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.