then having a fair bit of local control over housing.”
The show of hands was unanimous.

There was some further discussion on this topic before the meeting moved on to debate other issues, more on the Gurn soon.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Wick v County match postponed as a mark of respect to Wayne and Lauren after the loss of their son Alfie

Most of our readership will know that Wayne MacKintosh "Toshy" is a popular and talented player with the town's Highland League side. Nairn County Chairman Peter Mackintosh has issued a  statement on behalf of the club:
 “The players, committee and fans were devastated to learn of the death of Wayne Mackintosh and his partner Lauren’s young son Alfie.
 “The sympathy of the club goes out to both families at this tragic time.
 “Our match with Wick tomorrow has been cancelled as a mark of respect and we thank the Highland League and Wick FC for their cooperation in this matter.
 “Football is the furthest thing from our minds at this time and the club will offer all the support we can at this very sad time to Wayne and Lauren."

Condolences and messages of sympathy are being posted by fans of the close-knit community club on their “We Believe” facebook page today. 

Community Councils discuss the old Social Work building, planning and housing for local people

The three recurring hot items mentioned in the headline were just three of the topics debated at the joint community councils meeting on Wednesday night. Dick Youngson, chairing the meeting addressed Community Councillors from all the Nairnshire area and also those from Croy and Ardersier. He commenced by outlining the situation with the presently empty social work building facing the A96:

“Fortunately it is still standing and it is a very bonny and historic building, it’s really quite a feature in Nairn especially on the A96. If we develop, or get a  company  to develop that, ourselves and make best use of it. They are all sorts of useful organisations and businesses that can actually occupy it. So it starts off finding who is interested in using it or getting into it, before we start, because NICE have done  a lot in the design side of it. But it is really making sure that we are all involved in how things are designed and how things are used. The Council are quite enthusiastic about us or a group taking over this building. They are quite happy to give it at a nominal price as well if we can be seen to be doing something positive.”
Dick went on to talk about the area around the building and it’s importance to Nairn as a car park. He went on to outline how this area could be improved with stone saved from the old Community Centre for this purpose. He thought there were obvious flaws with the parking in Nairn though, he went on:
 “It is not very well sign posted. Visitors are almost through Nairn before they realise they have passed the main parking in the High Street. More signage was needed along with better access according to Dick.
Dick then outlined how it was important to get investment into the High Street to persuade owners of empty properties above the shops into town centre flats, he explained that government funding was available for Town Centre regeneration.

Dick moved on to housing in general: “We are not doing very much with anything locally about housing and allocating housing to Nairn people or local people. It’s very much taken out of our hands unfortunately and we get quite a lot of people from further afield coming in and occupying the flats and things that are developed. Really we should have a much stronger, better say in the allocation and the provision of housing. We don’t necessarily want a lot of developers coming in and putting up housing schemes – property to sell. We actually want to put up much more property for rent and affordable ownership and plots and sites that self build. If we can sort of take quite a bit more to do with it and look again at the architecture, how it all looks and fits It’d be far better than having developers have the major say in how it actually happens because we don’t want the Sandown type as it was planned with Deveron. And we are now faced with South Nairn which is going almost the same way but it hasn’t yet been decided. The Community Councils have all responded and we’ve said: “Look, until we get the services, the road systems and the safe access we can’t really support Nairn South, and there it stays.”

Dick then had a question for the meeting: “Are you supportive of us doing a lot more with housing and having a far better and greater say and perhaps steering funding towards the development of property to rent at affordable rates, housing associations which would actually work with us as communities? The way that Inverness has gone with the developers putting up schemes at the back and south side, it looks pretty awful. We want to keep Nairn as an attractive town within the bounds of what is required in the way of housing.”

More on how the meeting responded to Dick’s question coming soon on the Gurn.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Big turn out for "Glory in Gothenburg" talk by Richard Gordon at Nairn's Little Theatre - pictures

A fascinating evening's entertainment in the Little Theatre last night (Thursday) with author and broadcaster Richard Gordon. Richard brought the Aberdeen European Cup winners cup victory back to life as he described the background and the fixtures in the  lead up to the famous victory by the Dons in 1983. He went on to give a thorough account of the game and provided many interesting anecdotes which he had gleaned from interviews with the legends who played in that game. 
There was also a Q and A session that began with further reflections on those days but also  focused on contemporary affairs at Pittodrie and questions relating to the Scottish league in general and what impact reorganisation may have on the Highland League.
The event was organised by Donald Graham and raised £630 for the Wee County's Ground Improvement Fund.  Individual pictures here

Fish 'n Hits - Nairn High Street Sunday 19th May - Are you going?

Alan and Donna Dallas of the Dolphin Chipper are doing a special fundraiser for the Wee County Fans Ground Improvement Fund on Sunday 19th of May. A chance for a bargain meal - a selection of suppers for £2.50. Just down the High Street at Castle Lane there will non-stop music throughout the afternoon. If you fancy going you can invite all your friends too by joining this facebook event page

Theft of mobile phone from Nairn Sports Centre

Forres and District Welfare league - league leaders Nairn United win again - Caley Wanderers 0 United 2 pictures

Another victory at the Riverside last night for Nairn United who maintain their top of the table presence with nine points. League table here. Individual images here.  Click read more to see slideshow of images.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Magic Mo fires them in on 19 and 91 – County banish cup demons to win 2-1 at Keith - pictures

Pictures from club photographer Donald Matheson. Individual images here.

And some more images from Saturday's cup tie at the same venue. Individual images here. 

“The way things are going at the moment we are going to lose a lot if we don’t actually step in or cooperate or make sure that things happen. "

An interesting meeting was held tonight in the Nairn Community and Arts Centre of the Nairnshire, Croy and Ardersier Community Councils. 

Earlier today one of our local members commented on Facebook about the possibilities of returning democracy to Nairn after Independence. Tonight a range of views were heard about returning more decision making to Nairn as soon as possible and the referendum in 2014 did not feature in that discussion. It was entirely obvious to this observer that there is still a deep dissatisfaction abroad in the community about how Nairn is administered and a wide feeling that the democratic deficit is as broad as it ever was. As the macro debate rages about Scotland’s governance dissent about Nairn’s administration has not gone away and still finds a powerful voice.  

Topics discussed included how to have more say in  the following areas: planning in central Nairn; housing and allocation of rented houses/flats for local people and families; shops and regeneration; roads and A96; links and parks – local say, local team and community planning. The meeting also discussed in depth the concept of “locality planning” and how that could be implemented in Nairn.

No Nairn members of Highland Council were present but Roddy Balfour who represents the neighbouring ward was at the gathering.

Introducing the meeting Dick Youngson said: “The way things are going at the moment we are going to lose a lot if we don’t actually step in or cooperate or make sure that things happen. As community councillors we can’t necessarily do a lot more than we are doing and perhaps it’s not really the role of community councils to do lot of devolved work which Highland Council can do, or won’t be able to do or won’t have the funds to do in the future […] we are all going to be strapped for cash to make progress. However, there is a lot we can tap funds of all sorts for community use and Holyrood and ministers are very keen that communities actually should look at handling or covering a lot of their own affairs. And it’s really how we can actually do that, how we can progress that into setting up development groups and appropriate funds.”

In that vein the meeting continued for nearly two hours. Much more on the Gurn over the next few days when time permits. 

YES Nairnshire group formed

Colin has posted a brief report from last night's YES meeting held in the Westerlea on his Facebook page:

"Fantastic turnout last night for YES Nairnshire Steering Committee. We expected about 6 - and had to get extra chairs! Over 20 enthusiasts - keen to play their part in making Scotland a better place! Our YES Convener is a Green Party member."  

Our local member also states today: "After Independence we need to bring back local democracy. We know what we are missing in sunny Nairn and we want it back. Our new Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey area committee will be a major step in the right direction." More on this facebook page. 

The YES campaign seems to enjoy quite a lot of popularity in Nairn but there are those of course with the opposite view. Are you a No/Better Together campaigner? Have you got any meetings planned in Nairnshire? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Scottish Rock Garden Club's annual show - Nairn Community Centre - Saturday 27th April

David Shaw gave the Gurn some information about this year's show, he said:

"Plant sales start at 10.30 and the show itself opens at 12 noon.  This last Saturday we were at a similar show in Perth and many of the excellent plants exhibited there are coming to Nairn along with lots of new and unusual plants. A special attraction will be a display of rare plants staged by the Royal Botanic garden, Edinburgh. Plant sales will be provided by two specialist Scottish alpine nurseries plus the local club members plant stall and we are happy that the Athletic Club are providing the catering as a fundraiser."

10 mile road race and fun run - in aid of CLIC Sargent and Yorkhill Childrens Foundation - Sunday 9th June

You can get a copy of the entry form or a poster via this page here.  Danny Bow told the Gurn a little about the chairties that will benefit from this  fund raising event:   

"Our family have benefited enormously from both the chosen charities, and your readers support  would help other families with sick children from all around Scotland receive this wonderful support.

Yorkhill Children's Foundation provides enhanced medical equipment and resources which benefit sick children and babies who are treated at Yorkhill Hospital and within NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde. These can include innovative medical equipment, improvements in child and family facilities and paediatric research and training.

CLIC Sargent - Caring for Children and Young people with Cancer
Every day ten families in UK are given the devastating news that their child has cancer. CLIC Sargent is the only charity offering them care and support every step of the way, both emotionally and practically, in a very unobtrusive, but essential way.
At the moment, because of funding, they can only help three out of every four of these families.  In the Highlands there is a CLIC Sargent professional at Raigmore and a paediatric oncology nurse. Although these services are based locally the majority of children have to be treated in Glasgow or Edinburgh for weeks, months or longer.
CLIC Sargent provides self-catering accommodation for families at a wonderful purpose built home situated 2 minutes from the hospital. They also have a lovely purpose built holiday house in Prestwick, enabling these families some time away from the hospital situation families."

Closing down sale at DE Shoes Nairn begins tomorrow (Wednesday) - 25% Off Everything in store

The end of the road for the DE Shoe shop on Nairn High Steet is now in sight. According to a press release from the parent company which states:

"The consultation with staff concerning the future of William Smith (Shoe Merchants) Ltd., trading as DE Shoes and Foot Factory, was concluded on 19th April. Despite all efforts no viable alternatives to the closure of the business were identified and attempts to sell the business as a going concern have been unsuccessful.

The sale of five stores in March, saving almost a quarter of retail jobs, was, however, a positive achievement and there continues to be some interest in a small number of the remaining stores as going concerns.

Notice has now been given to the company’s 162 staff.

A Closing Down Sale at the 25 branches of DE Shoes and Foot Factory still in the company’s ownership will begin on Wednesday 24th April. These stores are full of 2013 Spring/Summer stock and with 25% Off Everything in store will offer loyal customers big savings."

It's the end of an era perhaps for this type of retail activity on our High Street. We many have to go to Inverness or buy shoes on line after this business closes down. Here's more from the Willam Smith shoe merchants press release: 

"Managing Director, Robert Sinclair summed up his feelings: “The Closing Down Sale could be seen as a final thank you to all our local communities for their custom and support over the generations.”

“I am immensely sad that in the Company’s 146th year it has proved necessary to decide to wind it up. The last months have been incredibly difficult for everyone but I have been grateful for the ongoing support from members of the public who do not want to see their local shoe shop close. Unfortunately shopping habits have shown a move away from local High Streets and in these difficult economic times even loyal customers have had to cut back on their footwear purchases.”

“I have also been enormously proud of the professionalism shown by our staff throughout the last few weeks and I know it will continue during the period required to sell out the stock.”

“During this time we will, of course, continue to consult with interested parties looking to take on any of the remaining stores as going concerns”.

Local businesswoman Bobbi Urquhart wins Scottish Wedding Award 2013 Florist of the Year

We reported last week how five local businesses were nominated in the Scottish Wedding Awards 2013. The award ceremony took place yesterday in the Crown Plaza Hotel in Glasgow.
Bobbi Urquhart of Big Bloomers  won the Florist of the year award. Other local winners were Jenna at Fleur Bridal and Eileen Solan Make-up Artist, regional winners in their categories. 
Bobbie told the Gurn this morning that she is a "little overwhelmed" by the award.

Congratulations Bobbi, and well done the others too, including those that were just pipped at the post. It is obvious that Nairn has a lot of talent out there that can help make individual weddings  fantastic days to remember. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nairn Ward Highland Council Discretionary Funding awards

Today the Highland Council announced the following:

"Members of The Highland Council’s Nairn Ward at their last Business Meeting, approved the following applications for Nairn Ward Discretionary Funding:
Nairn County FC Supporters’ Group - stand refurbishment - £7,000;
Keeping Nairnshire Colourful Children’s Spring & Edible Competitions - £245;
Nairnshire Football Development Association Charitable Trust - schools coaching programme - £2,335;
Nairn & District Gardening Club Annual Show - £990;
Association of Nairn Businesses - Street Market 20th July - £3,161.

Provost Liz MacDonald said: “We are very pleased to see the first five community applications go through in the new financial year. I would congratulate in particular the tremendous community effort by the Wee County Supporters in their fund raising campaign for the stand refurbishment at Station Park.”

Provost MacDonald also paid tribute to Louise Clark Ward Manager who retires on 3 May, she said: “Louise will be greatly missed as Ward manager for Nairn. Over the years she has been a tremendous help and support to individuals and community groups and she will be sorely missed by all.

“I am particularly grateful to her for all her help over the years and will miss her and her immense local knowledge of the area. She will be a hard act to follow and I wish her a very long and happy retirement.” "

The £7,000 for the Fans Ground improvement fund will attract matching funding from the Scottish Football Partnership. Reaction from a County Fans Spokesperson to this generous award from the Council now on the fundraising site news pages here.

County Fans fund climbs higher and former player Ali Nicol explains the Ben Nevis Challenge

The County Fans Ground Improvement Fund (GIF) continues to gather support in the Community. A fans' spokesperson told the Gurn:

"Since last Sunday’s Whisky Tasting (April 14th) more that £2,200 has poured into the Ground Improvements Fund. This includes proceeds from Dodo’s Tasting , Donald’s Ceilidh, cash from the winding up of Soccer 7’s (£387), a donation of £100 from the Over 50’s Exercise Class at the Community Centre and other private donations and Panel Beater contributions. The total is now in excess of £14,000 and still rising. Another big boost will come from the Richard Gordon talk on Thursday (25th) and the Tombola the following week (May2). It was anticipated there would be a natural slow down on contributions to the Panel Beater Fund. We want to thank sincerely everyone who have already generously donated. We have many objectives in terms of enhancing Station Park so this appeal will be ongoing and if you want to become a Panel beater check this site for details."

On Saturday through at Keith the Gurn had a chance to catch up with Ali Nicol and we asked him about the fund-raising Ben Nevis climb that is planned for September. Here's what he told us presented in the video interview below. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A few more alders for the banks of the "River of Alders"

More alder trees were planted today down at the regeneration project between the sewage and A96 bridges on the River Nairn. The alders were donated by the residents of Firhall where they have plenty to spare from a field colonised over the past few years by thousands of this species native to the River Nairn. It was a great day for it and Images of the planting session can be seen here.   Thanks to Murray MacRae for providing the pictures.

Keith 1 Nairn 0 - County exit Highland League Cup despite dominating the game - Pictures

Click read more tab to see report and images.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Snowdrop splitting squad - keeping Narinshire colourful in action around the river paths today

Keeping Nairnshire colourful living up to their reputation this morning along the riverside walks above the Jubilee Bridge. Individual images here. 

More Riverside Welfare League action - Caley Wanderers v Jackos - pictures

A large turn out of spectators last night for another well-balanced and fiercely competitive game of fooball. The match ended 1-1 with Jackos dramatically having a penalty saved by the Caley keeper who had a really good game last night.

Gurnites who are following the Welfare League action this year may also wish to browse images from Kenny MacLeod of the encounter between Uncle Bob's and Nairn United earlier this week - images here.  Fixtures for future games can be browsed here on the Forres and District Welfare League site.

Friday, April 19, 2013

High Street News

The former Yorkshire Building Society office has a new tenant. The Richmond Fellowship have flitted from Harbour Street and headed uptown. 

The Gurn understands too that the Victoria Hotel will reopen tomorrow. No further information at present apart from a dress code poster in one of the windows. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nairn 2 Buckie 2 - Pictures

Buckie are in the lower half of the table just now but the strength of their fan base was evident last night if walking to ground via the Railway Station.  They had brought a full coach of supporters for a midweek game towards the end of a not very fruitful season. Their bus was parked up behind the players coach in the carpark.
On the park they played well too and came back twice from spectacular County goals from Conor Gethins and Craig Macmillan respectively. It was a bit of a thriller really and testimony that there are plenty of useful sides outside the top five in the Highland League at the moment and Buckie are obviously on a bit of a high despite their lowly position. The Buckie goals were quality and, all in all, good entertainment for both sets of fans present. County now look to the Highland League Cup semi on Saturday away at Keith.

Pictures from Club photographer Donald Matheson. Click read more to see images

Rock on River CC!

A bit of activity this morning in the environmental improvement/regeneration zone between the sewage and A96 bridges. Rock has to be placed around the newly extended sewer overflow pipe to protect it from both the actions of tides and the river and River Community Council have engaged the services of a local contractor to meet this requirement.

Nairn South bounces back onto the scene - “Alternative application for planning consent for Nairn South submitted.”

Nairn South is very much back on the agenda today. The Press and Journal today published an article on the issue with comment from Tommy Hogg Chair of River CC in which he firmly reiterates the position of River CC in regard to any development at Nairn South. Gurnites will remember the combined Community Council meeting hosted by River CC in the URC hall on the 23rd of January and dominated by the Nairn South issue. We detailed the position of the Highland Council here and the respective but unanimous thoughts of West, Suburban and River Community Councils here, here and here. Basically they are all against any development at Nairn South until a bypass and other infrastructure are in place. 

Bearing all that in mind we now publish a press release received by Charles Allenby’s agents Muir Smith Evans. The document is entitled: “Alternative application for planning consent for Nairn South submitted.” 

"Following extensive consultation with Highland Council, the local community councils and local residents, Mr Charles Allenby has recently submitted a comprehensive masterplan application for planning permission in principle for Nairn South. 

Submission of the formal application had been delayed to allow review of the Highland Wide Local Development Plan and the Nairn South Masterplan being prepared by The Highland Council which is now scheduled for consideration on 13th May.

The planning system in Scotland is based on a plan led system so Mr Allenby’s team has waited until the development plan and masterplan have been prepared before submitting their application.

Mr Allenby’s Masterplan has been prepared by 7N architects, a leading urban design practice also responsible for the Highland University Business Park, with support from a full technical team of experts following extensive discussion with Highland Council. It is consistent with the core aims of the Highland Wide Local Development Plan which limits development to 250 houses, provides for a mix of uses including expansion for Gordon’s Sawmill, provides a new bridge over the railway to access the town centre and Academy and provides for a low density development contained within a strong landscape setting avoiding sprawl to the south of the town. 

The application also recognises the findings of the Scottish Government Reporter which were subsequently enshrined in the Highland Wide Local Development Plan and takes on board criticism of other schemes proposed for Nairn where densities have been too high.

The application site extends beyond Mr Allenby’s ownership including the area between Balblair Road and Cawdor Road some of which is already subject to a separate application that was submitted by a consortium of Scotia, Robertson and Barratt Homes in 2011 for a smaller area of land but for more houses and no mixed uses.
The Scotia proposal lies physically separate from the edge of the town and, if approved, would not allow the more contained development of fewer houses and comm
unity facilities that Mr Allenby’s plan proposes.

Mr Allenby believes it is important that the town develops properly and that goes well beyond land ownership boundaries. The current proposal reflects a logical extension of the town in line with advice from The Scottish Government and the local community.

Since this land was originally earmarked for development Mr Allenby has given very clear instructions to his leading planning and design team that any proposals should leave a lasting legacy for the town, be based on the capacity of the land to absorb development and form a natural extension of the town at a suitable density.

The application will now be subject to formal consultation and assessment by Highland Council officers and statutory consultees including the three community councils."

Click read more to see two images depicting the development

“We need to know what patients want before we work out a way of fitting our limited resources with the patients’ need.”

At the Nairn Patients Group inaugural public meeting on Wednesday night the GPs Surgery practice manager Barbara Graham took the hot seat for approximately half an hour and fielded questions from members of the group and other citizens who were present in the crowded conference room in the Community and Arts centre. 

It is refreshing, both that the practice and the Patients Group are now engaging in public debate and that there are so many people in Nairn that care about local health care issues enough to turn out in numbers to seek information and clarification. Top of the agenda of course was the controversial new appointments system. Barbara gave a no-holes bared look under the hood at the mechanics of the present (now hybrid) system, gave thorough explanations about recent events and went into depth into what the practice hope to do in the coming months to further improve the system. The Gurn has prepared a report that amounts to a brief summary of the main points of the Q&A session that we hope does justice to the evening’s events. Click read more to continue.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nairn United 4 Uncle Bob's 3 - at the Riverside Wednesday - a few pictures

Images from a well balanced Forres and District Welfare league encounter at the Riverside earlier today (Wednesday). Individual images here. 

A new Nairn based blog

Highland Motorhomes and Caravan Services have a blog here.

Liz congratulates Nairn Patient Group on their progress

Last night there were very few seats left in the conference room at Nairn Community Centre. Around fifty people turned out for the first public meeting of the Patients Group. After a short period addressing the appointment of office bearers the new Chair Simon Noble went on to outline the purpose of the group. He said: 

“Our intention is to do our very best to develop our relationship with the GP practice and that has been tested over the last year, on both sides I suspect, and what we are hoping to do is become effective supporters in helping the practice to develop its response to patients needs and interests. ” 

Provost Liz MacDonald was in attendance she said:

“I think it is really positive that you are holding a meeting in public now and I look forward to attending lots of them. I think there are lots of people here who haven’t been involved in the District Partnership which is about the integration of health and social care services. I think it will take people, maybe a few meetings to get up to speed with what the agenda is because there has been so much change in our services just recently. Even myself who works in it, some of the times, its all moving at a very fast pace but I do think it is really positive that you are holding your meetings in public now and people know who to contact and you have your webfacility available. It’s a big step forward in my view and congratulations on where you have got to in quite a short time.”

There then followed discussion on the appointments system, transport arrangements and social care. Also present were Practice Manager Barbara Graham, and Senior Executive Partner Dr Adrian Baker and NHS Director of Operations for this area, Nigel Small. Barbara Graham took questions from the floor on the appointments system and we will publish are report on this part of the meeting on the Gurn when time permits.

Claims that the Highland Council was influenced by either Tesco or Tulloch refuted

Slightly off topic for Gurnshire but it is always interesting to see how the Inverness by-pass is proceeding in comparison what some observers may consider to be the sluggish progress of the proposed Nairn by-pass.

The Inverness by-pass issue has exploded into the Scottish mainstream media with a report last night on BBC Scotland. The APT blog has been following the issue and has links to a Highland Council statement and debate on the Inverness Courier. More on the APT blog here. 

Burnt out tractor at Hilton of Delnies

Yesterday the Scottish Fire Service published details of a fire that the Nairn crew attended at Hilton of Delnies. A tractor working in one of the carrot fields had caught fire. The web site stated: 

"Incident Commander, Mark Loynd said “crews worked exceptionally well in very difficult conditions to contain the fire and prevent fire spreading to neighbouring fields using a very limited water supply.”

Here is an image of the burnt out tractor taken this morning.
In a neighbouring field the work carries on and it is obvious from this image how important the carrot crop has become to the local agricultural economy. Larger images here on the Gurn flickr pages.

Lynn Burnett in Boston

Gurnites will know that Lynn was participating in the Boston marathon. She had crossed the finishing line half an hour before the terrorist atrocity. Lynn has spoken to STV, their website states:

"Lynn, 39, told STV how she grabbed her children Caleb, eight, and Hope, five and made her way back to her hotel amid the scenes of panic.

She said: "It’s a very somber tone, it’s a very serious thing. It's devastating. There are actually no words. I can't really explain how any of this makes me feel. It's just devastating."  More here.

Dust storms in Moray - Pictures on Forres Gazette Facebook pages

The Forres Gazette have published pictures of the dust storms in their part of the world on their facebook pages. Many gurnites will be familiar with the road down to the Broom of Moy, on one image on this facebook page that road appears to be nearly blocked. Images here of familiar but sandy scenes. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Former Councillor wishes Louise Clark a long and happy retirement

Graham wrote to us with the following  words: 

This Thursday, the 18th of April, Nairn Ward Manager Louise Clark retires. Louise has served the Highland community and particularly Nairnshire folk for several decades and in a number of roles, so it seems appropriate to acknowledge the debt we owe her for this service.

Councillors, Community Councillors, local charities and individuals have all been assisted by Louise, whether completing funding applications, signposting services, providing guidance and assistance or just as a listening ear, Louise has always been there for us.

I know many in Nairn will join me in wishing Louise a long and happy retirement.

Graham Marsden

Nairn Fire Crew tackle tractor and straw blaze at Hilton of Delnies

"Operations Control in Inverness received a call today at 14.05 following a tractor fire at Hilton of Delnies near Nairn. The first appliance from Nairn, arrived at 14.17, closely followed by an appliance from Inverness.

On arrival the crews were faced with a fire that had spread from the tractor to its trailer and 50 square metres of straw which was covering a field of carrots."  More on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website

Day 3 of the dust storms in Nairn

The wind blows again, the promised rain amounted to just a few occasional drops that are quickly being absorbed by the dry topsoil. There are dark clouds blowing by higher above but it is those of the light brown variety that are sweeping through the town again today. The town centre seems to be mainly spared up to now with dust blowing in from the western suburbs across the Queenspark area and running down the eastern  bank of the river. You can see a dust storm cutting across the area beyond the farmers showfield in this image here. Here another cloud of dust heads out to sea over the Culbin. 

Dave Shillabeer sent the Gurn some images earlier today of a train passing through the dust clouds on the western approaches to Nairn. He said:
"The 1114 Inverness train to Aberdeen approaching Tradespark at Delnies showing the dust thrown up by the high winds. A farming scene 5 minutes later at the same location during a brief lull. "More of Dave's images here

Old cemetery wall concerns

One of our regular readers has approached us with concerns about the old cemetery wall bordering the riverside path. Our correspondent states:
"The wall is deteriorating rapidly  and seems to be bowing out in several places now. Is this an accident waiting to happen?"

Holes in the footpath on the Harbour Street side of Swan Island

The state of the footpath below the swan island area was commented on at the River Community Council meeting last week. This picture above shows one of several points where the block paving seems to have come off worse after the winter storms and high tides. 

Vandalism at Auldearn Primary - Nairn Police seeking information

Five Nairn businesses up for the Scottish Wedding Awards

Bobbi Urguhart tells that Gurn that five local businesses have been nominated. The inaugural Scottish Wedding Awards 2013 are to recognize local wedding suppliers around Scotland. The ceremony is taking place on the 22nd of April 2013 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Glasgow.

 "It's a real positive for Nairn Business!" said Bobbi.

The local businesses and the categories are: 
Dress the Day - Event Decorator of the Year
Ian Macrae - Photographer of the Year
Fleur Bridal - Dress Designer / Supplier of the Year
Eileen Solan Make-up Artisit - Hair / Make-up Specialist of the Year
Big Bloomers - Florist of the Year

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nairn one of three pilot areas in a scheme intended to bring empty properties back into affordable housing use.

The Highland Council states in a press release:

"Three areas in the Highlands are to pilot an initiative by The Highland Council to bring empty properties back into affordable housing use.

The Council’s Housing and Property Service is to initially target the Black Isle, Inverness Central and Nairn, as pilots which together provide a mix of rural and urban locations.

A Housing Development Assistant is to be engaged, initially for one year, to create a database of empty properties and develop and co-ordinate action.
The Council is to match a £400,000 grant from the Scottish Government’s Empty Homes Loan Fund with £400,000 from its Private Sector Housing Grant to promote the initiative.

A condition of the Scottish Government grant is that the property being brought back into use is used as affordable housing for a minimum of five years. Affordable housing is defined as housing for social rent, intermediate rent (between market rent and social rent) or shared equity. Funding can be used to assist owners to bring their property up to a suitable standard or assist the Council or a partner organisation to purchase properties and bring them up to a suitable standard." More information here. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nairn 1 Fraserburgh 1 - images (Gurn pictures, also official club images and Kenny MacLeod's too)

Click read more tab to see three sets of images from this game.

Sand/Dust storms rage through Nairn

The light sandy soil of lower Nairnshire is blowing away out into the Moray Firth this Sunday afternoon but not without passing through the town first causing irritation to the eyes, nose and throat of anyone in its way. Images here and here of the dust clouds over Nairn and here another image of possibly tons of dust heading out to sea. Below an image tweeted from the Cawdor bag folk.
 Here's an image from one of the Sandown plotters.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Taking the grass cutting in Nairn back under local control?

On Wednesday night River CC outlined their intention ( with the involvement of Suburban and West CCs) to submit an expression of interest to Highland Council under the Community Challenge fund to outline their intention to seek to return the grass cutting in Nairn to local control.

The recent cut of areas that to some observers didn’t seem to need attention helped to focus minds for this topic. Also mentioned were the complaints received over the last two years over the state of the cemetery. Simon Noble outlined the requirements of the Challenge fund and he stated that the criteria seemed easy to fit but there was a requirement to show community support for any initiative. Over and above organisational stumbling blocks and employment issues etc there was one major problem that Liz outlined. She mentioned an initiative going forward with the cricket pitch that had come up against the fact that the land was actually Nairn Common Good land and not Highland Council Land. There was some debate in Glenurquhart Road circles it seems about whether the fund could be applicable to Common Good Land. Liz also mentioned that the rent from the Caravan site that comes into the fund gets spent on cutting the Common Good areas.

Liz is to go and speak to the Highland Council’s chief executive and find out whether Common Good land can be part of such a bid. The Challenge fund according to Liz is about: “Communities taking over responsibilities for looking after their areas, either doing a better service than the Council can do or at a more efficient cost. So it’s about the Council as well trying to save money.”

No doubt we will hear more from the River CC and Liz after she has a word with the high heid yin through in Inverness.

Other news from River CC later this weekend on the Gurn. In the meantime congratulations to new River CC member Jacqualine Hutcheon who was elected unanimously onto the watch dog body on Wednesday night as a co-opted member.