Sandy Park, former convener of Highland Council and affectionally referred to as "Oor Sandy" in the Gurn during the peak of his political career, was at the back of the crowded Lethen Hall in Auldearn last night. He was in the middle of a wee throng by the door who couldn't find a seat. The debate had run its course for almost an hour before the elder statesman of the village made an intervention. He said:
“It has been a very good meeting and I think if you wind the clock back, they’ve been trying for a bypass in Nairn since 1938. I think Gilpen summed it up very well when he said that there is a bit of political meandering going on there. We did agree in 2009 a ring road in Nairn which was at a very advanced stage, just about at the design table. It was completely wiped off the table. All the landowners on that line had been spoken to, had – they were all in agreement that that line would go there – there were absolutely no problems with it. […] I think Fergus Ewing’s e-mail summed it up to a tee, Forth Bridge, Aberdeen bypass, the whole dualling of the A9 – don’t need to say any more, this is going to be a long, long time, I think you’ll have to put your cards on the table, you’ll have to sort of say right, if there’s going to be a route, this will be our preferred route but we’d like you to come back with far more detail. How can you as a chair speak about buses, detail whatever? By the time this road is built there could be spaceships in the sky. You’ve got to put a line down and say this is the preferred line and then the important emphasis you have to put on that is the absolute detail.”
It was interesting to hear Sandy speak last night, earlier today this observer was reading some material submitted by Cathy Stafford in one of the representations to the Nairn South appeal which reflects what is stated above. What follows demonstrates that expansion of Nairn and the bypass are two subjects that have been joined at the hip for years.
“The ‘review’ for the ‘southern edge of Nairn’ took place in 2006. On the 08 August 2006 the 'Front Page' of 'The Nairnshire' had the headline, 'OPTIONS FOR NAIRN', 'Councillors to debate bypass options and population expansion'.
The article continued into page 4 and diagrams of all 5 'Options' were shown. The article began, 'A framework for the development of south Nairn over the next three decades is predicting a population increase by between 3400 and 10,000 people, and with up to 5000 additional houses built and over 4000 jobs created...' Councillors were being encouraged to publicise the options which were to be the focus of consultation in the following month - September. Sandy Park is quoted, as the then chair of the Council's strategic planning committee, as saying, "Some tremendous work has been done by Halcrow and I think we are now seriously looking at a line for the bypass." Indeed, a proposed line for a Nairn bypass was shown on every option diagram and Councillor Park was also quoted as saying, "We must establish a bypass line and it must be an engineered line. I have supported the A96 Masterplan but before there is any development to speak of at Nairn we need a by-pass"