Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Strong support expressed for Lidl store at Balmakeith - show of hands at combined community councils meeting

Tonight in the Community and Arts centre there was a debate about the forthcoming planning application for a Lidl store plus other premises at Balmakeith (see plan here). There was again alarm expressed from the Association of Nairn Businesses about the effect this would have on the High Street. The association viewpoint that they wanted Lidl in the town centre was again expressed. 

A variety of opinions supporting a Lidl store were aired including having to travel the distance of 3 litres of petrol to shop in a Lidl store at the present moment and a perception that the High Street wasn’t appealing to the younger generation and that we couldn't go back in time. 

The Westies Rosemary Young stated that from a tourism point of view she thought it would be a disaster. Later she said however: “I have been speaking to the young business people in the town – young people that own businesses in the town. One which is a construction type of business and one which is another sort and I was impressed that they were saying that they wanted Lidl to come.” 

Rosemary then asked for a show of hands of those who wanted to see Lidl come to Nairn. There were around 30 people present, community councillors and members of the public, in the room and it appeared that a sizeable majority of those present were in favour of Lidl building a store at Balmakeith. It looked at around 75% to this observer although no count was taken. 

Before the meeting moved onto the next subject, Sorcha O'Carrol, a member of Nairn Suburban CC, then said: “Speaking to a lot of the other younger mothers and people that are responsible for the household budget. They would absolutely shop in Lidl and they don’t mind if they have to go to the edge of town or the centre of town. They are absolutely all for having a Lidl Store here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dol fodha na grèine Inbhir Narann 29 an t-Sultain

Oidhche mhath - Good night :-)

Dealbh eile an seo. Agus bhideo

Lidl proposal for Balmakeith - a larger image of the plan

Now available on the Gurn flickr pages - chose which size you would prefer to browse here. Also artist's impressions here. 

James Harbison, representing the developers Ziran Land, told the Gurn: "We are delighted with the level of interest in our proposals and our exhibition was well attended throughout the day by Nairn shoppers. We also had an opportunity to brief the community councils and other interested parties at the preview session earlier. We will be collating feedback from these consultations which will help to form the detail of our planning application which we hope to submit by the end of October."

The week ahead - it could be very interesting

The BBC predict a continuation of the warm spell that has kept us in good cheer during the later half of September. The autumn colours and falling leaves give
Nairn Beach Fun late September
the game away and remind you of the time of the year but up at Sandown the plotters were busy in the sunshine making the most of the extraordinary conditions. Down the beach too things were busy with quite a few people even taking a dip in the sea, it had a very summery feel yesterday. One of those taking advantage of the warm conditions was Murd's granddaughter Iona, through from Inverness - see picture on right which our riverside correspondent (on secondment to the seafront) sent us. 

Nairn was at its tourism best yesterday and visitors are still to be seen. The caravan site has another large intake today it it looks as though they will be busy right up to the first week in November when the site shuts. If the BBC forecast is correct (they didn't have us down for the morning rain) then another set of holidaymakers will be delighted. 

Tuesday is a big night for the combined community councils, the Subbies, Westies and Tommy's River CC worthies will all gather in the community centre at 7.30 p.m. tommorro. They will discuss the Nairn South Planning decision, the Nairn Health Care Practice and Patients Participation Group ( some Gurnites will probably want to hear debate on that controversial one and maybe even offer their own thoughts). Other subjects too including A96 congestion. 

On Thursday the local SNP branch have their first post referendum meeting and no doubt they will be expecting to see many new members if Nairnshire's share of the 41,000 new sign-ups across Scotland turn up. That too is in the Community Centre at 7 p.m. Nairn Community and Arts Centre - a very versatile, well equipped venue that is a credit to Nairn. 

And then on Friday (3rd October) between 12 noon and and 7 p.m. the preferred route for the Nairn bypass will be revealed and put on display (also in the Community and Arts Centre). It won't please everybody that is for certain but we will get a good look at how the future of the immediate hinterland in Nairn will look  if the Scottish Government is able to go through with its promise of a Nairn bypass. 

On the sporting front Nairn County will be hoping for some Scottish Cup joy when Huntly come through to Station Park for a tie in that competition. The stakes are high  as County look to have missed the chance of challenging for the top spots in the league this year and have already exited from the North Cup. A cup run would be just the tonic the fans need. 

On Sunday afternoon there will be the Golden awards in the community centre (a very busy place most of the time it indeed is) recognising the service and achievements of older people. The categories of award can be seen in this pervious Gurn post.  

Have a good week Gurnshire and if there is anything else going on please let us know. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sheena Baker would like to see Lidl in the town centre and not at Balmakeith

More from the consultation session held in the community centre on Friday by the Developers Ziran and the supermarket chain Lidl. Previous Gurn articles here and here. 

One of the Association of Nairn Business members present at the first part of the consultation, which took the form of a discussion around the conference room table, was Sheena Baker - she had some forthright views against the project going ahead at Balmakeith and also wondered what the town centre charrette held earlier this year had been all about if the Highland Council knew that this potential application was waiting in the wings. 

Sheena Baker was very interested to find out what knowledge Highland Council already had about the proposed application. After the presentation  from the developers and Lidl she asked if the application was “news to everybody, not just the community?” 

It emerged that the Council had been made aware of the proposal and Sheena continued: “You’re telling me that at some stage earlier in the year our four councillors were made aware of the fact that there was an out of town application likely to come forward from yourselves for whoever you are representing and then our councillors went hard out to get a town centre charrette to encourage people to come into the town to build up the town centre yet on the other hand they and the planners and extended by Highland Council and the council planners, therefore knew this was coming along possibly. I’m not sure why I spent two days at the town centre charrette.“

James Harbison, speaking for the developers Ziran  said: “Well we spent some time at the charrette, certainly the first day and it was very interesting to hear but we also heard arguments that Sainsbury’s had been very good for Nairn and it’s done a particular job on drawing people into the town so it’s not all about town centre versus out of town.”

Sheena then said: “Sainsbury’s have certainly stopped the leakage out of the town, that was the number one thing and I never opposed Sainsbury’s on the grounds of stopping the leakage because the leakage then was 75% to 80% going either way. Sainsbury’s certainly stopped the leakage but what it hasn’t done has brought more people into the town centre. [...] There have been more properties and more shops and more businesses that have closed and I’m not saying it’s specifically because of Sainsbury’s but Sainbury’s certainly would have been part of the reason because more people just don’t go into the town centre. They go up and they go to Sainsbury’s. If they are not Co-op fans then go to Sainsbury’s and do their shopping and come back. So we’re exactly at the same situation as we were when we had the leakage, people were just going out of the town, doing any shopping and then coming back home.

What we are trying to achieve and I thought we were with the town centre charrette was get things in the centre of town. Now if Lidl was telling me that they were going to, for example, knock down the library and put a site on that, it’s got car-parking and all the rest of it. You just haven’t looked at it. We could find somewhere else to put the library, that actually would be a very good thing for the town: because we would then have the Co-op which is a big favourite with some people and we would have Lidl which meets people, not only on budgets – I go to Lidl to buy biscuits and cakes, they’re great biscuits, but I don’t do a lot of my shopping there, I do specific lines of shopping there – a lot of people do and I think if that was in the town centre, people would be drawn more into the town centre.”

More from Friday’s consultation meeting held in the Community Centre when time permits.

Turriff 2 Nairn 0 - pictures by Kenny MacLeod and Donald Matheson

Individual images here. Disappointment vibes expressed on the County Fans We Believe page last night and a little despondent reflection too on the season so far as County drop their recent run of good results and fail to make an impression on one of this season's top of the table pace setters. All eyes now to next Saturday and an all-important Scottish Cup tie against Huntly at Station Park.

Donald's pictures below - individual images here.

Fin Fotography - Autumn in Nairn twilight

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lidl at Balmakeith - why they want to come to Nairn - the developer's viewpoint

Yesterday at the Lidl supermarket consultation for a proposed site at Balmakeith held in Nairn Community and Arts Centre, (See previous Gurn article for images of plans) Andrew Stanley of the developers Ziran outlined the thinking behind this project from the point of view of developers and the supermarket chain. Obviously there is enough existing potential business in Nairn but potential factors such as the bypass, Ardersier rising like an industrial phoenix and proposed housing expansion also feature in Ziran’s calculations. 

Andrew addressed Nairn Business Association members and Community Councillors:

"Ziran is a relatively new company but all of the people in it go back, like ww do, quite a way so we have a track record of doing developments. The last one was the town centre in Bicester. We brought Sainsbury’s here. [...] Look to the west of the site up there and we think with the pressures on Nairn at the moment from different directions, the bypass, the town centre, what’s happening to town centres throughout the country, that Nairn really needs some more names to bring people into Nairn to make more of a centre for a wider catchment. Sainsbury’s certainly does that to an extent. With the pressures of at some stage, the bypass coming along, a very fast dual carriageway – 30 kms of it all the way from Inverness, whichever route is chosen. [...] And whenever bypasses are done it always diverts people away from the actual town that it is bypassing and the first thing we see are signs up on the bypass saying “visit so and so” off the bypass. So if there is more of a reason to come into Nairn then this is what we are trying to do. 
Community Councillors and Association of Nairn Business folk at the consultation
On top of that, and I know people are sceptical, there are we think a lot of jobs coming into Ardersier and the information is that they will start running towards the end of next year and within two years there could be within two and two and a half thousand jobs created at Ardersier. I know that some people are sceptical but there have been all sorts of plans there. That together with the housing also that is coming into Nairn. We think it’s the ideal time to think about extending the retail offer of Nairn.

The big four supermarkets are going through a rough patch at the moment. Lidl and Aldi, those two are on the up. [...] They used to be cheap, cheerful, pile it high. I think now, Lidl certainly, sell themselves on the quality of their produce as well as, yes they’ve got a limited range and things, but it is quality if you look at all the latest advertisements. So we think it is time to bring, and they want to come into Nairn. [...]

At the same time we are also looking at a couple of other major names, they wouldn’t come if it wasn’t for the Sainsbury’s and the Lidl activity here. So it all gels into bringing Nairn a lot more retail activity and a lot more names and a lot more jobs. We think the reasonable estimate is about 80 jobs, 80 full time equivalent jobs and then more on the construction side. Lidl don’t, as they used to do, bring everything in from Germany in kit form, they actually do use local labour and local construction firms Nairn. So really that’s where we are. 

Time wise, after today we’ve got some surveys to do. But we’re looking at an application possibly; end of October/beginning of November and we’ve been talking about the retail impact assessment, they’ve got to be done. I think we can say we will consult with you and various bodies about those and hopefully look at any problems that might arise from that. We are also looking at the transport issue. We know there are issues with traffic light. I know Sainsbury’s paid for another set of traffic lights but that was at the behest of Transport Scotland. [...] But that does need looking at as well and our transport people are quite willing to work with, not just Transport Scotland but also hear what local people say about the situation that exists at the moment. "

Over the next few days we hope to bring you more from the meeting including some  responses from members of the Association of Nairn Businesses.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lidl plans for Balmakeith Nairn - pictures

An interesting hour just spent over at the Community Centre with business and community representatives who were in debate with Lidl and Ziran folk. The application that will be submitted in October to Highland Council is actually quite substantial. You can see in the plan below  that it comprises a large site in the field beyond Sainsbury's on the right hand side as you go past the roundabout towards Forres. 

Interestingly there is a site for a pub - a family based business that would be mainly food and non-alcohol according to the developer. A further phase just a bit more to the East would include a hotel at some time in the future.

Nairn Business Association reps had strong concerns for the future of the High Street while community councillors seemed a lot less hostile to the proposal and interested in talking about future bus services from such a development etc. One of them, Tommy Hogg of river told the gurn that he was 100% behind the project. More from the debate later if time permits. In the meantime you can go over to the Community Centre and see these plans for yourself and make any comment you wish to the representatives of Lidl and the developers Ziran - the exhibition/consultation will be open until 7 p.m. 

Larger images here. 

New role for the old vet's building in St Ninian Road

Looks like the former vets with its waiting room, reception and treatment rooms etc was the ideal spot for "Doctor Denture". 

Funding for Community Project in Nairn - lighting on path for bairns going the back way into Millbank School

One of the funding projects announced by Liz MacDonald at the area committee meeting in Kinguissie yesterday was a lighting improvement for pupils heading to Millbank via Mill Road. 

Through the Cycling Walking and Safer Streets Programme funded by the Scottish Government - pupils walking to and from Millbank Primary School in Nairn are to benefit from the installation of street lighting at an estimated cost of £8,000. New lighting will improve safety and access to the school from Mill Road by lighting the lane between housing and the railway bridge. 

Allan Bryce, Highland Council’s Road Safety Officer said: “The improved lighting will encourage residents to walk to school all year round when the daylight and visibility is poor especially in winter months.”

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Michael Green’s Nairn Common Good initiative “premature” says Liz

Liz is the chair of the Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Area committee and she spoke to the Gurn earlier this evening in response to Michael Green’s call (made in a statement to the area committee in Kingussie earlier today) for debate on public involvement in determining the future role of the Nairn Common Good Fun (see Gurn article here).

Liz stated that the present administration had prioritised officers time on dealing with previous mistakes in the common good and asset register, not just in Nairn but across Highland.

Liz went on to say: “I said Michael’s statement was premature and shouldn't pre-empt the report that is coming to the eighty Highland Council members on the common good, which should be to the benefit of the people of Nairn. I also said afterwards that this is the first time ever that Highland Council is not being run by independents and great improvements have been made to the common good accounts, monitoring and asset register during this term”

She concluded: “Officers involved in helping to sort out common good are Ward Manager, Director of Finance, Director of Audit and Scrutiny, corporate manager, chief executive and legal staff. This is a significant input from Highland Council to sort our historical problems.”

The discussion on Nairn Common Good should be available (perhaps tomorrow) on the Highland Council webcast pages here. The statement made by Michael Green can be read in this article here.

Progress made on action plan for Nairn town centre

"Plans to regenerate Nairn town centre took another step forward today as Members of The Highland Council’s, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee gave their backing to a draft Action Plan for Nairn Town Centre drawn up with the help of residents, businesses and community groups in the town.

Councillor seeks public debate on greater involvement for local people in determining the role of Nairn Common Good Fund

Here's what Michael Green had to say at the Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey are committeee meeting in Kinguissie today. 

"Firstly, I would like to thank Liz Cowie and Lynne Maclennan for the excellent work that they are doing in updating the Nairn Common Good Asset Register and providing members with regular management and monitoring reports. This is onerous and time consuming and their efforts are very much appreciated by me and my ward colleagues. In addition, recognition must be given to the Highland Council for improved governance and operational management of the Common Good Fund. Welcome, but long overdue.

Serious issues were raised at the Area Committee in Juneregarding the operational management of the Parkdean lease. As outlined in the report the rental should have been increased in line with RPI every seven years. Unfortunately, rent reviews were not implemented in 1999 or 2006, resulting in a very large shortfall in income to the Nairn Common Good Fund over a period of fourteen years.

That I have not expressed my opinions to date has been by agreement with officers, an accommodation, allowing the Highland Council to carry out a comprehensive review of a complicated and legally sensitive issue.

A final report with proposals and recommendations will be put forward in October to the full Highland Council and to all eighty Councillors who are the Trustees of the Nairn Common Good. 

In my experience, the Highland Council is a fair and honourable institution and I would not expect the Nairn Common Good Fund to be disadvantaged by any proposal put to the eighty trustees in October. 

That there has been a serious failure in management and oversight of the Fund is undeniable and that to restore public confidence in the governance of the Nairn Common Good Fund could take years.

To me, the most effective way to restore confidence in the Common Good and to bring much needed transparency is to give the people of Nairn a much greater voice regarding the control of THEIR Common Good. 

The Nairn Common Good Fund has valuable assets, assets that will in the years ahead generate substantial and increasing surpluses. That the people of Nairn should have a louder voice in shaping any future role of THEIR Common Good Fund in local affairs, is only but right.

I now feel this is an appropriate time to start a discussion with local people as to how they see that role developing and how we can try to bring the Nairn Common Good Fund under greater local control and scrutiny."

Bikebug 1,000 mile Winter Cycling Challenge

An interesting initiative from a local company to try and keep us on our bicycles over the winter months. 


1. Mileage to be verified at Bikebug Nairn on cycling specific computers after 25.9.14
2. Mid way check to be completed at Bikebug Nairn from 19 to 24 December
3. Final verification to be completed at Bikebug Nairn by 31st march 2015
4. All cycling must be undertaken out of doors.

Register now FREE at Bikebug, Falconers Lane, Nairn

Prospects good for a Lidl store being built at Balmakeith?

Lidl are holding a consultation in the Community Centre tomorrow Friday 26th 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. where they will display their plans for the proposed store at Balmakeith on the site beside Sainsbury's.

In 2009 many Nairnites rallied behind River Community Council's call to support the Sainsbury's application. The subsequent public inquiry ruled in favour of the Sainsbury's application and then of course came the traffic lights. That aside it does seem likely to this observer that many local people will back Lidl too in the same way they  rallied round the Sainsbury's application. 

Many of the arguments that were deployed then will no doubt surface again from those that wish to see more shopping choice in Nairn. Jobs would be created, Nairn shoppers that travel to Forres or Inverness to shop at Lidl would only have to go the shorter distance to Balmakeith - less vehicle emissions, cars on the road etc. 

On the down side there are fears again for existing businesses on the High Street especially in view of concerns that non-food stores might accompany Lidl into a new development. The consultation is the precursor to a full planning application being submitted to Highland Council and there will be opportunities to comment on that when it appears too. In the meantime it will be worthwhile going over tomorrow and having a look at what is proposed. At the end of the day will it all come down to a numbers game again though as in template for public support expressed for Sainsbury's in 2009?

Flu vaccine information - Nairn Healthcare Group

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's wrong with a charity shop High Street economy?

Some voices have been raised against another charity shop coming to Nairn. The Red Cross will be moving into the prominent former DE Shoe shop soon. As great changes still continue in the way we buy goods and services and with some experts saying that communities should look "beyond retail" for empty shop solutions, perhaps we should be thankful that another charity wishes to have a go on Nairn High Street. Charity shops can benefit communities in more ways than you might think - with this in mind we repost an article that was written at the beginning of this year.

Charity shops - their benefits to communities underestimated?

A local weekly newspaper in its review of the year used the phrase “High Street in crisis”. Nairn High Street certainly took a few knocks in 2013. One element of the local retail economy that remains strong however is the Charity Shop sector. A report by the think tank Demos states that there are now 900 charity shops in Scotland, raising £26 million for charity annually. 
Some people see the presence of charity shops in the High Street as evidence of a spiral of decline but that analysis will have to be revisited according to Demos:

“Because of their increasing presence on the high street, as well as the social and economic benefits they provide, charity shops should be a key voice in the regeneration debate. Dramatic changes to the retail sector brought about through the internet and technology mean we can never return to the high streets of old. Instead, local authorities need to envisage a new role  and function for local high streets, which includes a more creative mixture of housing, education, arts, retail and, importantly, services.”

The report is a fascinating (but long) read which this observer is still browsing, it details the economic benefits of these shops; the massive volume of goods that are reused/recycled rather than going to landfill; the social and health benefits of volunteering to work in the shops etc, etc. Maybe Nairn could do with more charity shops to fill the empty premises on the High Street? All food for thought perhaps for the Highland Council/NICE town centre charrette that we will hear more about very soon?

The report states the considerable benefits but is possible to hear negative comment towards charity shops, particularly grumbles about the pricing of some articles in charity shops: some feel that they are still good value but others have a wide range of complaints about the shops which for some includes their displeasure at the perceived large salaries that are given to the high heid yins of some charities. A recent Guardian article had the headline: “'Greedy' charity shops under fire for prices beyond means of poor” and can be read here

Nairn High Street may be in crisis but as we move into the first few days of 2014 the Charity Shops are still with us and, love them or loathe them, they will obviously remain a permanent fixture on our High Street. 

Childhood Flu Vaccine - available from Nairn Healthcare Group - information

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bypass preferred option goes on display in Nairn on 3rd October

 Transport Scotland Press Release reads:

Locals are being invited to have their say on the preferred option for the A96 Inverness to Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) dualling scheme.

The plans for the preferred option go on display at a series of public exhibitions being held in Nairn (3 October), Auldearn (6 October) and Inverness (7 October). The exhibitions will give locals, businesses, road users and individuals affected by the scheme a chance to comment on the proposals.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said:

“The Scottish Government has given a clear commitment to dual the A96 by 2030, delivering around 86 miles of upgraded road between Inverness and Aberdeen.

“Dualling the route is a significant undertaking which requires careful, in-depth planning and design to ensure that we deliver the right scheme to help tackle congestion and provide better journey time reliability and road safety for all users.

"As a signal of that commitment, we are now providing locals and road users the opportunity to view the preferred option for the 30 km Inverness to Nairn including Nairn Bypass scheme.

“I would urge anyone with an interest to attend one of the exhibitions in October and comment on our plans.

“We expect to appoint a design consultant early next year to develop the preferred option and expect to publish draft orders for the scheme in 2016."

Guerrilla Gardeners Strike Again - KNC Weekend action in Nairn

Report and pictures from our gurdening correspondent

In another local sign of the changing seasons, the green-fingered volunteers of Keeping Nairnshire Colourful have been out on the streets and open spaces of Nairn again. This time the area by the Grantown Road traffic-light junction was the venue for another bulb-planting initiative. On Saturday morning some familiar figures - and some new participants - gathered to plant daffodil and crocus bulbs, ready to add to the roadside displays next spring. 

With the help of Archie from Broadley Garden Centre and Kevin from Sleigh Landscapes - whose tractor, mole plough and turf cutter were essential - the KNC gang, together with a group of enthusiastic volunteers from Sainsburys, planted hundreds of bulbs in the grassy space beside the Grantown road junction and along the A96 towards the Sainsburys' store.

Provided the contractors take care not to behead them all when they start their 2015 grass-cutting schedule, there should be an extensive display of yellow, white and purple flowers there next spring for people to see and enjoy. Over the past few years KNC have planted thousands of bulbs along Nairn's roadsides and in various green spaces including the A96 verges by Moss-side Road, the Links recreation park, and the field below the cemetery.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nairn 4 Deveronvale 0 - pictures from Donald Matheson

Individual images here.

Red Cross looking for shop manager in Nairn? Another charity shop for the High Street?

We've added a question mark to the title of this post because job ads for shop staff in Nairn might not always be what they seem - remember the Aldi ad?  

One of the rumours we did hear during the summer however was that a charity was poised to take over the former DE Shoes shop. That would be boost for Nairn High Street if it happened - we'll just have to wait and see. Anyway folks the job advert has appeared on this page here. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

County fans centenary baton coming home - images from Murray MacRae of events earlier today

Thanks to Murray for his pictures from the Links this morning as County Fans carried the Centenary Baton the final few hundred yards of its journey that began at the start of the West Highland Way earlier this month. Video coming soon too. 

Individual images here. Full screen slideshow here. 

UPDATE: Video of the event

"Scotland’s independence debate has just begun, according to the Nairn Academy pupils..."

A former Academy pupil himself, the editor of the Spectator, Fraser Nelson was in Nairn and reports on the aftermath of the referendum for the Telgraph:

Friday, September 19, 2014

This time sport not politics - another flash mob photo opp at the Bandstand on Saturday - everyone welcome

Show your support for your local Highland League football club when a County Centenary fun event kicks off at midday tomorrow down at the harbour.

In the grey morning light of a day somewhat less historic than yesterday

There will be deep disappointment in the local YES camp this morning (this observer can testify to that) but if the bag of a fag packet devo deal from the three Westminster leaders develops into real radical change then Scotland will be the winner. How that progresses remains to be seen however, with more voices joining the disgruntled Westminster MPs who are unhappy with the (as yet mystery) package Here in Scotland though both sides talk this morning of healing divisions but generally, the referendum campaign has been good humoured in Nairn, the posters will come down and life will quickly return to normal and friends and even families on both sides of the referendum debate will find other things to talk about. Life goes on. 

It was remarkable to see the large numbers of voters heading for the polling stations (around 90% in Nairn). People stopped to engage with the YES and NO folk outside Millbank, there seemed to be a desire to savour the day whatever the result. It is perhaps unlikely that we will ever see 90% turnouts again in our lifetimes but hopefully people will stay engaged; there was a suggestion from someone on the radio that “you don’t have to be a politician to be involved in politics.” Here’s hoping that the input from the young and other newly activated voters (it wasn’t just 16-18 year olds asking the way to the polling station entrance) continues because politicians at all levels will be inclined to perform better if every move they make is under public scrutiny. Please stay involved folks.

One of our readers articulates his referendum aftermath thoughts in a post below and states “we’ll need to stay on guard against remote decision makers”. Indeed, soon traffic lights and planning decisions will be back on the top of the agenda. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if at sometime in the future we could move to a point where the planners and other authorities listen to the local community instead of telling us what to do. The traffic needs to go the other way back up the chain. Communities need to be in control. How to achieve that in a continuing atmosphere of austerity though? However we voted yesterday we have to stay united as a community in getting the best deal for Nairn and the County hinterland beyond. A big barney perhaps looms for the best DevoMax deal for Scotland but we need to continue to generate heat on the micro level too and stand up for our collective corner. Devolution for Nairnshire too please!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A semi-optimistic gurn from one of our regular readers

Our correspondent writes:

"I'm not local but I love this place and will never move from Nairn. How I got here is only of interest to me! My family is here and it's home to us. Because of my work, I meet and talk to a lot of people. Anyhow, everybody I’ve spoken to has had strong feelings and opinions about the referendum. Apathy has been absent. It's been a long campaign. Some of us will get the result we wanted and some will be disappointed. That’s how it was always going to be and anyone, on either side, who looks forward to a long victory celebration, might be disappointed too. 

The reason is this: it will not be important tomorrow how we voted today.

We’ll still be here and we’ll still all have to live and work together. ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, we need to remain good neighbours, positive about the many good things about Nairn and to make the best of things that will still need to be improved.

It’s deluded to imagine that politicians in either Edinburgh or London care about us, except when they need our votes to keep themselves in a job. As a separate, sovereign country or as part of the larger Union, we’ll still be subject to a centralised and impersonal system, and we’ll need to stay on guard against remote decision makers. The Gurn is a strong local voice. Whatever the result today, local voices need to be heard even more. Good luck. "

Official confirmation necessary but the Gurn understands 90% turnouts in Nairn

Liz and Colin told this observer that the turnout at Millbank and the Seamans Hall was 90%. Incredible figures in our time - when was the last time that happened if ever?
Great craic tonight between YESers and No camp at Millbank

Queues at Millbank School and Seaman's Hall as polling stations open in Nairn

An overcast day but looking slightly brighter as this small post goes to pixel and sun promised for the afternoon. A little earlier there were queues of a dozen or so people
Early birds at Millbank
waiting for the polling stations to open at seven o' clock at both venues in Nairn. Never been asked if I wanted to keep the polling card before - nice souvenir of an amazing day. Never felt such a buzz coming out of a polling station. 

Mannie on the telly yesterday: "The word 'historic' almost seems inadequate'.

 YES or No please enjoy YOUR day!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nairn County Centenary celebrations continue this Saturday 20th - commencing Nairn Harbour

It all starts at around 12.30 when the Kayakers bring the Centenary Baton into the harbour. The Baton has travelled the West Highland Way with a team of County Fans and been taken up the Great Glen on water by Nairn Kayak Club. In the process the Kayakers smashed the record for crossing Loch Ness in a canoe from Fort Augustus to Dores. The baton still has to make its way to Station Park but first on Saturday there will be a march behind a pipe band to the Links Bandstand where fans will pause for a picture. There will also be a BBQ.

Everyone welcome, just bring something yellow and black. The Centenary Baton is on display in the Town Barbers window on the top of the brae until Saturday. Full time table of events on the poster in the Gurn sidebar. For a bit of background on this fundraising initiative watch this Gurn interview with Stephen Bain and Ali Nichol

See you there - it's only once every hundred years :-)
Kayakers reach the Moray Firth, Picture David Walker

Another video from last night on the Links

Provost makes pro-Union intervention and uses Nairn's traffic lights in his argument

In the letters column of the Nairnshire Telegraph this week, Nairn Provost Laurie Fraser sets out his pro-Union view on the referendum. Summing up his arguments he refers to the Nairn traffic lights:

"We have two SNP councillors in Nairn, we have an SNP-led administration in Inverness, an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament and an SNP Scottish government. Yet, we still, after three years cannot get the traffic lights at the A96 and Lochloy Road to work properly. Where is the social justice for the poor motorist travelling through Nairn?"  More in this week's Nairnshire.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

YES gathering Nairn Links 16/09/14 more pictures

Individual images here. Full screen slideshow here. Includes images from Murray MacRae.

and a video

The Bandstand, Nairn Links, venue for YES Nairnshire gathering earlier tonight

The local YES Campaign activists took a little time off tonight and gathered for a few songs down at the bandstand. More pictures later and perhaps video.

A Lidl bit of extra choice at Balmakeith soon?

Both the Nairnshire and the Courier have articles on the Lidl proposal for a store next to Sainsbury's up at Balmakeith, the Nairnie splashing on the front page with the story. 

This observer would imagine that there might be those that would warn against this because of the potential effect on the High Street. The many Nairn residents that travel to shop in the company's stores in Inverness and Forres would be inclined to have the opposite view however. Full story in this week's Leopold Street Thunderer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nairn win cricket cup - 2nd eleven beat Fort William in reserve final

This from our cricketing correspondent:

"Nairn County Cricket Club 2nd eleven played Fort William Cricket Club in the Reserve League Cup Final at Strathpeffer.

On a glorious sunny day Nairn started off badly dropping catches and struggling to keep the 'Fort' from pushing 7 runs per over. However, once the first wicket was taken the momentum of the game changed and Nairn started to slow the scoring and took wickets. Fort William finished with a score of 149 runs after 30 overs.

Nairn went in to bat and got off to a great start when Fort William gave away 10 extras in the first over. Unfortunately this soon changed when Fort took the wicket of Alex Green off an acrobatic catch in the slips. Nairn progressed with steady batting and scored 100 runs in 17 overs. It looked like it was a steady plod to the finish except there was a scare when Richard Gerring and Brian Stewart (more senior batsmen) were run out in the same over. Fortunately this scare did not put off the young Jason Brandsma who scored the winning run. Nairn finished with 150 runs in 28 overs."   Images below from "RG-IV12"

Individual images here. Full screen slideshow here. 

YES campaigners in Nairn announce last minute event - Flash mob on the Links

The trend for gatherings of campaigners that has been seen in recent days across Scotland looks set to spread to Nairn as a local event has been announced for tomorrow night (Tues 16th). Details here on the YES Nairnshire facebook page. 

YES, NO or don't know, if you have anything planned for what are now the final days and hours of the referendum campaign please let us know and we'll post details. 

Nairn draw Huntly in next round of the Scottish Cup

The tie will be played on Saturday the 4th of October.

Action on the Station Brae traffic system - Murd Dunbar clarifies his complaint

Murd Dunbar told the Gurn in relation to the recent discussions at the River Community Council meeting concerning the traffic situation on Station Brae (see Gurn Article here):

"Let me make it quite clear as to what i would like to see removed are the two chicanes. The one on the coming down from Queenspark forces drivers to drive on the wrong side of the road and close to the pavement! The same applies to the one under the bridge. Before drivers could move over away from the pavement. I have no objection to leaving the wider pavement. As for two cars going under the bridge surely that could be left to the driver's own discretion as happened in the past. Coming out of the Balblair road requires a bit of commonsense and that could be helped by removing or possible lowering the wall on the corner to allow better vision (Council property? ) But the removal of the two islands on the brae are A PRIORITY to what I think will prevent some one getting hurt as the situation at the moment is a accident waiting to happen."

Bikes on the links - picture

The logistics of the Coast to Coast compeition obviously include a pick up of bicycles back in Nairn once the competitors have reached the West and finished their race.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Deveronvale 0 Nairn 1 - pictures from Donald Matheson of Saturday's Scottish Cup tie

Individual images here.  SFA video highlights here.

Food for thought as River CC discuss Sandancer site restaurant application Mark 2

On Wednesday night one of the items of planning matters discussed by Tommy Hogg and his colleagues was the new application for the Sandancer building down at the harbour. The changes are outlined in a supporting information to the application available on the Highland Council’s e-planning site. Here’s a brief section from that supporting document that outlines the reasoning behind the new application: 

“In the original submitted planning application, the Planning department felt that the proposed design was too domestic in style and that there was an opportunity to have more of a  'landmark/feature' building for the site. Therefore this new revised and larger building now has two  full storeys so that at ground floor level there can be more of a direct connection between the  building and the public, an Ice Cream and Pizza Parlour has been added which can be accessed  directly off of the public path and to the sea (north) side has access onto a small patio area. This   now means that in effect the two public elevations of the building have interest and activity. The   remainder of the ground floor will be given over to Kitchens, servicing, storage etc. which allow all   of the first floor to be a Restaurant area. This first floor level will allow spectacular views from  inside the building out over the Moray Firth and out over the Harbour, balconies have also been   included to allow a certain amount of outside dining or just to admire the views.”

Tommy and his colleagues discussed the parking arrangements and the management of the area around the Sandancer. The meeting noted that Tommy would discuss matters with the ward manager Liz Cowie as the area comprises common good land. Tommy said: 

“Apart from that I’ve not problem at all. It’s long overdue down there, they need someone to tidy the place up a bit.”

The application has so far attracted two objections but also seven letters of support. This material too can be read on the Council’s e-planning site here.

Strong views about the application have also been expressed on a new Facebook page that popped up recently entitled “Building(s) in Nairn”. That page hasn’t been going long but there are some interesting discussions about various Nairn properties.

Parking complaints - Liz MacDonald responds to Community Councillors

At their regular meeting on Wednesday night Nairn River Community Councillors discussed the lack of parking enforcement in Nairn. Liz was present and she responded when Iain Henderson said that the Council now had responsibility for parking:

"Yes but we haven't figured out how it is going to be done yet Iain, it has to come to a report. They are looking at different methods to be sympathetic to different areas. They're looking at using our existing staff and giving them powers to enforce and decriminalise it, so there's a whole load of issues that will be coming forward that we...the police gave it up and we we'rent ready for it but we have to take it over."

Jeanne Tolmie then said; "But it is no excuse not to sort the traffic out."

Liz responded: "I know but if people are parking illegally on pavements and things then that is still is the police's responsibility."

Scottish Cup Deveronvale 0 Nairn 1 - pictures Kenny MacLeod

A goal from Sean Webb means County progress into the next round of the Scottish Cup. 
Individual images here

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Scotland Coast to Coast 2014 - pictures - Cladach gu Cladach - #scotlandc2c

Individual images here.

Last campaign Saturday of the Referendum in Nairn

And here's what can be seen in the local twittersphere just now:

And an image from Generation YES Nairnshire

Farmers Market in Nairn today

Preparations earlier this morning. Why not pop into town and visit the Farmers Market today?

Coast to Coasters set off again from the Links

The 2014 endurance event got underway early this morning with wave after wave of competitors sent on their way by Provost Laurie Fraser. More pictures later.

Before they set off many coast to coasters made the ritual of heading down to the beach to touch the waters of the Moray Firth. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Highland Council Counting officer urges "vote only with a single X"

Coast to Coast Race 2014 - Starting on the Links early tomorrow morning

Here's a few images of the event and the competitors registering on the Friday night in 2012. It's worth the bother of getting up early and seeing the mass exodus of runners, they go along the prom and then up the riverside to Cawdor. 
There will be two starts for the different categories at 06.30 and from 7.30 onwards. More details here.  Provost Laurie Fraser will be up early to perhaps, he usually does the honours at the starting line. 

A bit of artwork for the empty shops in Nairn?

We've been there before with that suggestion, see Gurn Post here but yesterday a local resident tweeted a slightly different take on it. It's worked elsewhere and perhaps there is a funding framework there that could be copied here.

"Eight community groups were given the opportunity to explore different areas of their town, to find out why they are such special places, using nature as a canvas to create their own artworks."

We've certainly (and thankfully) got enough nature around us here to do that, anyway here's the suggestion with a link to further information.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Friends climb mountain in fund-raising tribute to much-loved GP

FRIENDS, family members and colleagues of a much-loved Nairn GP who died earlier this year have walked up Britain’s highest mountain to raise money for a cause that was close to his heart.

A group of 66 people took part in the Ben Nevis climb on Saturday 30th August in memory of Dr Kevin McPhee, raising more than £8,000 – with more money still coming in – for the Highland Hospice in Inverness.

Among the party were GPs Amy Carter, Audrey Banks and Adrian Baker, of Nairn Healthcare Group, where Dr McPhee had practised for the last six years.

The adverse weather was no deterrent to the group, and of those who met at the foot of the mountain 66 people – and two dogs – reached the 4,406ft summit in driving rain.

Dr Baker said: “In his work with Nairn Healthcare Group Kevin touched the lives of many people and was highly regarded by all who came across him. He was also instrumental in developing and driving forward the vision for the practice which is now carried on by his colleagues.

“He was a real inspiration who led by example with a calm, engaging and warm manner, and his is greatly missed by us all.”

Dr McPhee, who died in February aged 38, spent the last few weeks of his life in the hospice. He lived in Nairn and would cycle throughout the year to work and visiting patients.

“It was a desire to express their gratitude and appreciation of the hospice’s work, and to celebrate Kevin’s life, that led his family to organise the Ben Nevis climb,” said Dr Baker.

“Medical and nursing staff from Nairn have been involved with the hospice for many years and the charity’s work was of great importance to Kevin, notwithstanding his own illness.”

Donations to the fund-raising effort can be made by visiting www.justgiving.com/Dorcas-McPhee/

The money will be donated to the Highland Hospice to support its ongoing work with terminally-ill people and their families throughout the Highlands.

A Nairn No blog appears

Here on the Gurn we are delighted to publish anything that is referendum related and happening in Gurnshire. A local No supporter has sent us the address of a blog he has just started. Our correspondent says:  "Perhaps a lone voice.... who knows?" Anyway Gurnshire here's: Nairn No - a No voter's Nairn based Perspective.

YES, NO or undecided, views and articles are most welcome on the Gurn. Please keep it as informative as possible, written punch and judy shows don't really help too many people make their minds up :-)

Referendum spontaneity on the A96 bridge in Nairn - The Gurn speaks to Iain - video

Tommy Hogg: "“Although Nairn South is done and dusted apparently, I still think that Station Brae is a disaster.”

The ongoing ordeal for pedestrians and motorists that is the Station Brae traffic situation exercised minds once again as Community Councillor Leslie Boulton told his River CC colleagues last night at the regular meeting in the URC hall that last Friday morning there were sixteen cars waiting to get under the railway bridge heading into town on the Cawdor Road, two at the first stop and another 14 queued all the way back up to the football ground at the other. 

Chair Tommy Hogg said: “Although Nairn South is done and dusted apparently, I still think that Station Brae is a disaster.”

Murd Dunbar said: “somebody is going to get really hurt there and there is no need for it.” 

There was further discussion of the road layout on Station Brae and then Liz MacDonald said:

“I remember before the measures were put in at Station Brae and they have been adapted slightly for the cyclist thing. The problem was not the traffic, it was pedestrians and trying to keep pedestrians safe going up and down the brae. Widening the pavement at the bottom has made it safer for pedestrians and that’s what I’ve had calls about, people with buggies and pushchairs using the pavement and how close cars are. And going under that bridge although those measures might not be to everyone’s liking and they slow down the traffic they keep the traffic away from the pavement where people are walking. ” 
Murd maintained the the island to separate cars from cyclists was forcing drivers onto the wrong side of the road. Murd said that it worked perfectly well beforehand and he wanted to see the chicanes taken away. 

Liz was worried that two cars might try to squeeze under the bridge at the same time an reiterated her concern for pedestrians.
Morning Traffic at Station Brae

Stephanie Whittaker disagreed with Murd, she said: “the other day there was a wheelchair coming down from the home the other side of St Olaf’s and a buggy coming up and I had no choice but to go on the road. It’s dangerous, I’m an adult I can see what is happening, if you’re a kid going down to Millbank without any pedestrian access there it would be extremely dangerous. So I disagree with you I don’t think that can be taken out until something better is put in place.”

The community council agreed to take the subject forward to the next combined community council meeting of the town’s three CCs and Liz said she would ask the Council road guys if there were any suggestions they could make that would improve the situation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Depute head teacher needed for Nairn Academy - £51,882 per annum

Meanwhile on the riverbank

The effect of the recent spates are clearly visible still on the banks of the River Nairn. They probably assisted the dead alder (pictured below and larger image here) in its fall into the river this week just below the railway bridge. Some alders on the river bank look to be in a poor condition, disease or simply old age perhaps but elsewhere, especially in the field below Firhall there is no shortage of younger trees coming up and growing several feet a year. The cycle of renewal continues with the tree that gave the town and the river its Gaelic name still very much in evidence.

This fallen tree has also taken a younger sycamore down with it. Genearlly fallen wood can be as useful to the riparian ecosystem as the living variety but it isn't much good when it lies across three quarters of the river. Nearby further erosion can be seen where the native flora has been squeezed out by Japenese Knotweed, a plant that does nothing to hold the riverbank together.

Elsewhere on the River Murd has received an assurance that the bridge over the river at Firhall is safe. Highland Council's Chief Engineer (Structures), Dave MacKenzie, told Murd recently in an e-mail:

"I notice that in addition to the main thrust of your campaign (the need for provision of access ramps), you make reference to safety, and to an observed “sag” in the bridge.

I have crossed the bridge on numerous occasions, on that great walk up the River Nairn from the Harbour to Firhall, and Howford; most recently in late July.

Be assured that the bridge is not unsafe to use, and members of the public are not in danger when crossing the bridge."

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Comedy Critical mass as the jokesmiths provide a sensational Saturday night special at the Nairn Book and Arts

This was the moment that comedy came to Nairn Book and Arts Festival. In the tried and tested versatile venue that is the Community Centre. There were a sizeable sprinkling of festival goers among the regular wildnighters this time round. Stephen Carlin discovered this with an ad hoc survey – a useful tool for
Stephen Carlin
any comedian and the night’s MC used this information immediately in his interaction with the audience. He got the night warmed up with explorations of sexual tensions and potential wife-swapping parties in a seemingly sleepy town, He moved on to find out that there were quite a few Aberdonians in the audience and some gave as good as they got  which added to the fun - the contract between comedian and punters, the mutual desire for a cracking night out, was well in play. Employment questions discovered a handsome funeral director and led onto the possibilities of women killing their husbands just for the chance of a moment or two alone with said individual. The Nairn folk, the Aberdonians and others from nearer and further afield (in fact worldwide) were by now in high spirits and beguiled with Stephen’s craic.

And so the intro of the mind reader, we were introduced to Doug Segal –a very funny man and a mind boggling performer. Just how do you get six people to stand up and randomly shout a lottery number and then after asking a member of
Doug Segal
the audience to verify that the sealed envelope in your pocket is indeed sealed and when opened contains the lottery numbers that were shouted out beforehand? More amazingly the numbers were on a ticket that Doug claimed to have bought in Nairn earlier that day. There followed other mind reading tricks interspersed with jokes that continued to lift the audience. It’s one thing being a mind reader but quite another getting a girl from the audience and turning her into a mind reader too. Not bad for £15 - you go home a mind-reader. So in tandem with being amazed you find yourself laughing at a mind reader’s jokes. This was a new experience for this observer and the night’s show was already in the realm of the sensational with the headline act still to come. Doug more or less admitted it was all trickery and joked that he had learnt how to deceive and convince etc, etc during his time in the advertising trade. What if he is a real mind-reader? Is that local business man really fiddling his taxes? 

After the interval Stephen became more philosophical, more cultural perhaps out of respect for the Book and Arters? He even moved into the realm of science telling us that there was less water in beer than in the human body in terms of percentages. He elaborated on this and other points and took us further and further into the territory of full on laughter. Comedy for the cultured masses or massed cultured comedy - whatever it was it had mass too, critical mass. 

Then onto the stage came the headliner, Paul Tonkinson, back for a second bite of the Nairn cherry and stealing the show again with his fast tempo of gags, it was to be a conveyor belt of laughter with the self confessed “professional northerner”. As well as a wee blether here and there with folk in the hall he followed up on a few leads already exploited by Stephen Carlin, notably in the direction of the funeral direction business. A lorry load of self-depreciation from
Paul Tonkinson
Stephen, notably when he mentioned his Yorkshire background. Full marks here for taking the piss out of himself, a masterclass, it was top notch stuff just like his intrusion in the referendum; Initially the audience didn’t seem to want to go there but he made a good job of it. Nairn’s very own YouTube hit Nigel (#Highlander) got a mention. It may have been just what was needed as the Independence Referendum dominates the headlines and the social media then the perfect antidote for an overdose is to go and have a few drinks and listen to a superb comedian take the piss out of it all with his outrageous perspective. And outrageous he continued but within the night’s boundaries perhaps, the really good comedians just sense the limits and take you there. These guys were all good, very good. It was the best Wildnight show in Nairn yet and I hope we see all these three back again at some time in the future. First class comedians and a first class night out.

Having a wild night in the Community Centre last Saturday