Earlier tonight the Westies (Nairn West Community Council) discussed the “Links/Leisure Park/Crazy Golf/Playground” area at their regular meeting in Nairn Academy. The only Highland Councillor present was Michael Green although Liz MacDonald had sent her apologies. The discussion did move onto the contentious subject of the removal of the Big Slide by the local authority, we will present the conversation more or less as it happened however because given the sensitivity now that surrounds anything that might happen in the future to that area there was plenty of other information that may be of interest to our regular readers.
Brian Stewart, chairing the meeting in the absence of Rosemary Young said that he was splitting the topic into two: “One is the specific discussion of the proposed donation to refurbish the crazy golf, we can almost wrap that up now, and I want to go on separately, if we can, to talk about other ideas, other priorities that have surfaced in the context of our discussions about the Links park, the equipment and whether or not or how and who should spend any money and on what.”
Brian told the meeting that Rosemary hadn’t had a positive reply from Highlife Highland who are directly responsible for the crazy golf but the letter had said that there were wider plans being discussed in Council for refurbishment or overall of the entire area. Brian then said that there then followed an exchange of e-mails after a meeting and that out of that came the suggestion that if Nairn West wanted to contribute money to facilities like the crazy golf then why didn’t they contribute some money to creating a path too and around the new machines that are in front of the swimming pool – so that disabled people could have access to these.
The Westies consulted the Access Panel and then decided not to contribute because all but one of the machines were unsuitable for people with disabilities. Brian Stewart said:
“The idea of paying money to enable disabled people to have access to machinery they can’t use seemed a bit perverse.”
Brian added: “This has led us into a wider debate which coincidently has overlapped with a lot of public discussion about how it is decided what should be provided and how it should be paid for across the whole of that recreational area. The new gymnastic machinery beside the swimming pool appeared without, as far as I am aware, without any public reporting, any public discussion or certainly any discussion with the community councils. Apparently it was a bargain deal which Highland Council officials managed to get hold of. Jolly good for them and I’m sure nobody complains about the fact that the equipment is there. But it kind of underlined the wider point which has subsequently come up over the public furore in connection with the children’s playpark and the slide and it’s really three things:
1) Why isn’t there consultation before decisions are made?
2) How and where could there or should there be input from the Community Councils, each and all and any of them into decisions that are made about facilities and amenities that are provided?
3) What is the strategy? What is the budget and what are the priorities? "
"Because at the moment, on the exercise equipment, on the idea of a path being built down to it, on the slide, on the roundabout and on other things that are provided or installed, the pattern has effectively been of rabbits out of hats, fait accompli. People woke up one morning to see machinery there or woke up one morning to see the digger hacking away at the slide. So I think there is a wider issue which we as community councils need to be looking at. [...] To look more widely at whether the arrangements are working and if they are not working to the satisfaction of ourselves and local residents and users then what can we do about it."
Michael Green then made some points in response:
“The policy that we’ve had year by year is that we spend money on the Links on play equipment. That is a priority, the Links, the harbour, the swimming pool area, is a priority and we spend money as we see fit. Yes we consult with our experts and they put forward various options and I have to say that the fitness equipment has been a fabulous success, there have been many other groups round to copy it and to look at replicating that. I have to say that is a success.
"The second point on my list as regards to Rosemary’s very kind offer about the crazy golf. Yes we very much appreciate her upgrading the crazy golf but I have to point out that that possibly may or may not be a stop gap approach in the sense that we have been looking at, and that is the four Nairn councillors with officials, with the various folk who know about playparks and other options that we can look at for the Links. We’ve been doing a feasibility study to see what sort of options there are. We will come back with some ideas and we will consult, we will learn from the mistakes that were made surrounding the slide and I would say mistakes with the way the consultation was carried out. It’s not perfect. Let’s face it, gee whiz, the uproar over that, I agree with the sentiments expressed from many people.
"We will learn from these lessons and we will carry out full consultation. We have got a vision for the Links, from the harbour right to the swimming pool. We have identified several sources of funding which could potentially be open to us. So we’ve got some ideas which will be a starting point for discussion.Then we will have widespread consultation and we’ll take that forward. One of the actual things that we are looking at is enhancing the putting green to go down the Himalayas route and we’ve got a lot of work done on that and that is Ritchie Ewing from Nairn West, the head green keeper there put forward some very detailed breakdowns. That will be fed back in. That may result in the crazy golf being seen as redundant but we will take widespread consultation[...]."
The debate on this matter continued for another two to three minutes before Brian Stewart, under pressure of time allowed in the Academy, moved things on to the next topic.