Saturday, September 29, 2018

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Paddling pool seems to still rock with Nairn folk - have Highland Council got it wrong on what the public want for the Links?

Earlier today we published a Highland Council press release on their findings so far from their consultations on the Links Future. You can read that press release in its entirety here. 

In the Press Release Tom Heggie states:  “Both events were well attended, attracting views and comments from around 100 members of the public" 

Then in relation to the findings of the consultation he continues: "From the two events a number of key points have emerged. It is clear that people recognise a need to develop and improve the Links area, but they want the environment to be respected and well managed. The open spaces, the trees and the views are highly valued. People would also like to see some improvement to the play equipment, with a a new water feature in place of the paddling pool. "

The press release information has been shared far and wide in the Nairn social media world this evening and it has drawn quite a bit of criticism from supporters of the Team Hamish initiative who feel that the Highland Council are not treating the popular charity fairly. 

And then (about half an hour ago a poll emerged on the Nairn Rocks site - a group that is facebook central for Nairn with over 9,700 members).  The poll asked the question "Today the Highland Council announced that the people of Nairn have indicated to them that they would like a new water feature to replace the paddling pool. So here's a straw poll:"

The Paddling Pool     74
A new water feature  21
Both                           18

The figures to the right of the options are the numbers of votes after about half an hour. This observer is not sure how you work that out as a % when you have a third option question for both - could you say that at the time of writing there is a 75% majority in favour of keeping the pool?

Whatever the figures - more people have had a say on the Links in 30 minutes of this poll than did so across the entire two events run by Highland Council. 

Are Highland Council getting it badly wrong on development on the Links?  

The paddling pool in 2008 - image Iain Fairweather

UPDATE - Almost 24hours later and 500 votes in on the poll still with about the same majority in favour of keeping the padding pool.   

Big changes coming up for Grants Garage site

Sandown application - support for housing but questions being asked - a few documents for serious students of Sandown matters to consider

In the wake of earlier Gurn reports about the latest proposals for housing on the Sandown Common Good land, the readers in Gurnshire might be interested to know that some of the more public-spirited members of the community have been monitoring recent developments with a beady eye. And they don't much like what they see. While there is understandable support for the delivery of more housing, the recent proposals raise more questions than answers. Joan Noble has written to the Director of Planning  asking why the area identified in the planning application is considerably larger than in any other previous development brief or draft plans. It appears to close off or ignore the other ideas and options for Sandown which were explored earlier. Could one be forgiven for, once again - believing that the decisions on the planning proposals, the choice of developer, and the way in which Nairn's Common Good is managed, are all totally opaque and are being pursued behind closed doors.

So efforts are under way to find out exactly what is going on, the NRCG has submitted a set of very specific questions as an FoI request. This is aimed at getting full clarification of how and why the Council has launched the latest proposal, what the basis was for selecting a developer (HHA) of which they are a part-owner, and whether other options have been considered and discussed openly with the Common Good trustees.

The same set of questions (and a few others) were also submitted to the four local Councillors on the eve of their committee meeting. In an interesting illustration of the Council's approach, the response has come - not from the Committee Chair, or the local Ward Manager - but from the Inverness Ward Manager, David Haas! 

So a reply has just been sent back to the official in Inverness, pointing out that his response falls far short of what local people have a right to expect.

Avid Gurn readers might well like to see what kind of further replies the Council sends to these letters. Watch this could get quite interesting!

Nairn Links Development Plan moving to next stage

Highland Council press release

Two public engagement events have already been held as part of the initial work to prepare a Development Plan for the Links. These were on 18th August at the Nairn Highland Games and 1st September at Nairn Cricket Club pavilion. 

Chair of the Nairnshire Committee, Councillor Tom Heggie said: “Both events were well attended, attracting views and comments from around 100 members of the public. These were mostly from local people, however we also welcomed the views of visitors and holiday makers who took an interest. 

“From the two events a number of key points have emerged. It is clear that people recognise a need to develop and improve the Links area, but they want the environment to be respected and well managed. The open spaces, the trees and the views are highly valued. People would also like to see some improvement to the play equipment, with a a new water feature in place of the paddling pool. 

“A number of comments were received encouraging joint working with local groups and we are exploring opportunities for this. I would like to thank everyone for their contributions.” 

During October the Council’s project team, which includes external support from consultants Sandy Anderson and Nick Wright, will be in touch with local organisations to ensure that they properly understand local ideas and aspirations for the Links. A first draft plan will be prepared for the Links which will try to draw together all of the local aspirations. We will share that draft at a public event in early November with the specific intention of seeking feedback to get it right. Then, a month later, we will organise a second public event to finalise that plan in response to those comments and – equally importantly – ask people what should be the immediate priorities for action and who wants to be involved. 

Details of the two public events will be publicised in the coming weeks. 

Anyone who would like to input to the proposals for the Links should feel free to contact Nick Wright, a member of the Council’s project team, on 07900 334110.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

With 33% of Scots having gone without food in the past year due to lack of money NairnCAB is urging people to take part in a national survey

A McDonalds and a Home Bargains for Balmakeith

Here's how the debate went at Highland Council's South Planning Committee yesterday. It is lenghty but the debate was very interesting and touched on a litter cleaning plan for any wider area affected, how it would impact on town centre spending, people spending out of town anyway, flood danger in the Auldearn Burn. What sort of goods in the shop etc. Nairn not having a 24hr culture. How Sainsburys are now selling differnt types of goods with Argos in their store. Impact on nearby residental areas. There are contributions from Laurie Fraser and Tom Heggie who mentioned public support for the application. 

Tyre-less training on Nairn Beach for Artic Expedition

Out thanks to the Editor over at Nairn When You Were a Bairn for this story.

"I spotted this item on BBC breakfast on TV this morning,it's a group of women calling themselves the 'Polar Maidens' who are from different decades, the oldest being the leader Jan Meek 73 who will be trekking the 200 miles to the south pole to see what the effects have on women of different ages, the training on our beach includes the woman pulling tyres to simulate the weight of the loads they will be carrying on the expedition, here is a link if you wish to read the whole story."

Thanks too for the quick of the mark screenshots. 

Here's a tweet that Jan Meek posted too with Nairn Beach looking at its best. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Morganti Land Planning application withdrawn

This in an e-mail from Highland Council 

 Further to our previous correspondence in respect of this application, I have now received written confirmation that the application has been withdrawn. This has been recorded in the public planning applications register and the case file is now closed. Should any further application be received for this or a similar proposal it will be necessary for you to write again to advise the Council of any concerns that you may have as comments made on previous applications cannot be transferred. 

Yours faithfully 
Nicola Drummond 
Area Planning Manager – South/Major Developments (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey & Lochaber)

Next Nairn River Community Council meeting Wednesday 19th September 2018 At Nairn Community & Arts Centre At 7.00pm

More details here. 

Nairn Healthcare News Autumn 2018

Copy of the latest Nairn Healthcare Newsletter here. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A96 temporary traffic lights chaos - MSP wishes to reduce frustration and anger amongst the motoring fraternity.

That's twice this week we've had something up from a Labour mannie. Yes the Gurnmeister is a big Yesser and supports a certain party that leans in that direction but whatever your party colours if you mention Nairn in your press release then please let us know. 

Here's the latest from David Stewart MSP:

Reacting further to the issue of unmanned temporary traffic lights causing chaos on the A96 between Inverness and Nairn twice in two weeks, David Stewart MSP has suggested appropriate information signage at these unmanned works would apprise motorists of the reason for the lights and reduce frustration and anger amongst the motoring fraternity.

He said “ When there is a possible collapse of a manhole cover, which there seems to be a lot of lately on the A96 and temporary traffic lights are required to be installed, I have wondered why when they are unmanned, the operating company or the utility company concerned do not place a temporary ‘A’ frame yellow and black information sign at these unmanned temporary lights, merely advising motorists ‘manhole cover collapsed’ or similar. Then as the motorists pass these lights, they are made aware that the lights have not been set up for no good reason and it immediately takes the heat out of the whole situation.

“Trust me, there is nothing more infuriating for the travelling public than to see apparent road works, temporary traffic lights and no work on going, or workmen present. If they know the reason for these lights then everyone concerned understands the situation and there is reduced frustration. I am not saying we need sign for every different scenario, I am just suggesting an appropriate sign advising ‘collapsed manhole cover’ or ‘urgent road repairs’. This allows everyone to know that there is a valid reason. Let’s be honest, two weeks ago a utility company arranged for temporary traffic lights to be installed on the A96 at Barn Church Road, for non emergency work and then never turned up to do the work. There were massive tailbacks, driver frustration and chaos and after my intervention we had the lights removed.

“ I have made contact with Bear Scotland regards to the signage suggestion and I hope they will take it on board.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

MSP worried over removal of road kill - cites dead badger by side of A96 at Auldearn as example

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart contacts Transport Scotland to ascertain policy on the removal of road kill by operating companies on trunk routes.

David Stewart said “ I have been contacted by a constituent who has advised that there has been a dead badger on the side of the A96 Auldearn bypass for two weeks now. This is not the first time I have received such contacts. I have previously been advised of dead deer on the verges between Inverness and Nairn. I assumed that the operating company, in this case Bear Scotland, had a responsibility to remove these carcasses within a set period, as part of their contract. I have written to Transport Scotland today to ask this question and ascertain with which body this responsibility lies.

“Considering the operating companies travel along out trunk routes daily, I am surprised that no action is being taken.

“ Of course it is upsetting for animal lovers to see such animal deaths, but I am afraid that is one of the hazards of driving on rural roads. As the dark nights creep in we have to be more aware of the likelihood of wild animals straying onto our carriageways, so I would urge extra vigilance. Wild animals on the road can and do cause collisions. The best advice is to brake and try to avoid a collision without leaving your lane, unless it is safe to do so. If you hit an animal which is covered by The Road Traffic Act 1988 – namely, dogs, goats, horses, cattle, donkeys, mules, sheep and pigs you are legally required to report it to the police.

Parking meters are coming to Nairn - "The option of no charges is no longer on the table"

A season ticket for locals? 

More in this week's Nairnshire Telegraph which reports the comments by Cllr Peter Saggers at a recent community council meeting. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

65-70 "affordable houses" - will it all go Hunky Dory or will everyone have another sup at the Sandown poisoned planning chalice

A company that Highland Council has a sizeable share in has put in a scoping application for 65-70 “affordable houses” on Sandown. Highland Council is the planning authority and also administers the Common Good Land on which the houses would be built. Highland Council will also be holding a consultation on the proposal as under the Community Empowerment Act that has to be done if Common Good Land is “disposed of”. That's a bit of a complicated mix. Add into that a motion that was passed way back in 2013 when the debt the Common Good had incurred with Highland Council due to various things concerned with Sandown was partially written off. 

Flashback then to June 2013 and this from an article we wrote on 23/06/18:
“Sandown debt - no motion for deferral - 390K written off but Council will still get a share of Sandown”

“The total debt up for debate was £734,410.78 but the Nairn Common Good still takes a £344,000 hit. Here is the motion that won the day.

"Option 5. The Council writes off all or part of the debt that relates to the fee of £390,000 paid to acquire vacant possession of the land, and transfers a pro rata share of the land equivalent to the value of the remaining debt."

The following proviso was added from the Director of Finance's report para 3.7: 

(a) any gain in land value is returned to the Nairn Common Good Fund
(b) Highland Council does not gain financially from any future sale of the land"

This adds another element into a situation that this observer feels will not please everybody. Will the toxic history that has plagued previous planning issues concerned with Sandown come back to haunt this new application or can a satisfactory way forward be agreed with the community? There is no doubt that there is considerable support for public housing of some kind on Sandown but will what is proposed here hit the spot? Will the Common Good get any cash at all once the sale price is paid? 

Whatever way this pans out however we thought some of our readers may wish to follow a few links to other articles concerning Sandown that we published in 2013. They may also be of some use to new Councillors on the block, Peter Saggers and Tom Heggie, who were not in office when everyone was supping from the Sandown poisoned chalice last time round.

Just click on the titles to see the full articles:

FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2013

Debt decision - Michael Green's view - "closure to the Sandown saga"


Saturday, September 08, 2018

Oirthir gu h-oirthir - Rèis nan Radain - Coast to Coast - Rat Race 8th September 2018 Start at Nairn

Brigadoon like it will all be over by 9 am when the last wave leave on their journey across the Highlands to the West Coast. Good to see this competition returning each September to Nairn. 

Individual images here. 

Friday, September 07, 2018

Apples - got too many? Why not get juiced up at the Nairn Festival - Sat 15th September - Viewfield 13.00 - 16.00

Review of Nairn Sandown for new affordable homes

There has to be consultation then before any disposal of "Common Good Land".

Highland Council's previous involvement with proposed development on the Sandown Lands has been highly controversial to say the least. This time round it looks as though the local authority is setting out its stall before things go any further. Here's the press release issued today:

"The Highland Council has a commitment to deliver 2500 new affordable homes over a 5 year period. The Council and its partners have been carrying out a review of potential development sites throughout the Highlands regardless of land ownership in order to deliver this programme.

As part of this review, the Sandown area south of the A96 was identified as a zoned site, within the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan, with potential for housing development. The site also benefitted from an approved development brief. 

The Council asked Highland Housing Alliance (HHA) as one of its development partners, to facilitate a feasibility to determine if this would be a viable site for consideration to assist the council in meeting its overall affordable housing targets. 

Initial feasibility work included contacting statutory authorities to determine whether there would be any significant constraints on the site. This also included contacting the council’s planning service with regard to a screening application to determine whether an environmental statement would be required if a planning application were to be submitted. 

The feasibility work being carried out will assess if the site is suitable and viable for potential housing development, and whether HHA should consider submitting a proposal of application notice (PAN). 

Any application related to Sandown land would have to be considered by the Nairnshire Area Committee and subsequently by the full Highland Council prior to any decision being made. 

Also as part of this process, in accordance with the Community Empowerment Act, the Council is now required to undertake a consultation process before any disposal of Common Good land can proceed. Representations received must be taken into account when reaching a decision on disposal. Proposals would be published on the Council’s website together with a guide for making representations, with the relevant community council and any interested community bodies being notified directly. This consultation is separate to the formal planning process.

Any potential planning application would have to follow the major application process. No planning application would be made without approval from the Nairn Common Good and prior to submission of any planning application, full public consultation would take place. 

Feasibility work is at an early stage but this is potentially a great opportunity for new affordable homes for Nairn."

Gurn comment - how about Council housing instead of "affordable housing"?

More Gurn comment - Highland Council administer the land, they are also the planning authority and own a sizeable share of the company that has put in the application. Bearing all that in mind would it be wise for them to put this consultation out to an organisation that has no financial or other interest in Sandown?

Dà thachartas Gàidhlig aig Fèis Leabhraichean Inbhir Narainn Dihaoine sa tighinn

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Housing Development in Nairn turns East? 65-70 Houses for Sandown?

Oppps apologies "West" - a bit confused folks, so much in Nairn has gone West already. 

A screening application for 65-70 houses has appeared on the Highland Council website here. 

The application takes in a large area of land on the southern field of the three Sandown Lands fields between the wetland area and Sandown Road, a map can be seen on the site. The application is in the name of the Highland Housing Alliance. Their website here states 

"Highland Housing Alliance (HHA) is a development company dedicated to building and managing a wide variety of good-quality homes for people in the Highlands.

The HHA’s vision is to facilitate and deliver additional good quality housing in the Highlands with a wide range of private and public sector partners and to provide a top quality housing development and management service to our customers."

Further information on the site as follows:

"The Highland Housing Alliance is a development company set up to work in partnership with the Highland Council, housing associations, Scottish Government, private landowners and developers to help build more homes of all tenures for people in the Highlands.

The Highland Housing Alliance’s vision is to facilitate and deliver additional good quality housing in the Highlands with a wide range of private and public sector partners and to provide a top quality housing development and management service to our customers.

The Highland Housing Alliance is owned by five housing associations working in Highland, one housing trust and The Highland Council."

Ploughing the Sandown Lands
The Sandown Lands are owned by the Nairn Common Good Fund and this observer has heard them referred too in the past as "a common good asset" rather than common good land". One would imagine that any potential developer would have been in contact with the Trustees of the Common Good Fund (the Highland Councillors) before submitting any sort of application - and as Highland Council are part owners of the Highland Housing Alliance then it would be hard to imagine that this application might have escaped their notice. 

Obviously our four Nairn Councillors will be bound by commercial confidentiality should any such discussion have taken place or be ongoing but perhaps it may be to everyone's advantage for all parties to be as transparent as protocol permits given the troubled history of previous applications for housing on Sandown.