Today the draft proposals for Nairn Harbour were presented to the Nairnshire Committee in the Courthouse - the Gurn has obtained a copy of the detailed working brief and also a statement from the Chair of the Nairn Harbour Working Group Michael Green. The members of the working group are:
Michael Green - Chair
Tony Usher – HC Harbours Manager
Robbie Barron – Nairn Harbour Master
Ken Killham – Commodore Nairn Sailing Club
Dave Duthie – Nairn Sailing Club
Jamie Walker – Nairn Kayak Club
Brian Stewart – NICE
Matthew Hilton – NICE
Steven Bain – River CC
Eric Wardlaw – Tour operator and harbour user
Michael Green said:
“The draft proposals from the Nairn Harbour Working Group outline
potentially the most exciting development in Nairn for a generation.
Regeneration of the harbour and waterfront area is a strategic priority
for Nairn and the creation of a development strategy will be a key
action in promoting local economic activity and prosperity.
imaginative and technically competent proposals outline a vision to
develop the harbour into a facility able to attract and accommodate a
wide range of boats and yachts, plus develop the area into an
international centre of excellence for water-sports.
addition, the development of the harbour and seafront area will act as a
catalyst for town centre regeneration and in conjunction with our world
glass beaches and golf courses will once again establish Nairn as a
jewel in the national tourism crown.
component part of the plan will involve unique partnership arrangements,
Nairn is well provisioned with capacity and bodies, both private and
public, to move the various projects forward: a financially sound Common
Good Fund, NICE , Nairnshire Tourism BID , HIE, UK and European grant
sources, not to mention a dynamic Nairnshire Area Committee.
As Chair of the Nairn Harbour Working Group, I want to thank the
members of the working group for their time, expertise and commitment
.We look forward to extensive consultation with stakeholders and the
people of Nairn alike. Only with effective and robust consultation, will
the group deliver a strategy to create the most prosperous, dynamic and
exciting town in the Highlands to live and work.”
Cllr Michael Green – Chair Nairn Harbour Working Group.
Development of Nairn Harbour – briefing note, January 2017
The Highland Council’s 2016 report on Local Strategic Priorities for Nairnshire, as approved by the Nairnshire Committee in December 2016, identified regeneration of the harbour area through creation of a development strategy as a key action in promoting local economic development and prosperity. This document aims to inform and support the development of such a strategy by providing an up-to-date, overall assessment of the current state and the future viability of Nairn harbour.
The harbour and waterfront are key assets of the area and form the nucleus of Nairn’s ability to attract increasing levels of visitor numbers and associated inward investment which will in turn enable a more vibrant and sustainable community to evolve. This will benefit the area as a whole and in particular its residents and businesses. There is considerable potential to develop the harbour through appropriate actions and investment, to both ensure its sustainability and maximise its already considerable potential to support and enhance the town's overall economy.
Although the harbour and adjacent beaches represents the prime focus for most visitors to Nairn, the current state of the harbour and its associated facilities and environs, are restricting it realising its key role as a driver of prosperity.
The vision is to develop the harbour in a planned and coordinated manner through improvements within the harbour basin, enhancing the appeal of the current harbour-front buildings, and through construction of a sympathetically designed state-of- the-art, multifunctional harbour building. This could provide facilities such as a water-sports centre of international standard; an educational facility to enable the community to rediscover the fishing and maritime heritage of Nairn, a harbour masters office, a tour-boat booking and administrative office, shower/toilet facilities, an aquarium promoting local species found in the Firth, and a retail suite.
The above building developments are planned in conjunction with improvements to the harbour and its approaches/environs to ensure Nairn provides an attractive locus for visiting yachts, locally based fishing boats, tour boats, pleasure boating, international water-sports events as well as enhancing the local experience for visitors.
The proposals contained within this document are designed to complement, and potentially form an integral part of, an overall plan developed by the community to enhance the Nairn area for the benefit of all.
Figure 1: Schematic of Nairn Harbour.
Although there's been a harbour in Nairn since the early 19th century, the current, walled harbour was built in 1932 by enclosing the River Nairn and dredging out the harbour itself on the west bank of the river. The banks of the Nairn have been extended out into the Firth to form high “training” walls to constrict the flow of the river and encourage it to scour out a channel. The harbour currently has 3 pontoons (installed between 2006 and 2009), with finger and alongside wall/pontoon berths for about 77 vessels, mostly recreational, and with an average length of about 7m. Entry to the harbour from the sea is tidally restricted, and is partly facilitated by sector lights at the ends of the training walls, although the channel is not buoyed.
1 Challenges to sustainability of current harbour
1.1 Harbour silting
Nairn harbour, last dredged in 1989, is currently suffering from serious silting, and consequent lack of deep water access which adversely affects navigation and hence restricts income from visiting craft. Silting has been progressing at a rate of about 5-10 cm per year for the last 3 decades and there is currently between 1.5 and 2m of mostly river-borne, soft silt lying on the harbour floor.
As well as deterring visiting craft, the silting is increasingly a restriction to navigation for current berth-holders.
1.2 Wind-blown sand
The north end of the harbour basin has been filling with wind-blown sand and this occurs in strong westerly winds. The sand also blocks the car-park abutting the harbour to the north and has to be cleared by the Council.
1.3 River channel and harbour approaches
While the harbour has filled with fine, river-borne silt, the river channel to the harbour has been increasingly blocked by the overall bed-load of the River Nairn. The upstream erosion responsible for this has increased in recent years, partly due to removal of river gravel for building.
The approach to the harbour has a long history of westward, long-shore drift and this lateral movement of sand and stone reduces over time the depth of the access channel to the harbour. The consequent effects on navigability relate to both the window of access to the harbour around high tide and the draft of boats able to safely enter the harbour.
1.4 Shortage of berths
There is currently a waiting list of 32 boats requiring berths in the harbour. Most of the boats on the list are small recreational/fishing boats around 5-6m in length, but still represent potential for additional income.
1.5 Lack of facilities
The absence of deep water transit berths, power and water to pontoons, and disabled facilities (such as a bosun's-chair lift to enable disabled access to boats) make the harbour less attractive for visiting boats. The sailing club welcomes all harbour visitors, and provides toilets and showers to help offset this drawback.
2 Short/medium-term options for harbour improvements
2.1 Dredging (harbour, approach channel, river channel)
Highland Council have a budget and plans in place to suction dredge the harbour and excavate the river/approach channel in late 2017. Dredging going ahead is subject to a license for disposal of harbour dredgings to sea from Marine Scotland.
2.2 Installation of additional pontoons/fingers
The shortage of berths in the harbour could be overcome by installation of an additional, short pontoon (with finger berths on the south side and alongside berths on the north side) for small boats at the north end of the basin (see figure 1). This pontoon could be secured by anchoring/chain guys to minimise installation costs, and connections could be made between this and the existing pontoons by pontoon walkways which would provide additional visitor berths and income. The additional small boat pontoon could accommodate 20 such craft and both reduce the waiting list as well as free up longer finger berths more suitable for bigger boats. This would increase the revenue of the harbour by about £10,000 per annum.
Pontoons are thought to be available for use in Nairn harbour/marina and this should be investigated by the Council asap.
2.3 Establishment of buoyed/perched channel and improvement of sector lights
The advantages conferred by the dredging planned in 2017 (see 2.1) will be enhanced by establishment of markers to assist visiting vessels in navigating the dredged approach channel. This “marking” could comprise 2, large semi-permanent seaward channel buoys and smaller, inner channel markers using either anchored buoys or perches. Seaward identification of the marked channel would be facilitated by installation of brighter sector lights on the training walls. These features for improved harbour access should be included in future marketing vehicles for attracting harbour visitors such as “Welcome Anchorages”, “Visit my Harbour”, almanacs, pilots as well as more locally based web-sites etc.
2.4 Installation of power and water services to pontoons
Highland Council has plans in place for 2017 for providing metered power and water on the existing pontoons and this will assist in attracting more visiting vessels as well as help to retain local berth holders under pressure from increasing berthing charges.
2.5 Installation of “deeper draft” transit/visitor berths in the river channel
Excavation of the approach and river channel offers the opportunity for installation of two chain/ring wall berths on the W side of the river, using the sheet-piled section, for deeper draft vessels. These berths would be cheap to install and a trial of a single berth would indicate interest, particularly from larger, Scandinavian yachts on passage to and from the Caledonian Canal.
2.6 Installation of barrier to wind-blown sand
A low wall or fence (with possible amenity planting and viewing platform) north of the sailing club yard and parallel to the harbours west quay and car park will prevent the bulk of wind blown sand from being deposited in the harbour, and require much less frequent clearance of trapped sand compared to the current car park clearance work by the Council. This should be self funding.
2.7 Introduction of facilities for the disabled
Installation of a “bosun's chair” lift on the hammerhead of one of the existing pontoons is required to facilitate boat access for those with disabilities. Ramp access to harbour water-sports facilities will also be required. The sailing club plans to build a disability access ramp to the clubhouse in 2017, and has recently acquired 2 “Challenger” trimarans to offer sailability opportunities.
2.8 External funding opportunities
There are numerous funding sources for smaller scale harbour developments which are associated with improving access for disabled, tourism and job creation. The “Portsoy” and “three harbours” models should be further investigated.
2.9 Traffic calming measures
The harbour perimeter suffers from speeding traffic late into the night, particularly at weekends. Measures to control this such as speed ramps and/or cameras would make the harbour environs much more attractive to visitors and assist local berth holders/visitors. Installation of speed ramps was agreed by Highland Council early in the year, but has not occurred.
2.10 Engaging the wider community in harbour/coastal activities
A key part of future harbour development involves the process of engaging a wide cross section of the Nairn community in a shared vision. Projects/activities such as coastal rowing where a community-built skiff could be rowed by all ages should increase public awareness of the harbour, help attract community funding, and complement Nairn's existing water sports clubs (Sailing and Kayak clubs). High profile water sports events such as open water swimming and triathlon will also garner community support.
3 Longer-term options for harbour improvements
Longer-term goals for harbour development are a key part of a vision that can be shared for harbour development, and provide essential preparation should opportunities become available to compete for larger scale funding.
3.1 Engineered harbour solutions
The long-term sustainability of Nairn harbour will require engineered solutions , such as a new, deep water harbour connect by a pier (with well spaced piles/pillars). Such a structure would accommodate the perpetual long-shore drift that challenges the current harbour by allowing it to pass through.
Prior to the building of a new, deep water harbour, the sustainability of the existing harbour could be greatly improved by installation of a Venturi deflector to increase river flow velocity past the harbour entrance and minimise silt deposition.
3.2 A recreational and storm surge dissipation area upstream of the current harbour
Re-instigation of the “Maggot” with a sill gate/weir-controlled water level would offer flood protection to the Fishertown by providing an area to absorb storm surges in conditions of northerly storms coupled to high tides and river flow. It would also complement the harbour by providing a protected water sports area for dinghy sailing, kayaking, rowing, paddle-boarding and wind-surfing.
3.3 World-class water sport facilities
For Nairn to be at the forefront of national and international water sports, state-of-the-art facilities are required which can accommodate the current clubs and attract new water sports to Nairn. These should also enable hosting of major water sports events, with facilities for large numbers of participants and associated equipment. They should also incorporate facilities (harbour information centre, toilets, showers, laundrette etc) for crews of visiting craft and the wider public.
3.4 External funding opportunities
The funding required for the longer-term harbour development goals is very considerable and will necessitate co-ordination between different interest groups and other stakeholders. There are a number of possible target providers, but funding from sources such as Leader grants and the Coastal Communities Fund will not be accessible after Brexit.