Gurnshire residents will remember the stushie over the decision - for which no-one admitted responsibility - to remove the Big Slide and its hill from the Common Good land at the Links [here is a page of articles that examine that situation as it developed]. Those with longer memories might also remember the fuss over the Council's failure to correctly administer the Caravan Site lease and implement regular rent increases. This resulted in a loss to Nairn's Common Good Fund, and when the oversight became public the loss was reimbursed from Council funds. It is perhaps unnecessary to refer back to the even bigger controversy a decade ago over the possible sale of the Sandown lands to a developer.
It might be reasonable to think that, against that background, the Council would become a little more transparent in its administration of our Common Good, and perhaps more willing to consult the local community for whose benefit the Common Good exists. But one could be forgiven for thinking that old habits die hard.
One or two regular Gurn readers have picked up recent references to the fact that the Council is - apparently - currently conducting a study of how to develop the Common Good land at the Links and along the beachfront. Certainly plenty of ideas have been put forward locally over the years - the Charlie Chaplin Trail, an enlarged playpark, a new paddling pool or water feature, a sculpture park, and the ambitious scheme for a new "Dr Grigor Lido". But if the Council is looking into options for the future of the Links, some obvious questions arise. For example:
- who is carrying out this study? Highland Council officials, or outside consultants (and if the latter, how were they selected?)
- what are the terms of reference, and who decided them?
- who is paying for this work, and how much will it cost? Regular observers will recall that the Council decided to create a new post for an official to work on Common Good asset registers.... and to pay for this out of the CG's own funds;
- have local representatives - notably the two Nairn Community Councils - been informed and consulted about this study, and invited to put forward their views?
- are other relevant groups being consulted - such as the Highland Games Committee, the Cricket Club, and the Sailing Club (all of which use, and have direct responsibilities and interests in the Common Good land at the Links and around the harbour)?
- is any wider survey or consultation exercise being carried out in the community, and if so how and by whom?
- will the recommendations of this study be available for public discussion before any decisions are taken?
Nairn's Common Good is one of the town's most important assets. These assets need to be managed carefully for the long-term benefit of all. The land at the Links and around the harbour and rivermouth is a key amenity for both visitors and tourists, and the land at the Sandown fields is enormously valuable. Decisions about their possible future use and/or development should be subject to the widest possible debate and the most careful consideration. We feel that the future of our town's Common Good cannot be left to selected individuals, special-interest groups, or Council officials meeting behind closed doors."