Monday, March 31, 2014

“It’s not so much destination marketing we need but destination improvement!”

Gurnites can see the Highland Council press release that was published in advance of today’s ward forum here. Liz is quoted:  “This is an open invitation for all to attend the Tourism Forum. As we look at the success of Inverness and Loch Ness Tourism businesses voting to create the first Tourism Business Improvement District (T BID) in the UK – this is an exciting opportunity for people in Nairn to have their say on how we can improve our future tourism economy.”

This observer had heard grumbles beforehand that having a ward forum meeting at 3 in the afternoon instead of the traditional evening event  would exclude many people who would be working. One shopkeeper even told the meeting that she had had to pay someone else to look after her shop so she could attend. This observer arrived late so missed most of a Council powerpoint presentation and one from Rosemary Young too but arrived just as she delivered her punch line: “It’s not so much  destination marketing we need but destination improvement!” She attributed that phrase to Visit webmaster Iain Fairweather. Rosemary concluded:

“We don’t really want a pot of gold to get this right, we need perseverance and dedication and just keep doing what we are doing because we are actually doing quite a good job.”

There followed a powerpoint presentation by the high heid yin of the Cairngorm Partnership which gave a good explanation of how they market their tourist product; the way customers access information on line these days featured – could the days of the conventional desktop webpage  be numbered as more and more people turn to phones and tablets to research their holidays? It was fascinating stuff but Alan Rankin, Chief Executive of the Cairngorm Business Partnership, pointed to uncertainties on the funding horizon that would affect his organisation soon. 

There was then a lengthy conversation with contributions from the public benches. Some wished to air grievances gently, others were more forceful. 

Michael Green was a proponent of the BID option at the meeting but there were dire warnings from Sheena Baker of how a similar set up in Elgin was faring , although she admitted that the Inverness one was doing very well.  There were questions of how the mechanics of a BID would work and how businesses would pay and how much. It was quite complicated stuff at times and there was resistance in the air to a possible BID attempt. What could be done instead to galvanise the tourism and business community to effectively market Nairn was left hanging really despite a Council mannie having given a list of options earlier. 

The meeting seemed to be ending in genteel disarray. Liz had mentioned the possibility of restarting the Nairnshire Partnership and trying to get marketing funding via that mechanism. If it was to be the outcome it didn’t seem to be clear as some of those present started to leave. It was left to River CC’s Stephanie Whittaker to articulate what was probably the essence of the room's communal ether, she said:

 “We need to take something forward away from this meeting otherwise we have wasted 2 hours sitting here.”

Liz referred to a Nairnshire Partnership meeting again. There were calls for a more general meeting and Stephanie Whitaker asked Michael Green if he would take on setting up a meeting and he replied positively. Could it be that this meeting had parallel outcomes? It will be interesting to see the official minutes. 

Dates for your Diary - Nairn Farmers Markets for 2014

These are the dates for the Farmers Markets in Nairn for 2014

Saturday April 26th

Saturday July 12th

Saturday September 13th

Saturday November 29th

All from 09.30  to 15.30

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Inbhir Narann air an oidhche

Uill ghabh mi na sraidean orm a-nochd gus dealbhan a thogail. Bha mi air a bhith a' toirt suil air grunn bhidoean air Youtube a tha a thoirt comhairle dhut air de an doigh as fhearr gus deisearas  nas fhaide a chur air doigh le camera. Gu ruige seo cha do chleachd mi dada a bharrachd air na “suidheachadhan” seachad air fhein-fhocas agus spors. Uill a-nochd d'fheuch mi na chunnaic mi air youtube agus feumaidh mi aideachadh gun robh mi toilichte leis an toradh tighinn as a' ghnothaich as deidh an sgriob air na sraidean a bha siud. Seo gurn dealbhan dhut – Inbhir Narann air an oidhche. 

Wick 1 Nairn 2 Images from Donald Matheson

Individual images here. 

£50-100 million plans mooted by NICE for the harbour area but delay criticised

Michael Green had a wee gurn at the combined community council meeting on Wednesday night. Simon Noble of River CC had asked for clarification on a point made my Dick Youngson. Simon said: 
“I wasn't clear about who you meant by we and want you meant by projects.”

Dick responded: “Well we are the community at large, the community council leaders. We're all sitting here and the other projects are the projects we're not really getting out of Highland Council. It's how we develop Nairn and the infrastructure and the sporting side of it. We've a tremendous number of kayakers and boat enthusiasts and really...”

Michael then intervened: “I would disagree here and I would quote an example: last November* we had a meeting, I've been driving this for the last year, to try and get the harbour redeveloped and to look at some bigger projects and hopefully a lot will be happening. It was a very positive meeting, Alastair and NICE were there, a lot of other people were there, the Sailing Club, the Kayak Club. There are a lot of people involved and there was going to be a report come back with a wish list because Leader 2 funding is further down the road this year. So that was in, I think, the beginning of November. We were going to get a report back which NICE were going to facilitate but we're now almost into April so that's, well five months and we're still needing to hear something back. So you can turn round and say we're at fault but we're pushing for projects as well, we're looking for things to happen. As you say Dick it is partnership working and we're waiting for our partners to come back.”

Graham Kerr then said: “We need to do more for ourselves.”

Alastair Noble, a Suburban CC member and also Chair of NICE then spoke:

 “It is incredibly frustrating, and can we say this before...I'll come back to fair shares for Nairn, but an awful lot of the projects that coming in from other areas are being heavily funded by either HIE or the Council or the Scottish Government or whoever. I have yet to see any real evidence of Nairn getting its fair share and the reason that is so important is that I think we've got a very dedicated bunch of people who are working really hard; the community councils are doing a great job, NICE are doing their best but there comes a point when you have to get into serious funds, to get these projects seriously taken forward. 

The harbour, we're working on it, it's a massive project, we're talking 50-100 million maybe, who knows as we really get seriously into it. And again it's this wonderful partnership working but it's also to make sure we keep all the local knowledge because the harbour, flooding, sewage, all these things are massively dependent on getting it right. The last thing we want  is to balls up the mouth of the River Nairn and the harbour. There's a lot of work going on. I appreciate it is not as fast as people would like it to be. And I'll do my very best to make sure we speed it up.”

* The Gurn reported on the meeting referred to in November in an article intitled: "NICE goes back to its roots for a brainstorming session - "Big" ideas emerge. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Potentially deadly pothole for cyclists and bikers on A96 King Street roundabout Nairn.

Just in front of King Street exit from Fishertown onto the roundabout. Not much fun for motorists too, they shouldn't have to concentrate on trying to avoid this. 

Update 18.36  BEAR tell the Gurn: " Thanks for contacting us. We have dispatched our response team to make the area safe."

Slight lean-to in the harbour this evening

Another image here. 

Nairn for entertainment this Saturday night - 29th March

The Showies: " part and parcel of the way of life which we accept down here at the Links"

The recent issue of showies in the Showfield has generated some debate on this Gurn page here. It has also inspired one of our regular readers to write the following piece:

"As a resident down at the Links for approximately 35 years I feel justified to point out what it means to live in this area for a fortnight before the Games with the showies, until late on  Monday afternoon after them.   Yes its true, at times we all have a moan about it.

Yes, we put up with the continuous noise and the thump thump of loud music, interspersed with the loudspeakers of showmen, trying to drum up more business.   The smells from the fish and chip vans and burger stalls and the sweet smell of the candy floss, diesel fumes, generator noise, litter everywhere (but tidied up each morning), no parking outside our homes in the afternoons or evenings, and when the showies close or overrun their 11pm stopping time, the generators keep running and not too many of us can sleep some nights as the noise continues well into the wee small hours until we drop off.

Games night is something else, the minute the showies close look out, the clanging and banging starts and will go on to the early morning,  hopefully some sleep when they get everything tied down, but no, the wagons start to move out. 
It continues throughout Sunday until late on Monday afternoon when we look across at diesel spills, deep ruts of mud where wagons have got stuck, all sorts of colours of grass and overflowing bins.   Now we wait for the tech. boys and gardening staff to work their magic.

But do you know something; we would not have it any other way.    We sigh with relief another year has past, but on the whole everyone has had a good time.   This is part and parcel of the way of life which we accept down here at the Links and has been for many generations, roll on August !!!!!!"

"Pretty upbeat" for Nairn South planning appeal hearing

The Nairnshire CCs meeting in the Community and Arts Centre on Wednesday night heard how a lot of work had recently gone into submissions to the Nairn South planning appeal hearing. Michael Green told the meeting that Kevin Martin, the consultant putting forward the Highland Council side of the case seemed “pretty upbeat”.

Kevin Martin will indeed be giving evidence on the behalf of Highland Council, gurnites will remember that the Council’s own traffic expert report supported the development. It might seem bizarre that an organisation has to hire an expert to contradict information that one of its employees have provided but that is how it can be in the planning world. Numerous documents have appeared on the Scottish Government’s DPEA site now from the appellant, the Council and other objectors and interested parties. To read them, you have to do a wee search on this page here, the quickest way to get to the Nairn South file is to search by “authority”, click “Highland” and the link will appear on the first page. 

Serious students of these matters will find Kevin Martin's submission a good read. Before the DPEA site was revamped it used to be possible to provide a link to each document, annoyingly this is no longer possible so thus it is necessary for the  search even to get to the file. Anyway here are the conclusions from the Council’s traffic expert’s submission - "TA" means Transport Assessment and, obviously, there is a lot riding on the one for Nairn South (note the full document also contains submissions from Michael Green and Laurie Fraser):

"6.1 THC refused the application contrary to the recommendation of officers. 
6.2 Members expressed serious concerns about local roads infrastructure and estimated traffic flows. 
6.3 I consider that THC’s decision to refuse planning consent can be seen to be reasonable and 
based upon reasons that have subsequently been validated. 
6.4 I consider the review of the TA was not robust enough. 
6.5 Identified deficiencies in the pedestrian/cycle proposals were not reported to Committee. 
6.6 Policy 18 transport compliance requirements were not fully reported to Committee, i.e. the requirement to consider in detail the impact on existing residential areas. 
6.7 The impact on existing residential areas of “through traffic” has not been considered by the appellant, or reported to Committee as an omission in the proposals. 
6.8 An appropriate compliance test of transport infrastructure proposals associated with Policy 18 appears not to be have undertaken or reported to Committee. 
6.9 The Cawdor Road/Balblair Road junction proposal has been demonstrated to reduce the standard of existing turning facilities at the junction. 
6.10 The TA fails to deliver on its statements of intent regarding pedestrian and cyclist improvements. 
6.11 Pedestrian access to the town centre will still be a single footway less than 2 metres in width. 
These are the words used by THC transport officers in their consultation responses. 
6.12 A sub-standard carriageway next to a sub-standard footway is an unsatisfactory combination for further development to occur without enhanced pedestrian facilities. 
6.13 Key transport elements of Policy 18 of the HwLDP are not complied with. 
6.14 For the foregoing reasons, the Council requests that the appeal be dismissed and planning consent refused. "

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Whatever is happening now in Inverness isn’t working for us at all. We’re not really getting sensible decisions. "

The meeting of the Nairnshire Community Councils returned to a familiar topic on Wednesday night and dissent was still in the air. Dick Youngson said when he introduced the agenda item “Locality planning and projects”:

“Planning, we’ve really not got a lot of say in Nairn now. It’s really gone so far the other way, so far towards Inverness. We’re not really getting any encouragement either to look at projects or locality planning and yet we all know this is the only way for Nairn to survive and that we do have a say and our community, the councillors, the four ward councillors that we’ve got and our ward manager – they should actually be working along with us making decisions. They’re still hell bent on actually going down that road. Whatever is happening now in Inverness isn’t working for us at all. We’re not really getting sensible decisions. 

Moving on into the Nairn planning charrette which was planned. It’s gone dead, we haven’t heard from Scott Delgarno. Not a word about this charrette which has been organised by consultants who have been appointed.  So really, we’re being very badly served by our officials in Inverness. No matter what they say about how good they are as staff members we’re almost being criticised for actually complaining about them. We’re not being well served; it’s high time we had a lot of the decision-taking back in Nairn.

So all these projects, locality planning and the projects, we must progress them. Otherwise nobody else is going to do it. Nobody else is actually going to come up and find money which is available if you look in the right places. Through ourselves and NICE we’re actually hoping to move forward and involve HIE as well. They promised us a meeting, we’re sitting waiting to see what Inverness are going to say first, which is the wrong way round. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A96 Inverness-Aberdeen trunk road proposals labelled "Vanity Project" at meeting of CCs in Nairn

The proposed A96 Nairn bypass and  trunk road were discussed last night at the meeting of Nairnshire’s community councils in the Centre.  Dick Youngson, leading the discussion told of how he’d received representation from Debbie McBean of East Nairnshire CC about her concerns of how the lines on the map were affecting farmers, and how farms that could be split by the bypass could be unworkable etc.

The seemingly apparent disinclination of the Scottish Government to allow access to the bypass at South Nairn (as expressed in a submission to the local development plan) and its potential impact was analysed brifely. 

Roger Milton detailed how the various proposals seemed to have upset most people in Auldearn and how his council had opted for the northern route.  He said:

“Very few people have an indication of the scale of this road. This is not like the Forres bypass or things like this. We are looking at a motorway type construction, it is massive. Because of the no linkage rule, in Auldearn, we are often seeing the dual-carriageway with significant separation plus side roads to provide connections to the access road which have been cut off by those necessities so we feel that it would be better to move it to the north of the village.”

Brian Stewart then said: “The interesting thing is that a superhighway between Inverness and Aberdeen is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s become a vanity project like the HS2 south of the border because ministers have put political capital into declaring that they are going to dual Inverness to Aberdeen. It has now become a kind of iconic thing that everybody takes their hat off to. I kind of wonder, even though, I hate to use the phrase; we are already a long way down the road in the discussions. I wonder how much mileage there is, how much point there is, in whatever letters or lobbying we do to Keith Brown or others to actually make the point that you are delivering a very expensive solution to a problem that isn’t there. 

What there is a problem with, as we’ve all lived with for 20 years, is bypassing the major towns, we have it ,Elgin has it to some extent because their inner ring road isn’t quite working. Keith has it because it has the same problem we do, an issue of getting across a river in the middle of a town. I wonder whether we can’t keep up the messaging to MPs and ministers and whoever: look it’s great if you are going to do this and it is going to cost you mega millions but you are delivering something that isn't really required and probably won’t be for another 10-15 years. What you ought to be doing is spending the money you have got, it may not be quite as much as you think, on delivering the things that are really needed, and in the same way as they delivered a Fochabers bypass just a year or two ago; perhaps we say deliver proper bypasses to the parts of the problem that exist rather than a fantasy project that is going to cost so much more.”

One Suburban member disagreed and said that she thought that there was the need for a dual carriageway between Inverness and Aberdeen but that the priority was for a Nairn bypass. 

Simon Noble of River CC went further, he said: “I think it would be a mistake to describe the plans to make it a dual carriageway all the way as a token. I think that would be a mistake if...”

Brian then interjected: “I wasn’t actually drafting the letter Simon, I was putting the idea across.”

Simon continued: “Yes but you are suggesting an approach though, that doesn’t help make the case that the priority is a bypass for us before a dual carriageway. I’d like to see a dual carriageway. The trunk road between here and Aberdeen is frankly a nightmare; it certainly wasn’t thirty years ago. It’s going to be a worse nightmare in a shorter time.”

The meeting agreed to wait until the result of the Nairn South planning appeal before writing to ministers in connection with the Councils’ concerns on the bypass and trunk road. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Complaints about Showfield showies aired at Community Councils meeting.

At the meeting of the Nairnshire Community Councils tonight in the Community and Arts Centre the subject
of the showies in the Farmers' field was discussed. Chair Dick Youngson told the meeting: “The neighbours are a little bit disturbed with the noise, it's really bang on Lodgehill Road, there is quite noise they weren't consulted. Nobody's said anything about the showies being there. They were wondering who to complain to.”

Rosemary Young then said: “It has been actually unbearable they say, not only with the noise but the diesel fumes coming from the generators. So I think we should pursue this so that this doesn't happen again, certainly without the residents knowing it is going to happen.”

The meeting agreed to take the issue up with Highland Council. More images of the showies here. 

UPDATE: Interesting article in the Courier today (28/03) on the family who run the Showies that are sited on the Showfield just now. 

Craft led revival for the Brae?

Recently Caledonian Craft Connections flitted to the other side of the brae into the former carpet shop. It wasn't long before their former premises were taken over by another craft related business - see Gurn article here.   Now another premises on the brae is set to come to life again as a sign reads "Bumbles and Bitty's" coming soon. 

There is, of course, also a long established picture framing business on the brae. Perhaps this trend could continue with the Brae becoming a magnet for the craft retail scene?

"Character Property for Sale" - Rosebank Church

Thanks to our regular reader who forwarded us the URL of a web page where offers are invited in the region of £150,000 for the Rosebank Church.  A slide show of images on this web page shows one picture of the interior of the building. The page reads:

"The subjects of sale comprise the main body of the church which measures approx. 240 m² and the vestry to the rear measuring approx. 56m² which can be used for storage. The main walls are of traditional stonework, the roof tiles have been removed as renovation has commenced and preparatory works have begun prior to replacing. The building incorporates a spire and bell tower. On the front elevation there are three substantial leaded glass windows with other large windows to the sides and rear, two of which have stained glass. The building is Category B Listed. "

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nairn County FC Centenary book nears completion

Three Nairn County supporters have been hard at work for the last 18 months writing a book to mark the club’s centenary.
Journalism graduate Graeme Macleod, former Nairnshire Telegraph reporter Donald Wilson and local amateur historian Bill Logan have meticulously traced the origins of the club all the way through to the present day.
The book is due to be released at the end of the current season, which is County’s 100th as members of the Highland League.

Co-author Graeme Macleod said: "The history of the club is a complex one because although they were admitted to the Highland League 100 years ago, the story of Nairn County goes a lot further back than that.
"The club also never kicked a ball in the league for over four years following their admission and we explain all of that in the book.
"After searching through all of the archives, we set about interviewing some of the club’s heroes past and present. The research has uncovered some fascinating tales and debunked one or two myths surrounding the club as well.
“We have also enlisted Iolaire on Harbour Street to produce the book. They do the production work on the match day programmes for the club and I am sure that all supporters will agree they do a fantastic job – I have no doubts it will be the same with the book.
“We hope to put together something that supporters of all ages can enjoy."

The book will be priced at £20 and can be pre-ordered by emailing
The authors have agreed to donate all proceeds from the book to the Nairn County Supporters Ground Improvements Fund, which raises money for upgrades at the club’s home, Station Park.

The team of Wee County authors from left to right: Donald Wilson, Graeme MacLeod and Bill Logan

Monday, March 24, 2014

Highland Challenge (Camera Club) Competition held on Saturday past at Nairn Community Centre

Nairn Camera Club hosted the annual Highlands & Islands region camera club photographic competition on Saturday 22nd March 2014 at Nairn Community Centre.
Over 150 camera club members from across the region were welcomed by Nairn Lord Lieutenant Ewen Brodie and Nairn Camera Club President Dave Freeman.
This year’s event was supported by some key local organisations, including Highland Council and Nairn Rotary Club.

A presentation from Ian Cameron on scouting and preparation for landscape photography was followed by a photographic history of Nairn’s Fishertown presented by local historian Alan Barron.

Allan Adams from Elgin, who concentrates on wildlife and nature photography in Moray, judged 80 photographs from 8 different clubs. 
The top shot of this year’s competition was a portrait titled Molly by Becci Taylor from Isleburgh Camera Club.
The top image from Nairn Camera Club was by Iain Sutherland who won 3rd place in the Digital Colour category.

The overall top club of 2014 was won by Dingwall Camera Club. Images of the event are available here. 

Cawdor Village litter concerns – Spring clean up planned

At their recent regular meeting the Cawdor and West Nairnshire Community Council members heard that the litter had become a serious problem in the village. The Council plan to work with Cawdor primary and a “big tidy up” one Saturday morning is planned with children and parents participating. One of the members said: 

“I don’t think we have ever had such a bad litter problem as we’ve got in the last two to three months.”

Another problem now emerging in Cawdor is the phenomena of people bagging up their dog waste but not taking it home but hanging it on trees. 

The Council will organise four groups to clean various areas of the village and environs.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Comedians Daliso Chaponda and Bruce Morton talk about their show in Nairn (and the whereabouts of Danny Deegan) the warm welcome they received here.

9 man Clach beat 10 man County 2-1 Pictures from Donald Matheson

County haven't beaten Clach at Grant Street park since August 2005 and the Merkinchers were delighted to see that run extended by yet another fixture on the other side of the Black Bridge. A disappointment for the large contingent of County fans who were at the game. Slideshow below. Individual pictures here.  Images from official club photographer Donald Matheson.

Also some images from Kenny MacLeod - Individual images here. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Former Provost of Nairn Nigel Graham leafleting for Better Together outside the Courthouse Nairn - Saturday 22/03/14

Former Provost of Nairn Nigel Graham (centre of picture) was out on the High Street today leafleting for the Better Together campaign. He spoke to the Gurn, click the white arrow below to hear what he said. 

Another Knotweed spring looms for the River Nairn

Gurn opinion:
In a recent edition of a local weekly newspaper the increasing problem of Japanese Knotweed is once again highlighted in an article entitled “Creeping weed menace that threatens Nairn's buildings”. The newspaper points out that Japanese Knotweed can damage buildings and thus has a consequence on property values. A very real problem then but its unchecked advance in recent years has also meant that native flora on the riverbank has been losing out and there follows a further effect between the complex relationship between what goes on in the river and on the riparian area nearby –  the entire ecology of the river suffers as a result of the knotweed and also the abundance of Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed (the latter two much easier to deal with however) . 

Rupert Furze is quoted: “I wonder what the Highland Council is doing about the rapid expansion of this weed along the banks of the Nairn? Were I a householder in that part of the town I would certainly be anxious.” More on page 3 of this week's edition of the Nairnshire Telegraph. 

Obviously there will have to be a spraying campaign on the town centre stretch of the River Nairn, at least in those areas where the invasive weed is close to buildings. If the will is not there to tackle it generally however then prepare for the sight in a few years time when a Japanese Knotweed monoculture conquers the entire riverside – a vision that isn't too many years in the future. 

The Gurn reported in two years ago on the Findhorn, Nairn and Lossie Fishery's initiative to tackle invasive species. Here is the article complete with two videos including a speech at the Howford from Fergus Ewing. The Gurn understands that there has been spraying of affected areas on the River Nairn since then but in the town centre the only area seriously treated so far seems to be the spot between the A96 bridge and the sewage bridge which fell under the regeneration project that River CC undertook. There was a Highland Council representative at the Fishery's launch so presumably they subscribe to a multi-agency approach to dealing with the problem. The Council sprays Hogweed every year on the town centre riverbanks but the knotweed is left in peace. Admittedly there are cost issues and it would be a 4-5 year programme but it will have to be done in the very near future. 

It may be that if the community has a desire to see the Knotweed removed, property protected  and a more favourable ecology restored then citizens will have to get involved themselves. Maybe NICE could provide a route or perhaps the Social Enterprise initiative mooted by Simon Noble of River CC might even provide a long term answer should either of those two organisations respective plans ever get off the drawing board. 

Previous Gurn articles below. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Gurn Curling - Michael Green interviews Ewan MacDonald - Scottish team captain for the Beijing men's World Championship

Nairn Curler Michael Green interviews Ewan MacDonald, the Captain of the Scottish team prior to his departure this Sunday for the World Championship in Beijing. As Sky Sports and the BBC will not be covering this event, Gurn Curling hopes, should technology permit, to bring coverage from the competition and its environs. More in the video.


“Whiteness is going to deliver substantial employment in the area and these population statistics will help the Council plan for this future expansion.”

The title of this article is a quote from Liz coming from a Highland Council press release. At the area committee meeting in the Courthouse on Wednesday the members present received a presentation on population figures in the Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey area. If any gurnites are interested, this report here gives facts, figures, graphs and maps.  There is more on item seven of the webcast too, Gurnites can also scroll down the column on the right of the webcast page and pick out any items they may feel are of interest to them. 

Liz's optimistic comment on the former McDermotts yard coming back into action echo her council colleague Roddy Balfour who spoke to the Community Council in Cawdor on Monday night. Anyway here's the rest of the Council press release:

"The communities of Nairn and Aviemore saw significant population growth over the past decade due to new housing developments, while the overall population of the area has ‘aged’ with a large number of people close to retirement according to early results from the 2011 Census.

Strong population growth has been experienced in the main settlements of Aviemore (36%), Kincraig (30%), Nethy Bridge (24%), Auldearn (17%), and Nairn (15%).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nairn public meetings to focus on tourism and town centre regeneration

Tourism and events will be the main focus of the next Highland Council Nairn Ward Forum which will take place on Monday 31 March at the Court House in Nairn from 3pm to 5pm. 

 Members of the Council’s Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee have also agreed that a public consultation event will be organised in the near future to ask the public’s opinion on finding the best ways of delivering town centre regeneration in Nairn. This follows a successful bid for funding from the Scottish Government, with similar events also held in Tain and Fort William.

Nairnshire schools disability awareness day - Community and Arts centre 20th March 2014

Throughout the day Nairnshire school children have been attending the disability awareness day in the Community and Arts centre. The Gurn spoke to Liz Bow and Seamus McArdle who told us all about the event. See below for interview (click the white arrow to listen) and images taken in the centre earlier this morning.

Images of the event - individual pictures here. 

Wind farm cash – Cawdor CC to be “more equal than others”

Gurnites will perhaps remember this early article “Cawdor and West Nairnshire contemplate wind farm cash” which we published in January. On Monday night Cawdor CC again discussed the Tom na Clach wind farm windfall that will be coming their way in a few years time. 

The Chair Tim Smith and his colleague Meg Robertson recently attended another meeting with representatives from other CC areas that will be benefitting from the Tom na Clach wind farm payouts. There were calls at that meeting for the cash to be divided out more equally among the areas rather than along the Highland Council formula that will see Cawdor and West Nairnshire receive 35%.

Reporting back from that meeting to his Council, the Chair,Tim Smith said that it had been quite an informed discussion and “there were some ideas floated about rationalising percentages so that everybody got more of a balanced playing field. Obviously that leaves Cawdor technically at a disadvantage because we are one of the highest recipients with 35% but it would allow people like Carrbridge who are currently on one and a half % to receive some more funding.” He added a little later: “We will be eligible for funding after 2018, it is just how that money is split up.”

Meg Robertson then said:”We need a flavour of what this Community Council actually wants. Whether they are happy to go along with a lower figure or push for the higher figure."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"for decades the Common Good Fund has been like an orphan with no real parents only Highland Council involved as a remote, distant guardian.”

The Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey area committee heard today in the Courthouse that the Nairn Common Good Fund was “looking healthy at this stage” and that council officers were  looking at developing further initiatives for the fund to consistently improve the service they gave to councillors and the community of Nairn in respect of its management.

Liz, in her role as area leader said: “Nairn members have been involved in scrutinising the Nairn Common Good. I think it is one of the first times we have actually had a budget for the Nairn Common Good Fund come before us. It has been a very difficult report as you can see there has been a lot of work put in by the officers. There’s three officers been involved in writing up this report and to sort out some of the anomalies that have been flagged up in the assets register. [...] We will be bringing forward a report in June with more background details and information that’s being looked into just now, investigated just now”

Michael Green said: “I was looking at this a few days ago and the thought that came to me was Churchill after El Alamein: Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? For as the regards of the administration of Nairn Common Good Fund we are at the beginning because in my opinion we have to establish the facts and establish the facts [...] Up until now we’ve only got a budget, we’ve not had a budget we’ve had a monitoring report with very limited information where we’ve had to pick specific items and address them individually. In my opinion for decades the Common Good Fund has been like an orphan with no real parents only Highland Council involved as a remote, distant guardian.”

A little later Liz said:
“It is an in-depth look and there have been several issues that have to be tackled which we expect will raise an income for the Nairn Common Good but it’s too early to make an announcement on that. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Roddy Balfour says Port of Ardersier "all ready to go except for two licences"

Highland Councillor Roddy Balfour was at the Cawdor Community Council meeting last night and he seemed to be very hopeful that the Port of Ardersier would soon be providing employment. He told the meeting:

"It's all ready to go except for two licences, one because someone found an unusual form of marine life which has had to go to Oban to the centre for marine biology and be examined to see what they are going to do about it. So that has held that up a bit and the operating licence has yet to come from the Department of Trade and Industry but other than that it's on the way to go. There will be 400 jobs probably in the next few months with the  first stage of the sea walls and all that kind of thing, piers and jetties and rising to 1400 approximately within the next year which will include apprenticeships as well hopefully. They won't be the usual welding or building apprenticeships. There will be a lot of electronic apprenticeships and this kind of thing which is very valuable these days. So that's where it stands at the moment. "

Nairn in the top ten UK beaches for 2014

A welcome boost prior to the start of the tourist season and with the caravan site due to open next week this accolade couldn't come at a better time. Further details on the Trip Advisor's Travellers' Choice pages.

“They’re on the rob and they’re looking for easy targets.”

Sgt Graeme Erskine of the Scottish Police force was at the Cawdor Community Council last night and he told the meeting:

"Crime specific to the Cawdor area revolves around bogus workmen, rouge tradesmen type callers, scrap dealer merchants, second hand car dealers who often drive around our rural roads and take opportunities to call at dwelling houses where they see that there is something that takes their fancy. They’ll sometimes call at a house and speak to a householder about maybe, a scrap car, a car that appears to be scrap in the driveway or a house under renovation. 

Just as often as they get an answer at the door, they’ll not get an answer at the door and see that there is something worth stealing in a  garden or the driveway and it’ll be marked up for later removal. We got three calls, and that is fantastic, last Tuesday the 11th of March from residents in the Galcantry area about a particular red transit van with a registration that was supplied to us as well. Callers at the door who were going to buy scrap cars and metal from gardens. So as a result of that, we didn’t trace them at the time but we were able  put a request across to B Division Morayshire so the individuals were identified in the Moray, Elgin, Lossiemouth, Fochabers  area. They are travelling across to our area to see what they can buy ostensibly but we suspect what they can steal also. 

Following on from last Tuesday, last Thursday there was what we call an housebreaking with intent where a person was disturbed, having entered the back door of a house in the Galacantray area but fortunately the inner door was locked and they were disturbed and seen in the far distance in an adjacent field travelling away from the house. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to identify that person but the reason for me raising it is so that we are all very vigilant about being targeted by travelling salesmen, scrap metal dealers. They’re on the rob and they’re looking for easy targets.

So that’s very specific and very current, a red transit van, three persons within. They are very plausible very polite at the door. I would encourage anybody that encounters these individuals to give us a call. "

The Sergeant then gave details of crimes committed in Nairn recently. A little later he added: "We live in a low crime area, we're all very grateful for that. I don't want to put the fear into you so that it destroys how we appreciate the way that we live but bear in mind that there are those, perhaps it is a reflection of our economic times but there are those who are looking for easy pickings [...] so be more security conscious and just call the police  at the earliest opportunity if you see someone suspicious at the door."

Monday, March 17, 2014

River CC to look for “pump priming” cash to explore taking their grass-cutting and recycling ambitions forward.

At the recent River CC meeting Simon Noble, chairing for the evening, told his fellow watchdogs:
“...and there may be a way that we can do that and that is to look at, not us taking on all of this kind of works ourselves but setting up a thing called a social enterprise. The committee can be basically a business which takes on these sorts of projects. That involves – to actually get to the point of actually creating a social enterprise which could do that, we actually need to help bring in some money to pay people to write business plans, feasibility studies, write bids for big money so we can employ people who could then run the social enterprise.”

“Would you be able to get some of that money from the Lottery,” asked Liz?

“Well, that is definitely a possibility,” continued Simon. But one of the things that is quite often discouraging about it is that, actually is quite hard to get funds and so on but we have had some very positive indications that we could access funding in the short term. Just enough funding to get someone to do some of the leg work for yuo. Not that we would be doing all that work but we could kind of say this is what we want and
someone goes off does a bit of work and comes back and we say, We don’t want that, we like that and that’s how it should be.” So there are clear indications that we could tap into enough funding to get someone to do that initial work for us.”

Liz said a little later: “I spoke to Bob Maclennan about the concept of doing the grass cutting and that and I think there’s a similar social enterprise in Inverness that does that and I think he was saying it would either be about developing your own social enterprise along the same lines or being an outreach for that one and tapping into that.”

Simon said: “I think we would want to develop our own.” He then outlined more of his thinking. “I think what we also need to be thinking about doing is setting up a steering group or a sub-committee if you like, which has got a couple of community councillors on it so that our interests and our views are followed through. So there are a couple of community councillors involved but we have other interested people in Nairn that we invite to join us...”

Sports Relief Saturday 22nd March at Nairn Sports Club 0900-1600

County top for auction to raise funds for women's cancer charities

Tez Watson tells the Gurn: "My wife, Sandra is undertaking a 100Km night cycle ride in London at the end of May along with 2000 other women. She's raising money for three women's cancer charities and we're having a Race Night across in Portsoy this Saturday night which will also feature a charity auction. 

Nairn County have kindly donated a signed strip which comes with a certificate of authenticity, the team sheet and programme from last Saturdays Cup match against Turriff. 

We're inviting bids for it from the Nairn Community - a great chance to own a great shirt. People can ring the shop for more information 01667 456126 or to place bids."  Tez can also be contacted through the Iolaire website. 

New King Street mini-roundabout layout markings fail to impress River CC

New "keep clear" road markings that have failed to impress River CC

At the recent River CC meeting Andrew Purkis told his fellow councillors that he first raised the issue of stacking on the roundabout in October/November 2011. He said: “two and a half years and it is still not done right.” He detailed how there was still space for vehicles to stack on the roundabout in between the two areas now marked. 

Stephanie Whittaker said: “Drivers should know they shouldn't stack on the roundabout, it's the Highway Code you know.”

When asked by the chair what the CC should do, Andrew replied: “Maybe  a photograph of what they have done and say that after two and a half years you still haven't done it right.”
The CC agree to write to BEAR with their concerns.

Monday morning miscellany

River CC have published minutes from the recent Nairn Events Committee planning meeting on their website. more information here. 
The report details some interesting suggestions and the four pages of notes are worth a browse - among the suggestions is an on line diary to prevent events clashing in Nairn -

There was a craft fair held in the Community Centre on Saturday, pictures here.  And another one will be held in the same venue on Saturday April the 12th to raise funds for the Nairn Citizens' Advice Bureau. There will also be a massive raffle in the run up to that event.
Finally, does anyone remember (was it about 12 years ago) when, around this time of year, a massive flock of nearly 50 swans arrived on the River Nairn? This was in the days when the resident couple still spent their nesting time out at Kingsteps so they were spared a very stressful event. More images here. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Showies on the Showfield

Around midday several large showie vehicles and assorted caravans started parking up on the Lodgehill Road end of the Showfield. Later in the afternoon they began to set their rides and equipment up. 
One of them told the Gurn that they will be open next Friday from around 6-10 p.m. and they will again be open on the Saturday plus the following week Monday to Saturday, possibly at the same times. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nairn 5 Turriff 0 - Highland League Cup - pictures from Donald Matheson and Kenny MacLeod

Donald Matheson's pictures - individual images here.

Kenny MacLeod's images, individual images here.

Another pirouette from Bobo as County go five live at home to Turra

Nairn 5 Turriff 0. Also goals from Conor (2), Robbie, and Archie as County earned themselves a place in
the next round of the Highland League cup away to Locos on the first Saturday in April. More pictures later.

More details of the draw for the next round on the Highland League Hub pages. 

Keeping Nairnshire Colourful doing what it says on the tin

Volunteers of all ages out doing their bit to keep Nairnshire Colourful today. Individual images here

New flats at Bus Station to be called "Viewfield Apartments"?

Chairing the River CC meeting on Wednesday night Simon Noble said that there would be a change in the way new developments were named and community councils were to be consulted. He said: "This is a consultation process it is not that we decide to get to say what the name is but we can put our twopennyworth in as to what the name might be. This is arising in relation to Viewfield, the fire station flats."

Liz then said: "Our suggestion was Viewfield Apartments."

"Someone needs to take responsibility for what is happening to Nairn High street"

The much criticised shop front improvement fund for Nairn High street came in for renewed scrutiny in yesterday's edition of the Inverness Courier. Complaints again about the complicated hoops that shopkeepers have to jump through to get access to the 60K cash that was obtained from Sainsbury's as part of the planning agreement to allow the superstore giant into Nairn. 

Steve Smith is quoted as saying someone had to take responsibility for the appalling situation in Nairn High Street.
"There is this perception that you don't have to do anything because there is a beach in Nairn. People see a busy beach in the summer and think the place is thriving, but it's not. And the problem is it doesn't seem to be anybody's role to sort it out."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mystery object appears on Mill Road

Murd Dunbar sends us this image of an object that appeared on Mill Road today. Do any Gurnites have any suggestions as to what it might be?

UPDATE: Allan tells the Gurn:

Liz elected to the Nairn District Salmon Fishery Board

Councillor Liz MacDonald told the Gurn that she is delighted to be able to represent the Common Good Fund (the proprietor of the town beat) on the NDSFB. She went on to add that the Common Good Fund had not been represented on the board for some time. Liz was appointed at a meeting in the Cawdor Community Centre on Monday night, a minute of the meeting is available here. 

Balmakeith Industrial estate trees – planners gave the go ahead for felling.

The aftermath of the recent controversial felling of trees on the Balmakeith industrial estate rumbled on with yet another sequel at the River CC meeting on Wednesday night. The meeting heard from Stephanie Whittaker, who had attended a meeting with a representative from BEAR and a Highland Council Forestry officer, that it was agreed that if funding permitted it they would plant trees at the site, not in huge rows but in clumps. The planting would be of natural Scottish trees and there would also be some shrubs there. 
Stephanie had also written to the planners and she read out the content of a letter she had received  from Alan Todd, the Area Planning Manager, which revealed how the fate of the trees had been decided:

“It is indeed the case that in section of  the planning application form relating to trees the applicant’s agent has ticked the No box in answer to the question are there any trees on or adjacent to the site. That was clearly not the case; however, every planning application is subject to a site visit by the planning officer so any deficiency in the completion of the form would be noted and the true position taken into account in our assessment of the application. In that particular case the condition of the trees was assessed as being relatively poor. Given that the plot is within an industrial estate it was considered reasonable to allow the applicant to fell the trees within the site in order to apply the more manageable operational area. The proposals for replacing planting in the south west corner of the site were also taken into account in the assessment. It is not therefore the case that correct procedures have not been followed.”

Stephanie went on to say that she had been told by the BEAR official that their contract was up for renewal and there was no guarantee that they would get the contract again and she outlined that this would have implications for any tree planting proposals. Further to that Stephanie said that Grant Stuart, the forestry officer, had said that now every time a planning application is made he asked for it to be sent to him. 

Liz MacDonald, also present at the meeting said: “The council are keen to improve the eastern entrance to Nairn so I think we will keep an eye on this and try and get some planting done.” 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Harley's Cocktail and Grill an asset for Nairn says Community Councillor

Last night River CC discussed the licence application for Harley’s Cocktail and Grill in Leopold Street (the Community Councils are statutory consultees for all licensing applications). Stephanie Whittaker told the meeting that she saw no problem with the application. When asked what the hours applied for were she said:
“It will be open from 11 a.m. in the morning until 12 a.m. until Friday, Saturday and Sunday when it when it will be 1 a.m.”

A member of the CC who has considerable experience of the licensed trade, Ian Gordon, told the meeting: “It can only be an asset, it takes away the eyesore of the old cinema and also enhances, obviously that building and people going backwards and forwards to Inverness will see that it is not just a derelict site. It is an improvement and benefits Nairn […] and Richard Sharp is to be congratulated. 

Spate of thefts in Nairn of insecure property during February - police call for residents to be more security conscious

Sgt Graeme Erskine was present at the River Community Council meeting last night in the URC hall and he told the meeting that he and his colleagues were engaged in investigating a number of miscellaneous thefts (including shoplifting) that took place during the course of February. 
He detailed the following thefts of insecure property: “Alcohol from grocers or licensed premises (5 reports), theft of a rucksack and contents from an insecure car, theft of riding boots from a doorstep, theft of timber from a back garden, theft of cash from a float in a shop, theft of coins and keys from an insecure car, two thefts of sat-navs from an insecure car, theft of a laptop from an insecure car, theft of medication and cash from a house, a pedal-cycle from a garden and a mobile phone from a pocket.”

Sergeant Erskine continued: “ A lot of these thefts could have been avoided I think if the owners of property had just been a bit more security conscious. That’s really the message I’ve got.”  
In relation to the opportunist thefts that had taken place in the Lochloy area he went on to add that two suspects had been seen on a private CCTV system going from car to car looking to see what property they could steal, this was overnight Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th of February. Investigations are ongoing. 

There we have it Gurnites, obviously a few more elementary precautions could reduce the crime rate in the area. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Several fines recently for doggie jobbies in Nairn

The River Community Council heard tonight that several on the spot fines for dog fouling had been issued recently in Nairn. The meeting was told that the dog warden was only in Nairn for two days a week but that she was really trying hard to reduce the dog mess in Nairn. 
Fines are currently £50 a time and tonight those usual suspects and members of the public present at the meeting were told that if two people actually witness someone leaving dog mess then they can report that and action will be taken.

A Nairn quine's impressions of America

This observer has enjoyed reading the latest postings on Le Blanc Le Blog (Pam Le Blanc, aka Charlie Black's daughter). Her impressions of America and her comparisons with life in Scotland are very interesting. Pam's latest posting details her five favourite things about America and 5 of her least favourite things. Le Blanc Le Blog from Murfreesboro, Tenesee is available here. 

More sunshine promised

Another good day predicted by the BBC forecast for the Moray Firth. This morning was a little colder however, one of the early morning dog walkers told the Gurn that he thought this morning's sharp frost was one of only four he'd experienced through the winter. Whatever happens now, surely the prospect of icy pavements for a prolonged period is now well behind us?
A few articles went up on the Gurn last night, scroll down to see them, including the "Night of the Undecided". Also still attracting comment is the discussion on the High Street that has come in on this article

In yesterday's Courier there is an article that follows on from the Sunday Sun's Nairn Brothel claims. It seems the police are investigating as to whether any offences have been committed. The Courier have spoken to residents who live near the house mentioned in the paper and have also obtained comment from former resident of the area concerned, Graham Marsden.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Alan Barron - a talk on "Old Nairn" in the Nairn Sailing Club 7.30 p.m - this Friday 14th of March

Poster in the Gurn sidebar and also on the Nairn Sailing Club Facebook page. 

The Trading Post (opening on Nairn High Street soon) and the new HFT website

Local business Fuller Computing have been working on a new website for the organisation that will soon be moving into the old Model Shop on the High Street. They told the Gurn: "The Highland Facilitator Team are a local charity that help young people with Autism and other difficulties in the community build up their confidence and life skills while contributing to the local area. Their mission statement "To enable, engage and empower young people for positive change in their local community, environment and wildlife."

What used to be the model shop in the High Street here in Nairn will soon be the new hub for HFT where they will raise money for their cause, hold events and workshops and promote local business."

Saturday the 31st of May – a night out for the “Undecided” – please save the date!

The Gurn would like to thank : Jean Urquhart MSP (Independent), Mary Scanlon MSP (Conservative & Unionist), John Finnie MSP (Independent), Mike Robb (Highland Labour Campaign Forum spokesperson) for kindly agreeing to speak at the event to be hosted by the Gurn on the 31st of May in the Nairn Community and Arts Centre. 

More details about how you can participate, before, during and after the event will be published on the Gurn in due course.

The forthcoming town centre charrette

Given recent news of shops closing on the High Street, the town centre charrette being held next month by the Highland Council and the NICE organisation can't come soon enough. This evening River Community Council published a copy of the Charrette document which details the event's Vision and aims etc. 

Here's a little bit of information from that document:

"Project Aims
The aims of the Charrette would be to:
• prepare a masterplan that identifies projects that can achieve an increase in footfall and investment in the centre;
• identify proposals for optimising access to and from the town centre, movement within and around the centre, and the ease of access to services and facilities and related areas; and
• explore mechanisms and funding processes for delivering improvements including the potential for a catalyst project.

In order to achieve these aims, the Charrette will be expected to deliver a masterplan that includes:
• a review of new and existing opportunities for regeneration within the town centre or other related areas;
• addressing the balance between discouraging through-traffic but encouraging footfall in the 
town centre, including understanding requirements for car and coach parking;
• exploring opportunities for increasing Active Travel and Public Transport – improve the quality of pedestrian and cycle links and possible relocation of the bus station;
• improving the quality of the built and natural environment, particularly physical appearance of existing buildings, and opportunities for spaces to meeting and socialising; and
• improving utilisation of vacant sites and buildings and underused upper floors."

Good morning Gurnshire

A slight frost on the links earlier this morning as the first joggers took to the prom. Slightly lenticular patterns were in the skies as the sun rose from its early March eastern vantage point. The BBC forecast promises us another decent day again - here's hoping the prediction is correct.

Job Satisfaction at Black Isle Bronze

A remarkable short video and pictures of Nairn's Black Isle Bronze foundry on the Make Works site here. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Looking West for fresh ideas?

A letter to the Gurn from Morag Smith

Having read the High Street debate with interest and discussing this with my sister who lives in Oban. She told me about how Oban is trying to fight back and keep its High Street via bid4Oban.  

Here’s an example of a wee town on the West Coast trying to fight back. One example being Love Oban – a voucher scheme. A voucher scheme redeemable at 74 businesses within Oban thereby keeping money in the town and benefiting the whole area.

Here’s the website "Bid4Oban" and a couple of paragraphs taken from ‘what it’s about’..

“A Business Improvement District (BID) is a proven business-led initiative, supported by legislation, where businesses work together and invest collectively in local improvements to their business environment.

A BID covers a defined geographical area, within which businesses operate. Oban's BID is unique in the UK - if not the world! in establishing a BID for a whole town area - that is, all businesses falling within the 30 mph limit of Oban being included within the district.”

Is this a model that NICE or the town’s businesses could follow?

Morag Smith

Brian Stewart on Rosebank Church "the exchange of correspondence we have had with Highland Council officials, and it’s the Heritage and Planning people, has not been terribly inspiring"

The state of Rosebank Church was discussed again at the recent joint meeting of West and Suburban Community Councils. 

Brian Stewart of the Westies led on the item:
"A lot of people all over the town are bothered about the fact that Rosebank Church is being left in a state of near dereliction and nothing appears to have happened for months apart from the stripping off of the valuable slates. So we have been in dialogue with the relevant bit of Highland Council since about last October to try and establish what they as the local authority are doing to encourage or persuade the owner of that building to attend to it. At the very least to keep it in a good state and to stop in crumbling into a heap and ideally to go ahead with the work that he has already got permission to do to modify and convert it. I have to say, in summary, that the exchange of correspondence we have had with Highland Council officials, and it’s the Heritage and Planning people, has not been terribly inspiring. We have been pressing them to exert pressure on the owner of Rosebank Church to grip it and do stuff and the Council's responses are full of reasons why it’s terribly difficult […] we and River Community Council are both trying to exert what pressure, influence and persuasive powers we can to get something done about Rosebank Church.” 

Graham Kerr then asked if there was any way to sue the Council. 
“On what topic?” asked the Chair Rosemary Young. 
”Failing to act,” replied Graham. 
”No,” was the simultaneous and emphatic response from Brian Stewart and Rosemary, who added “but you can have a go yourself.”

Colin then said: “I really appreciate the pressure that’s kept on there because it helps us as Councillors to move things to the next stage and the next stage but I’d just ask Brian: What specific thing should the Council do legally to make something happen? There are things you could do that would change the scenario but as far as I’m aware there isn’t anything they are empowered to do that would actually…”

Rosemary then intervened: “I  read somewhere that they can…”
Brian then too intervened: “The can require development to begin and…”
Colin came back into it then: “Is he out with his time limits?”
“Yes,” stated Brian. “His three year deadline expired at the end of January.”