Thursday, February 23, 2017

Scottish Opera – Opera Highlights Saturday February 25th 7.30pm Nairn Community and Arts Centre

Four dazzling young singers from Scottish Opera and their pianist bring a musical mix of opera highlights to Nairn on Saturday 25th February at 7.30pm. They will sing a wide range of excerpts: from Mozart, Handel and Puccini to Gilbert and Sullivan and Kurt Weil, with the emphasis on fun and something for everyone.
A jokey set for the tour sees the quartet stranded on a stationary train teasing one another with saucy and passionate arias, and the Herald has awarded 4 stars. Get your tickets soon!


Tickets £12 / 5 (under 26) will be available on the night, but also in advance at www.scottishopera.org.uk or at Nairn Community Centre - 01667 453476.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Meanwhile over on the Gurn twitter account

If there's not much being posted here it's worth having a look at the Gurn twitter account. Quite a lot happens in the Nairn twittersphere these days. You don't have to have an account to look at tweets either. 

Next up for Cinema Nairn 2016 Oscar and Bafta winner 'Spotlight' (15) Friday February 24th at 7.30 pm

Next up in Cinema Nairn’s new season is 2016 Oscar and Bafta winner ‘Spotlight’ (15), which will be screened on Friday February 24th at 7.30pm.

This is a gripping and hard hitting true account of how investigative journalists from the Boston Globe uncovered a very longstanding child abuse scandal and cover up by the Roman Catholic Church. The case stirred a hornet’s nest in church, legal and political circles, which Director Tom McCarthy uses to the full, making for compelling and tension filled viewing.

In addition to Best Picture and Best Writing Oscar, there were nominations for lead actors Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, with Michael Keaton also starring.

This case was seminal in unlocking investigations into abuse in the church in many countries, and those journalists brave enough to take on church, legal and political forces intent on stopping them richly deserve all the plaudits which have resulted from this outstanding film.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Proposals for the development of Nairn Harbour - "potentially the most exciting development in Nairn for a generation" Michael Green

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. 

The 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. 

In 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. 

Whilst each 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

Executive Summary

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.


Introduction
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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Big day in the Courthouse tomorrow - Nairnshire Committee - open to the public too!

To be revealed in the Courthouse tomorrow (Monday 20th February) are the plans for Nairn Harbour. The members of the Harbour Working Group who have been diligently going about this task 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
Matthew Hilton – NICE
Steven Bain – River CC
Eric Wardlaw – Tour operator and harbour user

Then there will be the discussion on the Common Good and the fisheries payment. Will the latest recommendation from the officials to put the matter out to expert opinion go through without a hitch? This observer has a feeling that might not go too smoothly. 

The knockback too proposed for the Nairn Swans and Wildfowl trust's proposal for a designated wild life area on the lower River Nairn - will that be another shoe-in recommendation or will there be dissenting voices? There might be a turnout on some of the public benches from swan and duck folk too.

Then there's the proposed ship to ship oil transfers. There was debate on Wednesday night at the NRCC meeing about what would happen if a new application from the Cromarty Firth Port Authority came in with the Councillors all out of action during the election? Would that mean another submission from officers? There is a school of thought that it is essential that Highland Council declare opposition to S2S oil transfers in the Moray Firth before they break up for election. Liz and Laurie were at the River Community Council meeting on Wednesday night and they indicated that they strongly wished to see a recommendation for such going from the Nairnshire Committee to last full Council meeting of this term of office. 

It's the nearest thing we have to local democracy folks - worth popping into the Courthouse tomorrow at around 10.30 am if you have some time to spare?

Nairn Ladies 3 Buckie Ladies 1

Swan mannie's response to a response - likely forthcoming knockback to designated wildlife area by Nairn Councillors

More here on Joe Telfer's blog.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Murd steps into forthcoming Highland Council election campaign with Bus Shelter plea to the public

The election isn't under way yet but already Murd has fired the starting pistol with a dramatic intervention urging people to only vote for candidates who support a sensibly sited bus shelter at Nairn hospital. 

Citizen Murd comes fresh from the successful campaign to get a bus shelter at Whinnieknow, now he is firing on all cylinders to get one at the hospital. He told the Gurn:

"I had A vision of where the bus shelter at the Hospital would be best sited for the use of all that would require one there.

Very shortly you will be asked for your backing for councilors to be reelected plus others who wish to stand.

If you agree with my vision then let them know and maybe just maybe they will also agree one should be there."

Murd's vision of a bus shelter at the hospital (click on picture to enlarge)
 Murd tells us that he has been in touch with Fergus Ewing MSP and says that  Fergus's reaction gives him further cause for optimism in seeing a successful end to part two of his bus shelter fight.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Equivalent of 1,500 lorry loads of harbour silt and mud to become “beach nourishment” ?

The Gurn has seen correspondence between the Angling Association and Marine Scotland concerning aspects of the dredging proposed for Nairn Harbour  by Highland Council. In an e-mail the anglers state that they:

“hope that the works are not going ahead within our fishing season which is 4th March until 7th October. The date that it was being done previously, was October 2016 but it never went ahead for some reason.”

They were also concerned that if a dam were put across the harbour mouth and the water pumped out into the river that this would affect water quality in the river. They are also worried that sediment would be dumped in the sea at the harbour mouth and think it better if it were removed by lorry to landfill.

Here's what Marine Scotland had to say to them:

“Just for clarity, Marine Scotland are the regulator who issue marine licences for dredging works, the applicant in this case is Highland Council Harbours.  The comments you have provided will help to inform our licensing decision.

The applicant has amended the method of dredging to cutter suction with the disposal of sediment on the beach for beach replenishment. No cofferdam will be used during the proposed dredging works. In light of this, could you please refer to the attached application form and provide any additional comments you have regarding this method by Wednesday the 22nd of February 2017.

The applicant has submitted a Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) in support of the marine licence application, which identified that in order to transport the dredging arising to landfill, 1500 lorry loads would be required.  As such, Marine Scotland is content that this is not the most practicable option for disposal of the sediment and instead agree with the conclusions of the BPEO which has identified beach nourishment as the best option. 

Many thanks in advance”

The Gurn has also seen the copy of the application signed by the  Highland Council's Marine Superintendent Dave Sneddon.  A project title field states: “Management of Nairn Harbour basin, within statutory harbour limits. Maintenance involving dredging and relocation of accumulated material.” 

The type of vessel to be used: “Small cutter suction dredger, the dredging’s are pumped from the dredger to the beach via a pipeline which can be up to 2km long.” 

The physical composition of the material to be moved is given as “Soft wet silt and mud” and the name of the  disposal site is given as “Beach Disposal 25metres west off the  West Breakwater at Nairn. Between MHWS and MLWS.” A series of co-ordinates are also given

57° 35’ 33” N 003° 51’ 40” W
57° 35’ 30” N 003° 51’ 50” W
57° 35’ 33” N 003° 51’ 52” W
57° 35’ 36” N 003° 51’ 40” W Area 18,669 m²

We put the top one into Google Maps and got this result here – looks like a lot of silt and mud is going to be placed close to the West Pier for time and tide to deal with.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A whole lot of legal stuff about the fishings on the River Nairn and a knock back for a Designated Wildlife Area?

A document going before the Nairnshire Area Committee on Monday has a recommendation concerning the fishings on the lower part of the River Nairn in the town - well what better way to put it than copy and paste the background paragraph:

" The fishings on the River Nairn between the harbour and Howford Bridge are
currently leased to Nairn Angling Club. The lease forms Appendix One to this Report. The most recent lease was agreed by Nairn District Council in 1995. The lease is for 99 years and the Angling Club have an option to extend the lease for a further 99 year period on 1st January 2094. There are no break provisions. The annual rental payable by the Angling Club is £50 + VAT. The rental income is paid in to the Common Good account. This rental is not subject to any form of review. The fishings attract an annual levy and this figure has been met from the Common Good account. The levy is currently £9100 per annum."

There is a school of thought in the town that it shouldn't be the Common Good that pays this but the Highland Council given the way the lease was detailed in 1995. There then follows a lot of legal and historical information that is a very interesting read but perhaps a wee bit beyond the average lay person (this slightly tired and emotional observer tonight anyway)?

Fast forward to para 4.7

"Given there is evidence pointing in both directions it is not possible currently to
form a definitive view on the status of the fishings and the implications that might follow. In the circumstances it is recommended that members agree to support further investigation and the instruction of an external legal Opinion. The Council has previously sought the assistance of Professor Robert Rennie to consider common good related issues in both Inverness and Wick."

So the internal folk that have been asked for an opinion are suggesting that the Nairnshire Committee look elsewhere for an opinion. 

Anyway on to the matter of an application to create a designated wildlife area on the River Nairn. Again from the document

  "A petition has been received by the Council in relation to the above and has been deemed competent for consideration by the Depute Chief Executive in line with the Council’s petitions procedure."

"The Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust initiated a petition in November 2016 with regard to the creation of a designated wildlife haven on the River Nairn asking that the Highland Council recognise the area between the A96 road bridge and the Bailey Bridge at the harbour as a wildlife haven."

The application is discussed in detail in the document and this observer tends to think that the Swan and Duck Trust folk might take issue with some of the material there. Anyway the conclusion is that the application should be knocked back:

"Having given consideration to the petition request, whilst recognising the matter raised and appreciating the interest shown, taking into account the broader issues outlined it is not felt that the petition can be upheld."

Gurnites can download a copy of the report and other documents going before the committee here or read a copy online here. 

Swans on the lower River Nairn

Citizen Murd's shelter success

The Gurn's fake news department was willing to set up an unofficial opening of the bus shelter at Whinnieknowe with Murd cutting the ribbon etc but the nearest thing we have in Nairn to a Citizen Caped Crusader was quite happy to let the moment pass without such a grand ceremony. 

Anyway it has been installed today and now Murd wants to see one put in in an appropriate place at the hospital. He told the Gurn:

"A nice new shelter put up today for the residents and others at Whinnieknow lets be hopeful the powers that be, will see the scene and allow one at the Hospital. " 

Well done citizen Murd!



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Screenings of I Daniel Blake raise over £700 for local foodbanks

The screenings of the film "I, Daniel Blake" in the Little Theatre on Friday evening and yesterday afternoon were sold out and from the suggested donation of £5 per ticket plus further donations for teas, coffees and biscuits (kindly donated by the Co-op) over £700 was raised which will be split between local foodbanks. 

It was a powerful, moving film and many who watched the screenings were visibly affected by the subject matter. If you get a chance to see this film please do - you will come away wanting to do something about issues concerning people in our community going hungry. As one of the organisers said at the end of the Saturday afternoon showing: "none of us have the answers but we have to try and do something about this."

This observer had the pleasure of meeting Clair Townsend, the driving force behind the Nairn Cares foodbank operation. The organisation came into being just before the Christmas period, she made her mind up to help local families who were struggling to have a good Christmas Dinner and made up six parcels. She got 72 requests for help! There's a lot of people struggling in our community and often it goes below the radar. 

Please think about what you can do to help and it isn't only about food - imagine having to send your bairns to school in shoes falling apart or having to choose between sanitary towels or food? Just two examples from the film of what many people have to endure on a daily basis as poverty grinds them down. 

If you know anyone that needs help feeding their family the Nairn Cares contact details are on the image on the right and their facebook page is here.    

The Blythswood shop on Leopold Street sold quite a lot of tickets for the two screenings and they accept a range of dried foods for the Highland Foodbank which has a branch in Nairn. Please do something if you can folks, let's ensure that nobody in our community goes hungry.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Scottish Greens "cut-busters" earn Highland Council £8 million reprieve?

John Finnie MSP is welcoming the party's historic deal to secure £160million of additional funds from the Scottish Government to protect local council services such as schools and social care.

For Highland Council this could mean £8.2million.

Following discussions with Green MSPs over the draft Scottish budget, Scottish Ministers have agreed to abandon their proposed tax giveaway for higher earners and provide a total of £160million for local councils to spend on local priorities.

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie said:

"Greens stand firmly with Highland communities and public sector workers affected by cuts and closures, and these new funds secured by Green MSPs mean we can start to repair the damage done by years of underfunding and lack of local flexibility.

“This deal means £8.2million additional funding for local services in Highland.

"This is the biggest budget concession in Holyrood's history. Other parties effectively ruled themselves out of constructive dialogue. Green MSPs have achieved more in a single budget than the Labour Party has in a decade of opposition.

"This is, however, only the start of a journey on restoring financial powers at local level."