Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Analysing the Alness experience

Michael Green led a small delegation of Nairn Community Councillors and a rep from Keeping Nairnshire Colourful on a visit to Alness yesterday. After exploring the range of shops and businesses available on the High Street and surrounding area and inspecting the many environmental improvements made over the years the group met up with Alness councillor and retailer Carolyn Wilson. They heard first hand of the remarkable changes that have occurred in Ross-shire's biggest town over the past twenty years. 
The visitors chat with Carolyn Wilson (right)
It started with a small dedicated bunch of individuals who decided to do something about the vandalised, graffiti ridden landscape that, in those days, contained 12 empty shops - today there are no empty shops on Alness High Street! Many hours of hard work were to follow over the years as the volunteers just got on with the job, having to find cash and resources themselves. Britain in Bloom success was one of many positive outcomes for the community. Now Alness is a destination for shopping and even attracts Invernessians up the A9. 

According to Carolyn creating a clean, attractive and safe environment for shoppers is the key and once they enjoy the experience they will come back with friends and family. It was a miserable wet Monday afternoon when the visitors arrived but the High Street looked busy compared to what you might expect in Nairn - the fact finding mission was told that it was actually a quiet day by local standards. 
Alness High Street
The Alness improvements were not achieved overnight, people acted when they could and with whatever was to hand but momentum eventually was achieved and the situation was totally turned around by some remarkable people. The visitors headed back down the A9 with quite a lot to think about. 


Anonymous said...

I can see from the photo that Alness High Street is indeed very busy :-)

Isn't Nairn a little different though, we've not suffered the mass empty shops as yet. Granted the occupiers of our shops may not be to everyone's taste and I'm sure some folk would like to see more up market traders in situ

I'd be quite happy with a pound shop but perhaps that's not quite the business some people want to attract in the new master plan?

Over to NICE then

Brochan said...

It's always good to see folk taking an interest in what's happening in our neighbouring towns.

Lessons can be learnt from the work undertaken by those involved in the renaissance of Alness.

They have taken many years to get where they are now.

Does we have those years to ensure that Nairn town centre remains viable though ?

The alternative to taking lots of time to reach your goal of course is to invest significantly....so here's an idea.

However much of a supporter you are of Lidl's outline proposal for Balmakeith, given the evidence from practically every other town in the UK,there has to be an acknowledgment that there is the potential for the out of town shopping proposals to impact the town centre.

We don't seem to have too much issue in getting folks to come into the town. We just need some better, preferably wet weather, facility or attraction to hold them in the town for longer.

When Sainsbury’s were given permission to build at Balmakieth they contributed £250,000 towards a series of schemes to improve the town centre.

One of the schemes was the shop front improvement scheme , which has proven a farce, mainly due to the over complicated application process insisted on by the Highland Council. One of the other projects was improvements to the street lighting in the high street, and I’m not sure if that work was ever undertaken.

In addition to that £250,000 , Sainsbury’s traffic light & roundabout works must have cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds….and look how popular they have proved to be ..... not.

In view of all of that money having been spent to the net detriment of the people of the town, why don’t we ask the developers about to apply for permission to build Lidl et al at Balmakeith for a substantial contribution for a very specific project .

Something that will have a lasting and financially beneficial legacy for the town.

Of course the question would be - What sort of thing?

Well I would suggest a proper visitor centre in the town, which could incorporate tourist information, museum, some retail facilities ; a gateway centre for visitors exploring the Moray coast, the Whisky trail etc

A one million pound contribution would be a good start for such a project and would no doubt release more funding from other sources and , if everything was added up, that’s probably not much more than Sainsbury’s spent , and what lasting financial beneficial legacy have we see from that?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes and plenty street parking, unlike Nairn where the High Street has been wrecked, doing away with parking spaces, so the pavements can be widened for all the people that don't use the High Street!
It should be restored to the way it was in the 60s more traffic flow, means more people, means more shoppers, means more shops......

Anonymous said...

"Fact finding mission' god I haven't heard that term in years. Used to mean going on a jolly somewhere to get (wink wink) so called facts

Pleased to see that apart from a day out in sunny Alness the fact finders enjoyed a hot drink and some eats as part of the mission

I hear the High Street in St Tropez is doing exceptionally well this time of year (hint hint)

However, look forward to reading all the facts about Alness

Anonymous said...

@ Brochan

How about the developer puts some money into paying the outstanding debt for our Community and Arts centre?

We seem to have forgotten about this a little like George Osborne never mentions the £1.5T+ national debt


Never miss A chance to ask for A ramp to be installed
And to add to Brochan list how about A small contribution to wards the installation of a ramp so the disabled can cross the Firhall bridge the army will construct free given the go ahead by the H.C
The River walk is A asset to the town and all should be allowed to enjoy what it has to offer

Anonymous said...

I am happy to stick to the original agreement made with the Highland Council to fund the Community Centre with the proceeds of the sale of some, or all, of the Sandown lands, as & when that happens.

If a major contribution can be gained from Lidl I'm with Brochan & Murd....gateway centre & ramps for Firhall bridge.

Could we raise a few more bob by putting some of Sainbury's traffic lights up for sale on eBay ? :)

toll booth said...

Brochan and others are right. Developers who want to build in and around Nairn (whether it's a supermarket, a hotel, or a bunch of houses) ought to be asked to make a contribution to improving the town. In theory that is what the planners call "Section 75" contributions.

The local community needs to have a say in this, and to have access to the funds. The failure of the Council to ensure the developers delivered proper maintenance of the public areas of Lochloy remains a problem. The opportunity to point out that the Sainsbury's traffic lights were a nonsense and that the money could be better spent on other things was missed by those concerned. The obstacles Highland Council seems to have placed over access to the shopfront money is unacceptable. Nairn needs to learn the lessons from these experiences.

But we also have to be careful and realistic. A million quid? Nairn can't exact a toll, or a ransom, for building which is too high. If the town is too greedy, the Lidls and other developers will simply opt to go elsewhere. And Nairn will miss out..... again.

Anonymous said...

Did the intrepid factfinders consider the employment opportunities around Alness with those around Nairn.
The fact that there are actually decent job opportunities available near Alness might explain the difference in the two towns.