Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Scottish Greens Holyrood intervention takes pressure off Highland Council cuts?

Here's a press release from John Finnie we received this afternoon:

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has hailed a budget deal struck between his party and the Scottish Government will which see the Highland Council receive an additional £7.5M in the next financial year.

The deal, which is worth £27.2M across the Highlands and Islands, ensures that many proposed cuts to frontline services can now be scaled back and removed entirely.

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said:

“I am delighted that my Green MSP colleagues and I have been able to seal this monumental deal which will ensure Highland Council’s proposed cuts can now be significantly reduced.

“This deal demonstrates how electing Greens can make a real difference to communities. Badenoch and Strathspey Councillor Pippa Hadley and I have continuously pressed for these cuts to be scrapped and I’m thrilled that we have delivered a fair settlement today.

“The budget agreement will see those earning lower than average incomes pay less income tax, it will ensure the vast majority of public sector staff – including nurses and teachers – receive a pay rise linked to inflation and provide more investment in communities.

“While other parties continue to posture from the side-lines, Greens are making Highland and Scotland fairer. This agreement is the latest step in a journey on restoring financial powers at local level, on which we will need to see far more progress before next year's budget, as the annual fight against council cuts must not continue."

Drive through food outlet planned next to Sainsbury's and also "non-food"retail outlet?

Present at the meeting of the Nairn West and Suburban meeting on Monday night was Chair of River CC Tommy Hogg and during a discussion on planning matters he indicated to the meeting that NRCC had received information about an application for a drive through food outlet at 90 degrees to Sainsbury's and also a non-food retail outlet next to Sainsbury's. 

There was a brief discussion then with a view expressed from the public benches that "it would just kill the High Street". Another view was expressed by Com Cllr Andrew Randerson however that he felt that many people (under 30-ish) were going elsewhere to spend their money on such facilities anyway and (subject to survey) it might be possible that no overall cash would be lost to the High Street.

There is no application on the Highland Council e-planning yet so perhaps this is simply a pre-planning process where statutory consultees are asked for their views by the developers? No doubt more information will be in the public domain before long. Maybe NRCC might give us a little more information soon on their website? 

Lochloy junction - a missed opportunity for a roundabout?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn't it and available by the bucketload? But given the growth of the Lochloy estates and how long the authorities have known the extent of planned expansion in that area, would it have sensible of them to insist that
a large roundabout be installed at the Lochloy junction? The picture on the right is about 10 years old and shows the space that was available in the field for sometime. 

Fast forward to 2018 and the Highland Council e-planning site is packed with data and criticism and then more data and observations about the Lochloy junction. Debate about the Lochloy junction threatens to break the Internet. There's how the developer's traffic consultant's see it and the reality of how the residents see it, contributions too from the Highland Council's own traffic planning experts and they have objected to the Springfield application on the strength of their own observations and expertise.  Scroll down the Gurn a little for articles concerning two current planning controversies, the Lochloy junction is mentioned in dispatches in both of them.

A bridge across the railway into Lochloy would have been ideal but would a roundabout have been the next best thing? Should we have expected this to have been a priority from those who earn their living examining these things and predicting what will happen in the future?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Parking charges for Nairn coming down the tracks as part of Highland Council budget measures?

In today's Nairnshire Telegraph there is an article on page 10 outlining where Cllr Liz MacDonald sees the Highland Council administration making cuts and how it will affect Nairn. On parking charges the Nairnshire states:

"Cllr MadDonald also thinks charges are being contemplated for car-parking in Nairn. "It would be devastating for businesses in Nairn," she declared."

The cuts that the Highland Council are currently discussing are being kept secret until a week before the budget meeting on the 15th of February at Glenurquhart Road.  

Peaceful protesters occupy Liz's Land in direct action against proposed development

Breaking news from our Kingsteps correspondent:

A flock of local sheep have carried out a 48 hour occupation of Clr.Liz. McDonalds field in Kingsteps in protest of the proposed housing development by Springfield Properties.

When challenged by our correspondent their leader explained that they felt duty bound to protest as their predecessors had grazed on the field for years and they were determined that Bob the Builder should not be allowed to take it over.

They had formed a protest group and had flocked together to ram home their views that ewe cannot take away their land.

They brought with them a number of placards saying “For Flocks sake No more houses”.

The protest was peaceful and they retreated along Lochloy Road in search of pastures new, but not before giving the local resident’s lawns a trim.

None of the local farmers were able to identify the sheep and Clr. Macdonald insisted on social media that they were not hers and her flock were all safely accounted for

Apparently the local Badgers had carried out a similar protest but it was done under the cover of darkness.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Morganti Land application - Community Council "object strongly to any development in this location"

An 11 page document outlining Nairn River Community Council's opposition to the proposed development on the Morganti land states:

"We write in connection with the above planning application. We have examined the plans and we know the site well. We wish to object strongly to any development in this location. 

As the site subject to this proposal is not included in the emerging site allocations development plan document, on which the public have been consulted, it goes against the development plan for Nairn. There are currently eight areas of consideration on the Local Plan and this area is not included. The proposed development for thirty-two dwellings is a huge overdevelopment of what this site could safely carry, leaving aside any other issues. Pressure to develop housing in Nairn is considerable but this development would make the current traffic and sewerage flooding problems much more severe. These infrastructure problems are not solvable without huge investment in both the roads and the sewers."

Regular readers who are among the many serious students of Nairn planning matters may wish to pour a late night dram or make another cuppa and have a look at the 11 pageCommunity Council document. 

A copy of it is online here and contains several images to illustrate the arguments made by the watchdogs. 

Another day and another objection to the Springfield planing application for 115 houses on Liz's land

The Nairn Residents Concern group's objection to the Springfield planning application is now on the Highland Council e-planning site. It opens


 The NRCG objects to this application. Details are set out below. In essence the objections, a total of 18 specific points, fall under three broad headings: 

- non-compliance with agreed planning policies and local plans; 
- infrastructural issues, notably in relation to transport/access and drainage/sewage/flood risk; 
- failure to deliver appropriately on current objectives (e.g. housing), and absence of 'future-proofing'. 

These objections are based on local discussion and research. Selected key references are included. Extensive supporting material and additional sources can be cited if required. 

The conclusion is that this application should not be granted – or at least not without substantial modification, and not unless and until the necessary infrastructure is demonstrably in place and of the capacity required to meet the needs and priorities of the local community."

There then follows 7 pages in which the 18 points are both specified and examined in detail. A conclusion to the document reads:

"Conclusion: the application falls short – in terms of compliance with agreed planning policies, capacity or provision of necessary infrastructure, and delivery of outcomes – of what the local plans require and the local community expects to meet its need and priorities. The development should not be permitted unless and until all local concerns and objections are fully addressed."

It is quite a document readers and the many serious students of planning matters in our wee toon will no doubt be pouring themselves a dram or making a cuppa and then sitting down to digest this objection from the NRCG.

You can see the document here or on the Highland Council e-planning pages here under the documents tab. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Community Responses to 2 Nairn Planning Applications - NRCC publish article on their website

Nairn River Community Council state on their website in relation to planning applications at Lochloy and at the Forres Road site:

"Our main concerns are that local roads, water and sewerage systems in the town are at bursting point.Quite literally recently, as could be seen and smelt on Harbour Street when drains overflowed with sewage from our outdated 'combined' drainage system after heavy rain on 24th January...

We believe that no more large scale housing can safely be developed in the town, without endangering the health of residents, and our tourist industry, until :
traffic congestion and drainage infrastructure problems are properly addressed and invested in
our natural assets of beaches, green spaces and wildlife are properly valued and protected
local social housing need takes priority over the profit making ambitions of commercial developers."

Those many serious students of all aspects of planning matters in Nairn may also wish to read a document that NRCC member Hamish Bain has submitted as an individual in relation to the application for the Morganti land. You can see Hamish's submission here and it contains images of sewage infrastructure situations - perhaps not for the squeamish?    

The Gurn understands that there is still a little time to make submissions to either of these planning applications if you feel so inclined and the best way to do that is to register on the Highland Council e-planning site, this page here tells you how that works and there are links on the River CC site to both applications. 

Highland League (Morganti) cup - Wick 0 Nairn 4 pictures Donald Matheson

It was well into the New Year before County got a game but the enforced lay off didn't dampen the team's spirit and ability. A delighted Chairman, Donald Matheson, told the Gurn: " A great performance considering we haven't played in weeks.

"NAIRN County are through to the first round proper of the Highland League (Morganti) after a commanding performance led to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Wick Academy in the swirling wind and rain at Harmsworth Park. The visitors will now host Lossiemouth in the next round on February 10th."  Read a full report on the County website here. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

King Street empty buildings "Nairn needs houses - get them back into use!" says Murd

Murd told the Gurn:

"Your site has quite a lot housing that should or should not be built or not for all sorts of reasons? As the debate rages on the rights and wrongs of various sites there is somewhere where action could be taken immediately to get people off the waiting list. 

The King Street houses were built as houses have all the services required and could even provide private care parking. If you do publish this it will be interesting to hear what your readers think."

"You already know what my saying is: "Nairn needs houses - Get them back into use!"

Murd's call has ignited a remarkable debate on Nairn Our Town and the Nairn when you were a bairn facebook pages. There is no doubt that citizens would like to see some kind of movement on restoring these buildings to public use immediately, some folk are quite angry at what they see as neglect. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Springfield plans for 115 house on Liz's land - Community Council objection too big for the portal! Infrastructure first policy contravened claim NRCC

Members of Nairn River Community Council discovered recently that submissions via the Highland Council e-Planning Portal can only support postings of comments of 5000 characters. NRCC had to make special arrangements to forward their sizeable document to the relevant planning officer to ensure it was registered as an objection (more details about that on the Highland Council e-planning pages).

Yes it is quite a lengthy objection and the document begins:

"Roads, Sewers and Water Supply : cannot cope with demand from further housing 

Permitting further development at present in Nairn contravenes the ‘Infrastructure First’ approach of new Scottish Government Planning Policy. At present Nairn roads, sewers and water supply infrastructures are already beyond capacity and require urgent investment. New pipework at Kingsteps would feed into an old sewer network which is already not coping. After heavy rain sewage overflows into streets and waterways in central Nairn and Fishertown, water pressure problems are already apparent at Lochloy and traffic jams on the A96 are getting worse"

After expanding on the above paragraph the watchdogs go on to say:

"In assessing this application the Council should take account of the numerous public submissions already published about housing plans for this NA2 site ​on the 2015 Scottish Government DPEA Examination Report on the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan​ including recommendations that no housing should be built on the Kingsteps NA2 site until a link road is built across the A96 from Balmakeith to this site."

There's more readers, five pages worth of arguments against this proposed development. If you are one of the many serious students of local planning matters then it's time once more to make a cuppa or pour a dram and head over to read this document on the Highland Council's e-planning pages. It's currently at the top of the page under the documents tab here. 

Springfield plans for 115 house on Liz's land - Bairns would have to be bussed to Auldearn Primary?

In a document submitted to the Highland Council Planning Department, the Council's own Transport Planning Team objected to the proposed Springfield development at Lochloy. It is a fairly long document and regular observers of local planning matters may find it very interesting. Please see yesterday's article for more information and links etc.

An interesting paragraph appears re school catchment areas. In that document the Transport Planning Team state:

"It is understood that the current primary school catchment for this site will be Auldearn Primary, which would require the provision of transport to and from the school given the location of the site in relation to the school. Subject to this remaining the case, it is recommended that any permission granted is required to agree a suitable level of financial contribution towards the provision of such school transport services supporting this site. The amount and timing of such contributions should be agreed with the Public Transport Team to ensure that the funds can be used in time to provide the necessary services from when units start to become occupied."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Springfield plans for 115 house on Liz's land - Highland Council's Transport Planning Team object to the application

In a document that has appeared on the Highland Council's e-planning file for the Springfield application the Highland Council's Transport Planning Team state:
"Given the comments set out below, we must Object to this Application in its current form for the reasons set out below. If the Planning Authority was minded to grant Planning Permission, we recommend that the proposed Conditions set out below are included in any permission issued."

There then follows 12 pages in which the Transport Planning team set out their reason for their opposition and outline points they wish to be reassessed. "Clarity should be sought" is a phrase that jumps out of the page at several points, "more clarity" appears too and also "clarity is needed". 

Again so much connected with this application comes back once again to the Lochloy junction on the A96. The document states:

"Of the 3 junctions analysed in the TA, the Lochloy Road / A96 / View Road junction appears to be most critical in terms of its modelled capability to accommodate the anticipated trips from this development. "

The Transport Planning team then go on to raise four specific issues and then state: "Given all of the points raised above and the apparent sensitivity of the Lochloy Road / A96 / View Road junction to safely accommodate the predicted trips from this development, we object to this Application until the above points have been satisfactorily resolved." 

The many serious students of Nairn planning matters may wish to have a good look at this lengthy document, there's plenty there so make yourself a cuppa or pour a dram and give it a go. It's here under the documents tab on the Highland Council e-planning pages. 

Nairn Rotary Burns Lunch - video

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Harbour Street sewage problem as the brown stuff flows down the brae

Thanks to Joe Telfer for the picture below which shows the situation today at the top of Harbour Street. There has been a lot of talk recently about Nairn's sewage system and the need for investment, perhaps this is part of that problem or maybe there is some other reason. 

Click to enlarge image
Joe told the Gurn: 

"Place is stinking and cars are splashing and spreading along the pathway as well. I have emailed Scottish water. This drain has been doing this for years and I have complained about this before, it runs down to Brochers brae then into the roadside drain then into the river."

When Joe rang Scottish Water he said they told him that it had already been reported and was being investigated.

At around 13.40 a large amount of sewage was still on the road and being spread along Harbour Street by vehicles. 

Springfield application for 115 houses on Liz's land - traffic data arguments continue

Regular readers will recall that we recently published links to material submitted by residents and Nairn River Community Council that was highly critical of traffic assessment data submitted by the developer's consultants for the proposed development of 115 houses just beyond the present housing estates on Lochloy Road. Two Gurn articles here and here will get you up to speed on the previous criticisms. 

The developer's consultants came back with a detailed rebuttal of the criticisms. The document from the consultants contained important specified TRICS data. The Gurn understands that the Kingsteps residents feel that this detail is an essential requirement of any such transport submission and had been asking to see it before the new year, it appeared nearly a month late according to one of the objectors who spoke to the Gurn. 

Now the residents have responded to the latest document from the traffic consultants. The Gurn has seen a copy of this response which should soon appear on the Council's website. In their latest response they say:

"Firstly before starting on any technical issues we have to state that all local people and travellers on the A96 through Nairn know that the Lochloy junction is hopelessly overloaded. No amount of transport consultant time playing with computers can alter the fact that the junction does not function at busy times and this has been confirmed by the huge queues observed by the cameras counting the traffic on 4th April, which is quite a low time of year for traffic."

The residents' document goes on to again make many point by point criticisms of the data presented in support of the application. One that this observer found interesting was:

"Capacity of the Lochloy junction is hopelessly overestimated in analyses because the exit blocking of stacked traffic queues and the 3 right turns immediately west of the junction have not been factored in. There is constant queuing as people wait a gap to turn R into the shops and down to the very large holiday park, 80 flats and the beach. Standard saturations cannot be used in calculations for poor road conditions such as these."

Obviously quite a lot of material for our councillors (that can vote on this application) to consider. The many serious students of planning matters in Nairn may wish to read this document when it appears and also the previous documents of both the consultants and the objectors.  You can read all the information here on the Highland Council e-planning file for the application here (most of the material will be under the documents tab on that page but some submissions appear under the comments tab as well.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Highland Council spent £5.6 million on consultants last year

An interesting article today folks in the Inverness Courier (not online yet). It comes in the light of the Council's proposed education cuts.  The article begins:

"Council chiefs have continued to spend £15,000 a day on consultants' fees despite the need for saving millions of pounds in their annual budget."

The article contains comment from a Council spokesperson, a union rep and John Finnie MSP. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

SEPA and the oil rigs - local comment

This observer was having a wee blether today with John Hart and he made reference to recent press coverage of a SEPA intervention in the Cromarty Firth. Here's the BBC coverage "Sepa halts movement of rigs from Cromarty Firth"

He later sent us a copy of a letter he has sent to the Times:


It is interesting how proactive the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) can be when it wants to (Oil rigs prevented from leaving firth over fears for environment). No doubt a press release was issued to advertise SEPA’s so called “environmental protection” credentials, which are easy to espouse when the environment they are purporting to protect is in fact no where near the Cromarty Firth and more importantly the Moray Firth that adjoins it.

And yet, perversely, SEPA remains entirely mute on two important local environmental dangers. 

Firstly, the pollution of Nairn’s beaches (a town on the A96 not the A95 - the map is incorrect; opposite the Cromarty Firth) caused by an ineffective sewerage plant, badly served by inadequate pipelines to it, due to a lack of infrastructure investment.

Secondly, the Cromarty Port Authorities avowed intent to submit a planning application to allow ‘ship-to-ship oil transfers’ in the Moray Firth at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth.

We are constantly fed the line that Scottish agencies do not have jurisdiction on matters relating to ship-to-ship oil transfers, because they are not devolved and can only be ruled by London. Yet the converse appears to be the case when the agency is ruling on environmental issues totally out of its own jurisdiction."

Highland Council Budget plans to be discussed at additional Parent Council meeting Tuesday 23 January at 7.15pm in Nairn Academy

"An additional Parent Council meeting has been arranged for Tuesday 23 January at 7.15pm in the Academy. The HT will update the Parent Council on the proposed budget plans. This will be the only agenda item. As part of the Parent Forum, parents are welcome to attend Parent Council meetings."

Rebuilding Nairn Academy - time for voices from Nairn to be heard? Tom Heggie's comments at CC meeting

Highland Councillor Tom Heggie urged Nairnshire residents to fill in the Nairn Academy survey and get engaged in the process of getting Nairn Academy rebuilt. Here's what he said:
"There is a survey out from Nairn Academy. If anybody in Nairnshire is interested in the future of any child's education from age 3 upwards get engaged, because there's all kinds of issues and there needs to be...Alness Academy is being rebuilt courtesy of local engagement over the last ten years. Nairn Academy needs that engagement from Nairn because every child aged 3 onwards is going to end up in Nairn Academy in the next ten years and we need to make our views known from Nairnshire. 

Asked if this was regarding rebuilding the Academy Tom replied: “Yeah and you will only get a new building at the moment if […] one of the things that we should have is strategy (what's your strategy for developing something?). Unfortunately Alness got their particular building not because of strategy but because they started louder. Now I'm not advocating shouting louder I'm asked for professional assessment but I think we also need voices from Nairn. So if you have access to the Nairn Academy website and their survey get on it and get on with it. It doesn't matter whether you've got a child in education or not – it's necessary.

Tom went on to say that the education outcomes at Nairn Academy are on average above the Highland Council average despite the building."

Not only in Nairn are the state of educational facilities being criticised. There are others in the queue too. Nairn will have to work very hard to ensure the success of any campaign to have the Academy rebuilt. Here for example is Kate Forbes MSP commenting on social media about mould and rot at Broadford Primary. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Highland wide campaign gets underway against proposed Highland Council Additional Support Needs Educaiton cuts

Last week we published a letter to MSPs from a local mother concerned about these proposed cuts. You can read that letter here. 

A campaign page is now available on Facebook "Highland ASN Education Cuts Action Group" and there is a twitter account too @AgainstASNCuts .

The action group describe themselves thus:

"Highland ASN Education Cuts Action Group are calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to halt Highland Council proposed budget cuts to Educational Support Services without an Equality Impact Assessment and full consultation with the public, specifically including all official additional needs charities. 

Highland Council have suggested that as part of their proposed budget cuts there will be cuts to Autism Support, Additional Support Needs Staff, Pupil Support Assistants, Educational Psychology and Behavioural Support. These cuts will have a devastating impact on children and families in the Highlands. These schools are already struggling with tight budgets and overstretched staff. We have to ensure NO child loses out as a result of council budget cuts - taking money away from any of our schools is wrong. Children are already struggling to get the support they need in school and some of those who need one to one support are not getting it as support staff numbers are cut. Inclusion is a Government policy, yet they are not funding it. This is not inclusion, this is discrimination! The Scottish Government has said education is its priority and it wants to close the attainment gap. Why then does the Scottish Government not increase funding to schools and ring fence that money? They pass responsibility on to the councils. It is not good enough. Children’s life chances are being adversely affected by the cuts in education. It is not sustainable to place children with additional support needs in mainstream schools and then cut their support. Children’s education should be a priority. The Scottish Government has a policy called Getting It Right For Every Child. But they are not implementing that policy. We have to stop these harmful cuts from happening."

Please have a look at what they have to say readers, their page is here.  

A demonstration is planned for outside Glengurquhart Road, the Headquarters of the Highland Council, on the 15th of February, the day of the budget cuts meeting. Further details of the demonstration on this social media event page here. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Could play facilities in Nairn get the chop in Highland Council cuts?

Today Emma Cricthton reports in the Inverness Courier:

"CHILDREN could be locked out of almost 200 parks if Highland Council’s latest budget cuts go ahead. 

The local authority has suggested closing two thirds of play facilities in the region, leaving fewer than 100 in an area the size of Belgium. 

Senior councillors have said they can no longer afford to maintain old equipment and that some parks are unsafe so will need to be closed unless communities can take responsibility for them."

If these cuts get approval at the Highland Council budget meeting next month then Nairn would take its pro-rata share presumably and some bairns in town would be without their local play equipment. 

Until recently it was hoped to expand play areas in the town, there is an organisation dedicated to raise funding for that and their Facebook page is here.  It could be very sad indeed if we were to go backwards instead of forwards when it comes to play facilities for children. Surely our local councillors will vote against the measure. 

More details in today's edition of the Inverness Courier. 

Update: Murd Dunbar has posted a picture of the swings at Mill Road bereft of any seats or chains holding them. Away for repairs? Will there be any cash for that though?

"Worryingly, 60 per cent of people surveyed felt they had no influence on planning decisions affecting their local area."

There's no shortage of folk in Nairn willing to testify that they feel we do not have a planning system fit for purpose and that the wishes of communities come far down the list of priorities when it comes to planning decisions. This observer has been reading an article by Diarmid Hearns, the Head of Policy with The National Trust for Scotland that has been published on the Scotsman website. 

Among his comments on a recent survey by his organisation he says:

"Our survey covered a representative sample of more than a 1,000 Scottish citizens, allowing us to compare perceptions of the planning system by age and gender, by income, and by region. We found there was a consistent pattern of people feeling disconnected from the decisions that affected them. Worryingly, 60 per cent of people surveyed felt they had no influence on planning decisions affecting their local area." 

We suspect the many serious of planning matters in Nairn may well be inclined to agree with that and may wish to read the full article in the Scotsman here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Local mother speaks out against proposed Highland Council education cuts

Luan has sent the Gurn a copy of a letter she has sent to MSPs. Luan is deeply concerned about proposed cuts to Eduction in the Highland Council area that have been reported in the local media. 

She told us: "This is my email to MSPs 

Dear MSPs, 

I am writing to you to ask what you will do for our children’s education in Highland? There is no time to waste and this needs cross party action. Every parent in the Highlands will be worried about the news of massive cuts to education & will be looking to you to stand up for our children. 

“The Administration is finalising the proposals for the budget meeting on February 15. These do not yet close the estimated budget gap of £25.8m, but there are a number that will impact on schools, including:

“Reduction, in Additional Support for Learning in schools. This will involve significant reductions in the number of PSAs (Pupil Support Assistants) and ASN (Assistant Special Needs) teachers.

“Reduction in special additional support services. This is likely to impact in educational psychology, behaviour support, English as an additional language, interrupted learning, autism, assistive technology, and pre-school support services.

“Reduced teacher staffing in medium sized and larger secondary schools, involving around 40 posts.”

These cuts must be stopped. There are other areas to save money and these must be investigated, any cuts to education are bad but the impact of the cuts proposed by Highland Council will be hugely detrimental to our educators and to children and their future. 

Whether your child has additional needs or not this will be detrimental to their education. This will have a huge impact on the learning of all children in Highland, and especially for the outcomes for the most disadvantaged children, who need the most support - society benefits from early intervention, better life chances benefits all in terms of reducing crime & dependency, improving mental health & helping all children achieve their potential, as well as improving employment opportunities. What you put in you get back. 

Teacher stress will increase because they don’t get the support they need, they’ll spend less time teaching and more time managing behaviour, there will be more exclusion of disruptive children - which will significantly impact their chances in life. Stress causes ill health and absences. Even the most able, well adjusted and academically achieving children will suffer, as their teachers will be too busy trying to deal with disruptive behaviour instead of ensuring all children reach their potential. Our children are an investment for the future, early intervention has a huge influence in their development, education and life chances. Everyone who cares should be fighting these cuts every step of the way.

I speak as a parent of a ‘neuro-typical’ child & of an autistic child - I know for a fact that the level of support my autistic child has received, especially in terms of early intervention has helped him access mainstream school & allowed teachers to concentrate on teaching. 

I await your response and strongly believe there will be protests across the Highlands at the threat of these cuts. I don’t want to hear blame, I want to hear what you will all do for all of our children now. 

Kind regards,"

Luan is calling for a good turnout at the meeting of the Nairn Academy Parent Council on Tuesday night.

Press release from the Scottish Parliament confirming John Finnie’s election as Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Police Committee

Many Gurnites will know former policeman John Finnie MSP. If anyone has any thoughts or issues on policing he is obviously now the man to contact. 

"Following a change in membership to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, John Finnie MSP has now been elected Convener, replacing Mary Fee MSP.

Convenership of a Sub-Committee is for its members to decide.

Speaking after his election, Sub-Committee Convener John Finnie MSP, said:

"This is a challenging time for policing in Scotland.

"As we approach the fifth anniversary of Police Scotland's creation, we are still learning lessons and uncovering issues. As I take over the Convenership, I am sure the Sub-Committee on Policing will continue to be a critical friend to the sector.

"I would also like to thank Mary Fee MSP, who served as my predecessor. She led a robust and consensual Sub-Committee - as I am sure we will continue to be. "

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"But it has now come to light that the council has already emptied its £4.98 million fund for winter maintenance and road clearing..."

The Inverness Courier reports:

"ROADS and pavements will continue to be gritted despite Highland Council overspending its winter budget by £500,000, a leading councillor has pledged.

Highlanders have been plagued by ice and snow in recent weeks and gritters have battled to keep up.

The local authority has come under fire for not doing enough following countless slips and falls and one elderly man in Inverness died after falling on ice before Christmas."

More on the Inverness Courier website here and there are a series of comments on that article too.

Nairn High Street gritted by Highland Council this morning but worrying that the money has run out for winter maintenance and road clearing

Beagan sneachd sa mhadainn seo - A little snow this morning - set of Gurn pictures on Flickr

Individual images here.

New future for the Caley soon as local caterer announces intention to open as a restaurant and cocktail/gin bar

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Staying Connected in Later Life - team of trained volunteers ready to help folk over 60 with Arthritis or other long term health condidtons

Marion of Staying Connected in Later Life tells the Gurn:

"We are looking for people over 60, who live with arthritis or other long-term health conditions, who feel isolated or lonely and would like the opportunity to learn how to self-manage. We have a team of trained volunteers who understand what it is like to live with a long-term condition and chronic pain. They are ready to provide people with personalised support to help them take control over their condition. Participants receive a personalised action plan, based on their own circumstances, and what they would like to achieve. Then volunteers visit them at home every week for up to eight weeks, to help follow the action plan, and identify a community activity they would like to attend."

Maron sent us a poster which is a bit difficult for us to display given the size limitations of the page so we've reproduced the text from the poster below. You can see the poster here however. 

June is one of a team of Volunteer Connectors delivering a new type of support to older people with arthritis/other long-term conditions in Nairn and the surrounding area. June lives with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and, therefore, understands the difficulties involved in living with chronic pain and physical limitations. 

The Staying Connected in Later Life service aims to help people take more control over their lives by participating in a short-term 1-1 mentoring programme. They are matched with a Volunteer Connector who visits them at home to help them:

  • Learn self-management techniques to better manage their condition(s) 
  • Make positive choices to achieve their own personal goals 
  • Identify and engage with community activities to keep them connected

June was recently matched with Jack, who had been discharged from hospital after a prolonged stay with severe and multiple medical problems. When he returned home, he was using a wheelchair to get around indoors and a scooter for outdoors. Jack was determined to get back on his feet as soon as possible and he was already managing well under the circumstances. But he was feeling quite low about his limitations: the inability to get out in his car, his motorhome, etc. meant he had to find new hobbies. He rarely had visitors and he didn’t like to ask for help either.

We used the Older Persons Outcomes Star to identify what Jack wanted to achieve and what stage he was at currently. We looked at what mattered most to Jack, and where he might need some support. From this, we were able to break down Jack’s personal goals into manageable steps and develop an Action Plan that June would support him to follow, making use of self-management techniques to help him take control over his condition.

June visited Jack every Tuesday for eight weeks and they followed the plan together, which enabled Jack to set himself goals in between visits. Each time Jack achieved his weekly goals, he grew in confidence and felt better equipped to make even more progress. As his self-esteem grew, Jack was also doing exercises he had been given by the physiotherapy team, to strengthen his muscles, and using a walker provided by the OT to get about the house. But to get back behind the wheel of his car, he needed a lighter wheelchair. “That’s okay”, says Jack, “I know where I can buy a lightweight wheelchair!”.

There was no stopping him, he was highly motivated and thus able to benefit from June’s gentle guidance and support to make steady progress towards his goals. During their eight weeks together, they discussed action-planning, problem solving, assertive communication, pacing, prioritising, and they identified a group that Jack could join when he was able. And, once he got his lighter wheelchair he could drive himself right to the door and even offer other people a lift

It wasn’t always plain sailing, there were some setbacks, which Jack used the problem-solving technique to resolve. And there were low points when Jack was very anxious about a close family member who was very ill. June provided a valuable listening ear, and reassurance for Jack when he reached a low ebb. With such high expectations of himself, he was prone to getting frustrated at what he perceived as slow progress, but June kept him focused on what was achievable, reminding him how far he had already come in a relatively short period of time.

Jack has made excellent progress so far, but more importantly he has picked up some new skills, which he took to very quickly, and will stand him in very good stead in the future. Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks was clearly wrong!

(Jack’s name was changed to protect his identity.)

 Staying Connected in Later Life is an Arthritis Care service, which is part of Arthritis Research UK since our recent merger. If you or someone you know is:
  • Isolated or lonely 
  • Living with arthritis or other long-term conditions 
  • Over 60 years of age 
  • Interested in volunteering

Monday, January 15, 2018

Springfield application for 115 houses on Liz's land - "RSPB Scotland has two major concerns regarding this development"

A document from the RSPB displayed on the Highland Council e-planning file for the application for 115 houses out at Lochloy Road reads:

"We note the proximity of the development site to the Moray and Nairn Coast Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar wetland; this site comprises of intertidal flats, saltmarsh, sand dunes and woodland. It is of outstanding scientific importance for coastal and riverine habitats and supports a range of wetland birds throughout the year. This includes internationally important populations of Icelandic pink-footed goose and greylag goose and other water birds particularly sea ducks and waders. This area also forms part of the Culbin Sands, Culbin Forest and Findhorn Bay Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and supports a great variety of coastal and woodland habitats which in turn support many national and internationally rare or scarce animals and plants. This makes the whole area of considerable national and international importance. 

RSPB Scotland has two major concerns regarding this development. Firstly, that the area will be subject to an increase in the number of recreational visits by residents from the development potentially resulting in additional damage to the protected habitats that form the SSSI, SPA & Ramsar, which are already in unfavourable conservation status. Secondly that the development has potential to cause an adverse impact through recreational disturbance to feeding and roosting areas for wildfowl, waders and terns, designated features of the SPA and SSSI.

It is therefore necessary that Highland Council as the competent authority ensure that the conservation objectives of the designated sites are adequately considered within the required Appropriate Assessment process. Only if this assessment concludes that the proposal will not adversely affect the integrity of the SPA can planning permission by granted." 

Should planning permission be granted the RSPB want significant conditions attached too - you can read the document from the RSPB and other material here on the Highland Council's e-planning file for the application under the documents tab. 

Springfield application for 115 houses on Liz's land - "this area must be subject to an archaeological evaluation"

In a consultation response to the proposed application for 115 houses out at Lochloy the Highland Council's own Historic Environment Team, Development & Infrastructure Service state: 

"The development lies in an area with potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. Important prehistoric remains, including burials, have been identified during development work in the wider area. Consequently, this area must be subject to an archaeological evaluation to assess the content, nature and extent of buried archaeological features and deposits."

Another document to the planner dealing with the case from an official responsible for this side of things states:

"ARC01C. No development or work (including site clearance) shall commence until a programme of work for the evaluation, preservation and recording of any archaeological and historic features affected by the proposed development/work, including a timetable for investigation, all in accordance with the attached specification, has been submitted to, and approved in writing by, the Planning Authority. The approved programme shall be implemented in accordance with the agreed timetable for investigation.
 Reason. In order to protect the archaeological and historic interest of the site.

The ARC01 condition requires that the development area is the subject of an evaluation in order to establish the archaeological content and potential. Dependent on the results of this work, further study may be required in advance of, and during, construction works. The evaluation will be backed up by desk-based research to produce a report setting out the results and any required mitigation strategy. The applicant will need to engage the services of a professional archaeological contractor."

You can read the documents about the archaeological potential of the site and the impact on the application here on the Highland Council's e-planning file for the application under the documents tab. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Morganti land development - RSPB recommend breeding bird survey

"RSPB Scotland has considered the above development and supporting documents but takes no view at present on the merits, or otherwise, of the proposals. We note that the development site has been allowed to naturalise into a relatively wild urban area comprising of mature trees, scrub and rough grassland. Such areas can be important habitats for local birds for breeding, feeding and roosting.

We recommend that a breeding bird survey is carried out and submitted prior to the determination of the application, to inform the layout and design of the development and the identification of measures to minimise and mitigate the effects on local bird populations. 

Secondly, it would be desirable to retain and incorporate as many of the existing mature trees as possible into the development as habitat for both breeding and roosting birds. We would also welcome and support the inclusion in the landscaping proposals of native trees such as rowan, which would provide food for wintering and migrant birds."

Friday, January 12, 2018

A wee blether with Richard at his Flat Earth information stall on Nairn High Street.

Nairn Harbour: "Money included in an approved capital budget for harbours, is being allocated to proceed with the necessary repairs."

A Highland Council press release states:

Nairn Harbour is one of the Council’s 28 statutory harbours. This places particular harbour related obligations on the Council. The Council is responsible for health and safety related works or more significant structural and emergency works to the 100 harbours across Highland. Extreme weather events and ageing assets impact on the need for urgent major structural works and repairs on an ongoing basis.

The harbour wall at Nairn collapsed during storms in December necessitating emergency works.

Money included in an approved capital budget for harbours, is being allocated to proceed with the necessary repairs.

Chair of the Nairn Committee, Cllr Tom Heggie said:

“I am pleased to announce that the Capital Board has allocated funding for Nairn Harbour. The estimates for the work have come in at under £100,000 including the works undertaken to stabilise the wall over the Christmas/New Year period. On that basis the Capital Board has approved the works to proceed as funds in recognition of the importance of the harbour to Nairn. This is really good news for Nairn.”

On behalf of local members, Cllr Liz MacDonald welcomed the announcement. She said:

"Nairn Harbour is the backbone of our town and essential for locals, tourism and the prosperity of our town and I welcome the efforts being undertaken to move it forward for repair as quickly as possible. Officers have been working very hard over the holiday period preparing a schedule of works to repair the harbour wall and road and will hopefully have the harbour open to users by Easter. I would like to thank the staff involved for their quick action on this issue."

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Climb with the County Cludgie Cash Collectors - Ali Nicol explains the latest Fans Fundraiser initiative

County committee man and former player Ali Nicol has come up with another challenge to help finance the rebuilding of the ageing toilet block at Station Park. Regular readers will perhaps remember some of the previous mountain challenges led by Ali that raised thousands for the club he loves. 

This observer had the pleasure of walking the West Highland Way back in  the autumn of 2014 and it was an amazing experience that raised a lot of money for the Fans Ground Improvement Fund. which culminated in the opening of Davy Johnston enclosure in October 2016.

There's been a few more challengers since then but now comes the big one - anyone up for this?  There's a crowdfunding page here if you would like to make a donation.  Ali explains it all in the linked Facebook post below. Please help if you can. 

Short Gaelic film by pupils at Nairn Academy gets onto Film G Youth Competition shortlist for 2018

You can see the film and the others that have made it to the Most Creative Production shortlist for Youth FilmG here.  Starring role for sewage bridge too.

Nairn Aurora picture used to encourage tourism by Visit Scotland

One of local photographer Joss Ward's pictures is being extensively used by Visit Scotland to promote tourism in. Below is her image in a tweet from the organisation, it is also on their Facebook page here.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Agenda for NRCC Meeting 7.30 pm Weds 17th January 2018

The Harbour and the current planning applications from developers for housing on Liz's land and also the Morganti plot on Forres Road will be discussed next Thursday night in the Community and Arts Centre. You can see a copy of the full agenda here on the Nairn River Community Council webpages. 

No doubt controversy over the two planning applications will continue but it will also be interesting to see if anything emerges to indicate how Highland Council intend to proceed with the Harbour. Tom Heggie recently told the Gurn that the road would have to be opened down by but a lack of precise information on how that will happen is leading to much rumour and speculation especially as we have now passed one month of not having access to the popular car park at the east pier.  

NRCC letter to Nairnshire re pressure on local infrastructure of new housing developments

Nairn River Community Council have published on their website a copy of a letter they wrote to the Nairnshire Telegraph in response to an article in that paper that published comments from local SNP Councillor Liz MacDonald that criticised the Community Council's position on housing issues. The Letter begins:

"On behalf of Nairn River Community Council, we are very concerned about the misleading way that discussions at our meeting last Wednesday 15 November were reported on the front page of last week’s Nairnshire ( Tues 22 November 2017).

We wish to clarify our consistent support as a body for provision of appropriate housing in Nairn to meet local need. At no point have we ever as an organisation taken a position against provision of social housing for Nairn. We are thus disappointed to see this suggested on your front page.

At last week’s meeting when Cller MacDonald noted the availability of Scottish Government funding for affordable housing, suggesting we were not in favour of this for Nairn, several Community Councillors spoke up to refute that. Our objection to the proposed Forres Road site development (see made clear that what was proposed was not good enough for social housing tenants. We want to see high quality housing design and amenities, and a healthy living environment in line with Scottish Government’s recent Creating Places policy paper which is meant to inform local affordable housing plans."

The document goes on to make several more points that will interest those many Nairn based students of local planning and housing developments and the letter is also is highly critical of Cllr MacDonald. You can read the letter in full here. 

The Forres Road application which was the subect of Liz's ire towards NRCC was withdrawn but then another one was submitted with a one more dwelling added to the plan's density. That new application is live on the Highland Council e-planning site and can be browsed here. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Gary Kerr leaves County for Rothes

Monday, January 08, 2018

Springfield application for 115 houses on Liz's land - more criticism of traffic data submitted

Recently we reported that Nairn River Community Council had made severe criticisms of the Springfield traffic impact assesment document that accompanies their application for 115 houses on land owned by local Highland Councillor Liz MacDonald. You can see that article here: "Springfield planning application for 115 houses on Liz's land - NRCC "set aboot" traffic assessment."

Now the Kingsteps residents have submitted a critique that takes the traffic impact assessment to task in detail on ten different points - as one might expect included in that are what they see as major issues with the Lochloy junction and the traffic lights. They are saying that the assessment is seriously flawed and like Nairn River Community Council they are also calling for the document to be revised. 

Reaction at community council meetings in the town has already demonstrated that this application is controversial to say the least and many think it will have an adverse effect on the town's infrastructure should it be allowed to go ahead. Why not go and read the documents for yourself, both what the developer has submitted and also the criticisms of the Traffic Impact Assessment from the Kingsteps folk and Nairn River Community Council. 

The latest critique document is presently top of the pile and labelled correspondence under the documents on the Highland Council e-planning pages here. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Large numbers of Starfish washed up on Nairn's beaches - recent storm to blame?

This video posted earlier today by Nigel shows the situation today:

Others posted images on local Facebook groups. There has been mention too of similar scenes elsewhere but only images so far from one other beach in Scotland - there was a tweet showing the scene at Portobello today.
Similar scenes then in at least two different parts of the Scottish Coastline. In a report today on a BBC webpage they mention a previous event on Rosemarkie beach in April and state: "In that case, marine experts said the invertebrates may have got caught up by strong winds or tides as they changed location."

One commentator on social media made reference to scenes in recent years on the West Coast of America that have seen large numbers of Starfish washed up on the coastline, the blame there has been put on "Sea Star Wasting Disease." The creatures shown in the video from Nairn look healthy enough though but one would imagine the authorities will do tests to see if anything drastic has happened over and above a weather event.    

Friday, January 05, 2018

Andy Wightman MSP on Scottish Government planning reforms - an article that may interest the many serious students of Nairn planning matters

Given the planning controversies of recent years in Nairn and the view of many in the community that the planning system locally ignores what the community has to say then perhaps some readers may be interested in an article in the National by Andy Wightman MSP. He says:

"A new Planning Bill is designed to strengthen local development planning, improve public engagement and provide better support for infrastructure provision. The Government claims there has been a breakdown in trust in the system and I agree. The Bill seeks to facilitate greater participation and upfront engagement in preparing plans and that is welcome. But it does little to rebuild trust in a process which, for too many communities, remains complex, confrontational and open to abuse."

Andy Wightman says: "If you want to see a planning system fit for the future, please let the committee know your views" 

You can do that by submitting your thoughts via e-mail on the Scottish Government's Planning Bill call for evidence page here. The call for evidence is open until the 2nd of February

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Springfield planning application for 115 houses on Liz's land - NRCC "set aboot" traffic assessment

Nairn River Community Council have made strong criticisms of the Springfield traffic assessment  document that is available on the Highland Council's e-planning file for the controversial planning application - a development that would mean expansion of the Lochloy Housing estates onto land owned by Councillor Liz MacDonald. 

They state in their submission:

The watchdogs go on to call for clarification and supplementary information on several points
and further state:

"As the consultation period for this planning application has already begun we would ask for a swift response on these matters from Highland Council to allow us and the wider public sufficient time to consider this application properly in possession of all relevant required information in line with current Planning guidelines."

Read the NRCC submission and browse the application documents available so far here on the Highland Council e-Planning site - once there click on the Documents tab.  

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Chinese heavy lifters - here to fix the harbour?

We're getting as bad as The Spin now, just wondering if anyone knows why the Hua Yang Long and Hua Hai Long are just off Nairn just now. Here to help out Highland Council with the harbour or a delivery of 120 or so kit homes for a certain field not a million miles from Lochloy?