Saturday, July 04, 2020

Gurn twitter account

We're old media now too, most news in Nairn breaking over on Facebook these days but we still have our moments from time to time.

In the meantime 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 and you can scroll down the wee twitter box on the right hand side as far as you like to see what the latest craic is. You don't have to have an account to look at tweets either. 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Nairn Beach stars in NoHumanEye video - Zombie Baby

NoHumanEye in another collaboration with local loon and filmmaker Rowen Henderson.

Monday, June 29, 2020

King Street twists and turns - a planning application that just keeps getting more and more curious...


The application for flats and an office on the King Street parking spaces plus the accompanying demolition of the OSWB (old social work buildings) has already built itself up into an impressive file on the Highland Council e-planning site with the various documents of objection and the changes to the application itself. Latest up is an updated transport assessment submitted by the Council's consultants on the behalf of the Council plus a couple of design statement documents. 

The stuff you normally see at the start of the application process but such has been the gravity of issues raised in the process that it seems a lot has had to be adjusted. A quick look into the design statement reveals: 

“This Design Statement has been updated along with the other relevant information as a result of feedback from the consultation process. The principle change to the project is that the Old Social Work building will now not be demolished as part of this planning application” 

So what now for the OSWB? Still to come down at a later date? that does seem to have been the desire of Glenurquhart Road for some time despite the survival of the OSWB having been integrated into the existing town centre plan after an expensive consultation paid for by the Scottish Government.  An interesting juncture then for the plan by the new Nairn “powerhouse” team of the town's Community Councils, BID and Nice, to repurpose the OSWB? More here. 
One of our regular readers who alerted us to new goings on the e-planning pages told us that in his opinion: “the application has already gone through three revisions, a couple of site-relocations, and a redesign....the proposal is out of line with the agreed town centre plan; it significantly reduces the parking capacity in the area; and it screws up any more comprehensive town centre regeneration scheme” 

With the Covid-19 emergency it has been harder for the planning process to proceed effectively given the restraints on meetings and perhaps too the need to be as transparent as possible enters into choppy waters given the temporary arrangements at Glenurquhart road during the crisis. Given that the Council are prosecution, judge and jury in this case (applicant, planning authority and developer on the project) - Their vested interests mean that under planning legislation they are required to be extra scrupulous in how they deal with this.

Here at the Gurn we feel there is room for critics to suggest that this is now an entirely new application and should be resubmitted and considered in a post-Covid environment. They would argue that this is necessary so that we get it right for the town and the Council cannot then be in anyway accused of rushing things along at an inappropriate time with an application that has become a bit of a quagmire. 

This is an important and controversial planning application, if you have any spare time on your hands then make a cuppa or pour a dram and catch up with all the latest documents here on the Highland Council planning site. It's your town, have you had your say yet?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Diamond-back moth danger to Brassica plants - warning from Highlands & Islands Growers group

Archie McLaren from the Highlands & Islands Growers passes on the following alarming information:
I just want to warn all members to be on the lookout for Diamond-back Moth. In the past few evenings I've noticed small moths flying up from the Brassicas when I do the watering, and this afternoon I identified the culprit at close quarters. It's definitely Diamond-back or Diamond-backed Moth, Plutella xylostella, the world's most serious pest on Brassica crops. I've seen it many times before, but only once in UK. It's a tiny moth about 1cm in length at most, and you rarely see it until it flies up from amongst the crop, then it's hard to follow them to see where they land again. They have a pretty amazing "R" rate, one life cycle completing in 15-30 days so their numbers can increase exponentially! Within a week or two their larvae are decimating your Brassicas - and this includes Wallflower, Aubrieta and Alyssum, not just the edibles. The adult, if you can get hold of one, is smaller than a clothes moth, and has 4 vaguely diamond-shaped markings on its back, hence the name.

There was a fairly major outbreak about 5 years ago, and certainly in the Nairn area almost all gardeners lost their cabbages, cauliflowers, sprouts etc. The moths come in from the continent, and this lot have probably come in from Scandinavia with its warmer summers, on the easterly winds which have predominated recently. Prior to that outbreak, the internet reports a UK outbreak in the late 1980's when I was abroad, and before that in the 1950's. Notice how the first three were approx. 30 years apart, now we're talking 5 years - this might say something about global warming!

I'm not sure how this affects commercial growers of Brassicas. The moths may only infest the field margins in which case losses will be minimised. But on small plots, gardens and allotments you can expect a total crop loss if these moths continue to spread, which seems likely in the current warm weather. A change to colder or wetter weather might stop them in their tracks, and it may be that they will not penetrate far inland, but certainly all our members should be aware of the problem.

What can you do? Well, if you had already covered your brassicas with fleece or stuff like "enviromesh", all should be well. If not, it may already be too late. Pyrethroids are effective, but are probably no longer available to amateur growers. Yellow sticky traps in the crop may help trap a few hundred adults, but on current evidence there will soon be millions of these moths around. SB Plant Invigorator might have some effect if used weekly, and is organic. Other things like garlic solution, washing powder in dilute mix with water, and other home remedies might help. If you do nothing, and the moths arrive at your garden, you will lose the whole crop.

Be warned, please, and take appropriate action!

Archie

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Nairn groups united front for Nairn's recovery from Covid-19 blow to local economy

Four organisations have joined forces to create a powerhouse which will work to regenerate a North East town following the Covid 19 crisis.

Nairn Business Improvement District (BID), Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise (NICE) and the town’s two community councils believe by pooling their resources they can get the seaside town back on its feet with a series of initiatives.
Representatives from each of the groups have developed a strategy for recovery which will involve engaging with Highland Council and relevant public agencies and others to mobilise resources.

The key aims of the group are to take forward projects which will support enterprise and job creation, to retain local workforce and skills and to promote Nairn as a place to live and visit. 

Speaking on behalf of the collaboration, Bob Ferenth a member of the Nairn BID board and convener of the group said: “There are many projects that we can develop as a collective working group and have identified several that should be progressed to help revive and improve the town. By working collaboratively, we will have a stronger voice. The effects of the downturn are already evident, but the community wants to move quickly to plan for and build a more resilient local economy for Nairnshire.”

He added: “During the lockdown, businesses adapted and found new ways of operating, but these were short-term responses to the immediate crisis. The local economy now faces the threat of a substantial rise in redundancies as the furlough scheme winds down. Some local businesses are not yet confident of reopening. Guest bookings are uncertain. Almost all the major annual events that bring visitors have been cancelled. What our collective approach has done is identify key areas such as encouraging visitors, regenerating the town centre, enhancing the amenities at the Links, and improving access and travel routes into and around the town to name but a few, that will help Nairn recover from what has been catastrophic for the local economy.”
Speaking specifically about tourism, Michael Boylan, chairman of Nairn BID said: “Our collective aim is to limit and alleviate the impact of the current difficulties and find ways of encouraging the tourism, visitors and footfall which so many businesses depend on. The beach is still there as are the golf courses and there are plenty of outdoor recreational options. We want to persuade people to visit and enjoy what Nairn offers and contribute to the revival of the local economy.”

Work has already begun on a new children’s splash pad which was a jointly funded project between charity Team Hamish, NICE, Nairn Common Good Fund and Highland Council.
Alastair Noble, Chair of NICE said this is evidence that collaboration can lead to positive outcomes: “The entire community responded to the Team Hamish vision. The partnership shows that cooperation can work.  We now need to extend and reinforce that approach on a much more ambitious scale to deliver the kind of measures that will keep the local economy going and sustain local employment.”
Led by NICE, the group has already submitted an application to the Scottish Government, with the support of Highland Council for funding to restore and repurpose a historic building as a visitor centre and business hub which is intended to encourage greater footfall into the High Street.
Sheena Baker, chair of Nairn West and Suburban CC said: “We are already making waves and in this time of adversity, it is more important than ever the people of Nairn pull together. 

“We are counting on our elected councillors to join in these efforts and to back the proposals and projects which we are proposing. Public money will be needed.  

“The Council is meeting on Thursday (June 25) to consider the challenges of regeneration and recovery.  We are keen to collaborate in action which will make a real and sustainable difference to the economy, will create and protect jobs, and will enable us to find a way out of the present difficult situation.”


Nairn BID chairman Michael Boylan, Tommy Hogg, chairman of Nairn River Community Council, Sheena Baker chair of Nairn West and Suburban CC and Alastair Noble Chairman of NICE





Thursday, June 18, 2020

Nairn High Street getting spaced out - to the dismay of Community Council

A recent press article indicated that £752K of the Scottish Government's Covid emergency funding entitled "Spaces for People" award to Highland Council was to be spent solely in Inverness. However it emerges that 17.5K is to be spent in Nairn. 

A source close to Nairn West and Suburban Community Council told the Gurn: "Highland Council was asked to send NWSCC a copy of how they had decided to spend the safe streets money in Nairn, and they got back their original proposal which they had rejected as unnecessary and bad for people and businesses." NWSCC had made their own contribution to the Spaces for People Consultation which they say was ignored. Below is what Highland Council intends for the High Street. 

Click to enlgare image

And more in from a West and Suburban direction, one of our regular readers tells us: “This whole situation once again confirms there has been no change of approach, no lessons learned, no local awareness. So much for all the talk of community empowerment and local decision-making. Here yet again we have dumb and inappropriate measures being imposed on the town. This time it is not without consultation, but despite consultation. They have directly ignored the input we have taken time and trouble to offer.”


So there it is folks, NWSCC had stated in their contribution to the Spaces for People consultation:
 
“Nearly 50% of Nairn on street parking is for loading or disabled, so these spaces are required and will continue to be used. The other spaces are at present at a premium for our large elderly population who may not have blue badges but need to shop by car with least risk of contact. It would make absolutely no sense to have those who are at least risk of Covid (the younger /fitter /more active) to have street space preference to those at higher risk. On-street parking in the one-way High Street is already in ‘recessed’ or inset bays in the wider pavements, so suspending these spaces would not assist the safer movement of either cyclists and pedestrians.”

"Also our businesses need to make High Street shopping as easy as possible to survive this desperate trading period, and the BID is firmly against any restriction on normal parking."

 You can read the full submission here.

The Gurn also understands that a further Highland Council funding bid will be submitted later this week in an attempt to get cash to progress a Nairn wide, including the A96, 20mph scheme.

We have also obtained a copy of a letter that NWSCC member Joan Noble had published today in the Glasgow Herald on the subject of the risk of contracting Covid at either 1 metre or 2 metres in Scotland

"Dear Sir,

It seems as if there is a widespread lack of understanding among politicians, advisers and the general public, of relative as opposed to absolute risk as far as the two metre distancing rule is concerned.
(‘Expert calls for social distancing rules to be relaxed to one metre’ Herald June 16th)

We are repeatedly told that going from two to one metres is thought to double the risk of infection from contact with an infected person. In relative risk terms this doubles it from 1.5% at two metres to 3% at one metre.
However this would mean that everyone you met would have to be infected.
As it is now thought that one in around 1500 (or less) of the population is infected, then the combined risk of catching Covid is either: (3 / 1500) % at 1 metre or (1.5 /1500)% at 2 metres.
This translates to an absolute risk of a 1 in 50,000 chance of infection at one metre as opposed to a 1 in 100,000 chance at 2 metres.

It is a matter of great regret that we are not adequately appraising the public of these odds and letting them make a reasoned adult choice of whether the damage to the economy, tourism, the arts, children’s futures and education, and the looming crisis of deprivation and poverty warrants continuation of the two metre rule, when the ‘worst’ scenario is a 1 in 50,000 chance of infection.

Yours faithfully,

Joan Noble"

Sunday, June 14, 2020

"Moray tourism initiatives share in £500k from Covid-19 emergency fund" Will anything be coming Nairn's way soon?

The Forres Local site reports:
"Three Moray Speyside organisations are among a number of destination and sector tourism groups across Scotland impacted by the coronavirus pandemic which are set to receive a share in a £500,000 support package offered by VisitScotland.

A total of 81 membership organisations have been successful in applying for the Tourism Destination and Sector Support Fund, which was launched by the national tourism organisation last month. In Moray Speyside, these included Visit Moray Speyside, NE250 and Cullen Voluntary Tourism Initiative." More here. 

Despite a detailed submission from Nairn West and Nairn Suburban Community Council to the Highland Councils bid for cash from the Scottish Government's Spaces for People Covid emergency fund - all the subsequent £752K received is to be spent in Inverness - more here. There are worries that this could be the template for future funding initiatives with the lion's share always going to Inverness and little or nothing to Nairn.

Hopefully Nairn will not miss out on further funding available from the Scottish Government as initiatives emerge to help communities out of this crisis. It is incumbent on our Councillors and organisations in the town to keep their eyes peeled for every chance to obtain funding as it occurs. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

80th anniversary of St Valery

Pictures from yesterday's ceremony in Nairn
The Nairn Branch of the Legion have published a video of the event on their facebook page here.

The monument to the 51st Highland Division above St Valery
If you have been doing some reading recently then here's something you may wish to add to your list. A Kindle version of the bilingual book "Fo Sgail a Swastika: Under the Shadow of the Swastika"  is available on Amazon here.  Donald J MacDonald's account of the the surrender and the subsequent years of captivity is a remarkable read and a tribute in itself to all those who gave their lives at St Valery.

War Graves  at St Valery

More pictures of St Valery here.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Scottish Government’s Pandemic initiative "Spaces for People fund" award proves Inverness comes first for Highland Council?

Here at the Gurn we hear of considerable dismay locally at  yesterday's report in the Press and Journal concerning an application by Highland Council to the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund. The report states:

“Work on improving travel routes around Inverness during the coronavirus pandemic is poised to begin.

Highland Council is asking members of the public to take part in its online consultation as the local authority begins to implement a number of active travel routes.

An award of £752,954 from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund has allowed the council to improve what it offers for walkers, cyclists and those using wheelchairs.

If successful, Inverness would be used first as a test area to put in place temporary walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure focused on travel connections for key workers to Raigmore Hospital initially.”

The Nairn West and Suburban Community Council had responded to a call from Highland Council for comments for ideas on improving conditions for walking,  cycling etc during the pandemic emergency. They had produced a detailed submission which we reproduce at the bottom of this article. Highland Council had stated in their call to communities:

“Communities, businesses and other stakeholders are being encouraged by the Council to get involved. To ensure the council responds appropriately it has set up a consultation (https://consult.highland.gov.uk/kse/ (external link)) so that people can share their views on the proposed interventions now and as they are implemented. This will enable Highland Council to maximise the impact of measures and respond to the evolving needs of our communities as the current pandemic situation changes.” Full details of what Highland Council had to say here.

Highland Council had also said: “If successful, towns across Highland and the city of Inverness will see a roll-out of temporary walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure over the coming weeks and months. The measures will include footpath widening, temporary bike lanes and other works that seek to ensure people can walk, wheel and cycle safely on essential journeys and taking daily exercise.”

And so dismay in Nairn when the P&J reported: “Depending on the success of the trial and further funding bids, the concept could be rolled out in future to Fort William, Nairn, Aviemore, Dingwall, Wick, Thurso and Portree.”

So depending on the success of the trial and further funding bids something may happen in Nairn. The Gurn understands that Nairn West and Suburban Community Council feels that its consultation response has been ignored. Further down the page you can find that detailed response and judge for yourself if it was worthy of action by Highland Council

One of our regular correspondents told us today:

"In a sense, there are two issues of concern to emerge from this. One is the need to regenerate Nairn, given added urgency by the impact of Covid. The other is the persistent unfairness of HC's Inverness-centric policy."

Our regular reader continued: "Which makes the latest news - that all the Scottish Government funding on offer to the Highland Council is to be devoted to improving cycleways and routes in Inverness - extremely disappointing. Once again the notion of "fair shares" seems to have been abandoned, with Inverness grabbing all the money. In the wake of the £300 million City-Region Deal, where all but a few hundred thousand also went to projects in Inverness, this is totally unreasonable and unjust.”

Here at the Gurn we feel that the worry now is that as recovery cash for communities to pick themselves up after the Covid-19 outbreak is distributed, has this “Spaces for People” award simply set the template for most if not all of the cash that will be available in future going to Inverness. Inverness has a more diverse economy than Nairn and should be able to pick itself up easier than its smaller neighbour to the east. It has been suggested that Nairn could be the town in Scotland that suffers themost from sectors of the economy suffering shut down by Covid-19.

Here's the Nairn West and Suburban Submission to the Spaces for People consultation folks. Have a read for yourself and decide if some of that £752,954 should have come our way.

"COVID-19 AND ACTIVE TRAVEL : Submission from Nairn West and Suburban Community Council

The Highland Council launched an online consultation on 15 May seeking comments on proposals for early action to promote safer active travel in and around local communities in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The objectives are to “deliver safe active travel connections … to maximise opportunities for social distancing” and to “provide a necessary springboard for town and city centre recovery and regeneration as ... places need to be adapted to be safe for work, business and leisure.”

NW&SCC welcomes this initiative and strongly supports the Highland Council’s bid for additional funding for this purpose. We are encouraging members of the local community to submit comments via the online survey portal. But we also wish to make an agreed submission setting out our views on the broader policy. We think it important that any action should take account of the local context and history: much consideration has already been given to options for improving access, for town centre pedestrianisation, and for similar measures.

We urge that action taken now should contribute to a longer-term strategy to improve safer active travel in Nairn. We believe that any short-term measures implemented now should not be applied on an ad-hoc temporary basis – since this would not represent value for money. This funding must be used to make changes which will be sustainable and produce long term gains not spent on measures which will have no short or long term benefit to the town as it moves into recovery phase. We wish a lasting legacy for health and activity to come out of this time. The measures should be integrated with the Council’s core paths strategy, ‘green’ energy efficiency agenda, and the A96 bypass plans for walking and cycleways.

The consultation document sets out two proposals for Nairn – both apparently intended to address the “social distancing during essential travel” requirement. We do not believe that these are appropriate or adequate, for the reasons outlined:

Widening pavements. 

This would not be a good use of this money.

Nairn’s High Street and Leopold Street pavements were widened to over 2 metres as part of a very extensive streetscape project a few years ago. There is no major problem maintaining social distancing either while queueing or passing other people, except in a few locations such as the Brae, and a short section at the start of Cawdor Street where the road width precludes pavement-widening or demarcation of cycle lanes. There is little scope for further modification of pavements without major reconfiguration of the road network. Adding further restrictions on cars and lorries using the High Street and its connecting roads before the opening of the bypass would only add to the congestion on other residential streets and the A96 and its junctions through the town.

Suspending on street parking.

Nearly 50% of Nairn on street parking is for loading or disabled, so these spaces are required and will continue to be used. The other spaces are at present at a premium for our large elderly population who may not have blue badges but need to shop by car with least risk of contact. It would make absolutely no sense to have those who are at least risk of Covid (the younger /fitter /more active) to have street space preference to those at higher risk. On-street parking in the one-way High Street is already in ‘recessed’ or inset bays in the wider pavements, so suspending these spaces would not assist the safer movement of either cyclists and pedestrians.

Also our businesses need to make High Street shopping as easy as possible to survive this desperate trading period, and the BID is firmly against any restriction on normal parking.

We believe it is essential to have a more coherent and effective strategy which will deliver on the objectives already identified:

• Rapid roll out of designated spinal routes across settlements.

• Safe connections to major healthcare facilities and other destinations.

• Safe recovery and regeneration of village, town and city centres

This funding must be used to make changes which will be value for money, sustainable and produce long term gains in active travel.

The Local Context

Nairn and its environs are ideal for walking, wheeling and cycling. A microclimate which results in reasonably dry weather and avoids extremes in winter should encourage active travel for work, school, leisure and light shopping. In particular, as far as cycling is concerned, the countryside is relatively flat, the town is compact with a good range of high street shops and there is a nice mixture of on and off road capacity, with the historic sites of Cawdor, Fort George, Brodie and Auldearn all within easy distance for the average cyclist. Walking provides opportunities for beautiful beach, forest and riverside walks, and some of these are also suitable for wheeling.


The challenge of the A96

However the perennial problem is the A96 trunk road generating constant traffic and pollution through the centre of town. Previous studies have shown that around 15,000 cars daily transit Nairn with 80% not stopping in the town. These volumes preclude safe cycling even with a cycle lane according to Sustrans. Advisory cycle lanes are dangerous where traffic is heavy and there are multiple side roads, with the majority of cycle accidents being at junctions.


Moreover A96 congestion produces rat running through many of the Nairnshire back roads which used to be very safe and quiet for walking and cycling, but now are as dangerous as the main road.

The agreed solution, already endorsed by Highland Council, Transport Scotland, local MSPs and Ministers, is the delivery of the bypass. Once in place, the former route through the town can be reconfigured to offer safe access and a route for all users.

A Network of Safe Spinal Routes: marked, enhanced and signposted

During the pandemic there has been an exponential rise in the number of walkers and cyclists exploring Nairnshire, and discovering places they never knew existed in their back yards.

Key to getting both locals and visitors cycling, wheeling and walking longer term is to have a joined up and clearly signed network of routes into, through and around the town: isolated sections of marked pathway are both unattractive and ineffective. Routes should avoid the A96 apart from crossing at designated places

We require a major investment in signage and associated maps and information provision both in the town and further afield. This would reinforce and complement an initiative already launched by the Nairn Connects BID, and so should be planned in collaboration with that group and other local advisers. Suitable routes and infrastructure to facilitate active travel and ease of access will be critical to the revival and regeneration of the town as a destination and hub with repurposed and resurrected buildings.

At present there is an almost total lack of signage to encourage active travel.

We would like to see a plan which includes:

Signage and readily available information in the town centre as outlined in the town centre action plan, linking King Street and the High Street 

Signage through Viewfield to the Leisure Park, beach and promenade .

Signage from Tradespark and Cranloch to cycle/walking paths and roads into town. (Avoiding A96)

Signage to extend the Auldearn cycle path via Boath Park / Grantown Road into town/ primary schools/ healthcare and also up and down the riverside. (Avoiding A96)

Signage around harbour, promenade and East Beach.

Proper signage to RSPB Culbin and forest walks or off road cycling.

There is also a need to widen and/or mark existing cycleways and footpaths where appropriate around the town, in particular establishing safe designated walking and cycling routes to schools.

Maps, Apps and leaflets

Both locals and tourists need to have route information and maps to plan for safe cycling, walking and wheeling.

In the past Highland Council has produced leaflets for walking routes and private individuals have published maps for cycling. These now need funding for updating and made available on line, as apps and as leaflets for locals and tourists alike.

Street and Park Enhancements

If people are going to be out walking, wheeling and on bikes in larger numbers whether for shopping, work or leisure there have to be more facilities for them apart from safe well signed and maintained paths and roads.


a)Secure bike stands in convenient places. (Some covered)

(There are no bike stands in the central car parks and only 1 rack of 3 spaces on the High St)

b)Well maintained numerous benches and picnic tables.

c)Good access to high quality toilets especially for those with mobility issues.

d) Provision of showers for visitors – possibly linked with the marina.

e)Timely maintenance and strimming of core paths especially higher up the river.

Completing missing links. 

There are some notable missing links in the paths network in and around Nairn such as:

Active travel provision for the Lochloy estate. The pathways within the area do not connect or link onward into the town centre and other facilities and services. In particular, the bridge over the railway to Balmakeith – already identified as a developer-funded contribution should be a priority. Consideration should be given to making this a vehicle link as well, as the current access to the 1000 houses at Lochloy is absolutely unacceptable. 

the continuation of the foot/cycle path from Delnies Schoolhouse to the Delnieswood Caravan site/end of Moss-side Road giving safe access to Nairn by walking, wheeling or bike, and in the other direction, accessing quiet roads to Ardersier , Carse Wood and Fort George.

Extending the Auldearn cycle/walking path into central Nairn by signposting existing routes away from the A96 via Boath Park and Jubilee Bridge.

the Moray Firth Coastal Path section from Nairn via Ardersier to Inverness, already identified as a priority in the agreed local development plans.

Access to the Nairn Hospital and Health Centre


The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the need for safe exercise and social distancing but also better access to relevant healthcare facilities. The routes to Nairn Healthcare are constrained by the bridge/underpass on Cawdor Road. Demarcating a cycle route along Cawdor Road is constrained by the narrowness of the road and its pavement.

However on the east side of town, the existing pathways from Auldearn, BoathPark and Broadhill via the Jubilee Bridge provide an existing access to Mill Road and Nairn Healthcare which should be promoted and signed. Joining the latter part of this route from Acre Street would avoid Cawdor Rd.


From the west, the route from Tradespark/Cranloch across Lochdhu level crossing to Cawdor Road is a level and easy route to healthcare facilities.

Conclusion:

Covid incidence is extremely low in Highland, and the emphasis must be on spending any money available to support and build on the present local enthusiasm for active travel. The aim should be not to provide short term contingency measures, but make longterm changes to infrastructure and access. This will also help what will be a long and painful recovery for both local and tourist businesses.

We have had a wake up call on how individual actions can have an effect on climate change and that each of us can play an important part in a healthier future for both ourselves, our families and the planet."

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Work is set to start on Team Hamish splash pad next week

Monday, June 08, 2020

Interested in planting fruit trees? Want to get involved in a more fruitful future for our town?

Nairn Academy Orchard
Nairn Allotments Orchard group have been working for some time now along with Green Hive and Keeping Nairnshire Colourful activists, schools and individuals to get a few fruit trees planted here and there. For example anyone passing Nairn Academy on the cycle path can see a forty-tree young orchard coming along very nicely alongside the railway line. The trees were all planted by Academy pupils and some of them grafted a few of the trees a couple of years ago. A wonderful legacy for future years created by Nairn youngsters.

Quite a few people have learnt pruning, grafting and other orchard skills in Nairn in recent years and are willing to put these skills into practice. Now it's time to look for more orchard sites around town for future plantings. Public/Community or private spaces (residences or businesses) can be considered as long as relevant permissions can be obtained  and residents asked for their views before anything happens. It might just be a spot for two or three trees or perhaps you could manage quite a few more – give a thought too as to how you could get involved in looking after any fruit trees that are planted. 

If you are interested in helping getting more trees planted in Nairnshire in future years please send an e-mail to info@gurnnurn.com and the orchard group can keep you informed of any developments. We also hope to have an online Zoom meet-up soon to have a wee blether about what can be achieved. 
Apples at Sandown picture 2017


Cygnets of 2020 have arrived on the river and there's news of one of them getting into trouble but being rescued by local folk

More over on Simply Superb Swans

Rowen Henderson and his Film G club friends produce video with pioneering alternative band Nohumaneye

See the video in the embedded tweet below and for more information about Nohumaneye there's more on this Amazing Tunes page.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Maybole's 7.5 million funding success highlights delay in Nairn regeneration?

The Ayrshire Daily News site states:

"Great news for the historic market town of Maybole in Ayrshire, as the Maybole Regeneration Project confirms it has secured £7.5 million in funding and this week (4th June 2020) launches a dedicated website,  www.regeneratingmaybole.scot." 

The Ayrshire town has a population about half the size of Nairn, is near a bigger neighbour (Ayr) and is about to be bypassed. There are parallels but when it comes to moving forward it looks like they are going to walk the walk after the talk - here in Nairn the talk has all been collected and put in reports lying on the shelf - when will we too get a funding boost of a few million to regenerate the town?  The town centre report of 4-5 years ago was adopted by Highland Council so it is more than oven ready to go to say the least. 

And regardless of what you think of the proposals for the King Street buildings (see yesterday's article) it was clearly stated in the Town Centre plan that they should be preserved.  Anyway back to the success of Maybole.


"Community involvement is key to the success of any regeneration project and Mark Fletcher, Chair of the Maybole Community Council, added, “A project like this takes a whole community to implement. Equally, a revitalised town centre will benefit all, especially when the Bypass opens and takes lorry traffic away from our historic streets."

The Regeneration Project website is here with details of all the projects and initiatives that will hopefully become reality for the small Ayrshire community.  

The CC Chair, Mark Fletcher is quoted again on the Project Scotland site:

"The recent lockdown has demonstrated the importance of the ‘shop local’ message and provided both reason and opportunity to walk and cycle. I hope this will have provided a taste of what a regenerated town centre can mean to Maybole, as we reclaim the High Street for people, not traffic.”

Project Scotland also state:

"Duncan Clelland, project lead for the Maybole Regeneration Project commented, “I want to pay tribute to those with the original vision for Maybole; the Community Council and activists who fought hard to establish their case. Now with South Ayrshire Council, Historic Environment Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund fully behind the plans, the project is moving on to an exciting phase where we can jointly make a real difference to the look and feel of the town.”

In Nairn the Community Councils and other activists have been shouting for years for a better deal for Nairn. We can only look to Maybole with envy and ask why similar funding hasn't reached Nairn yet. Will the powers that be now give Nairn it's fair share of the funding pots?

Why, why, why have things been so slow for us - Nairn wants action - why are the powers that be not coming up with a funding package for us?

Saturday, June 06, 2020

"For the provision of only 15 parking spaces, the demolition of this group of buildings is not only a significant loss architecturally but also a significant loss to Nairn's history and character." Highland Council department criticises King Street Flats/CAB plans

Below is the text of a document from the Highland Council's own "Historic Environment Team" criticising it's own organisation's plans to demolish the King Street buildings and build flats. This submission is available on the Highland Council's e-planning site with other comments from individuals and organisations here. 

What is remarkable about this comment from within the Highland Council apparatus is how it it mirrors a huge amount of the concerns reflected in submissions from Nairn residents and organisations. Here it is:
"The proposal is for the erection of 12 flats on an area currently used as car parking, and the demolition of a group of traditional stone-built Victorian buildings (former council offices) to provide 15 parking spaces for the development.

New development

The proposed development is located to the west of 4 and 6 Courthouse Lane, a single storey Italianate Category B listed building. The building was once dominated and overshadowed by the large and featureless 2-storey rear extension to the free church. When the church was demolished it opened up views of the listed building which not only significantly enhanced its setting but also increased its prominence and presence within the wider townscape. Although the proposed development is located slightly to the north of the church, and the impact will not be as pronounced as previously, it will nonetheless reinstate a significant solid mass to the north-west of the listed building, partially obscuring the building from King Street and isolating the building once more from its wider context. 


In order to fully understand the impact, or lack thereof, to the listed building It would be useful to see visualisations of the proposed development within its wider context, including how it relates to the listed building.

Demolition of existing buildings
62 King Street is composed of four buildings in a U-shape with a central courtyard. All are of stone construction with slate roofs with wide coped end stacks. They likely date to around the early to mid-19th century, but could be earlier and are unlikely to all be contemporary; the plainer 2-storey building to the left of the two facing King Street for example appears to be earlier in date to the more finely detailed 1 ¾ building adjacent, with its canted bay and attractive stone dormers. There is a single storey wing to the north and a public toilet block forms the east wall. Although all buildings are currently boarded up and unused, they have a significant street presence and could make a very positive contribution to Nairn.

Although the buildings are not listed or in a conservation area, they are quality stone buildings with some fine architectural detailing. They are prominently sited on one of the Nairn's main thoroughfares which, over the last 50-60 years has lost most of its traditional and characterful buildings, including the free church once located on the site of the proposed flats, primarily to car parks or poor quality modern development. It would seem a retrograde step to demolish what appears to be a perfectly functional group of historic buildings of considerable character and townscape value to provide 15 compensatory parking spaces for the new development. The existing buildings not only have considerable embodied energy but could also accommodate multiple additional housing units; I would want to see much more detailed consideration given to how the existing asset could be better and more sustainably utilised. Additionally, given that this is town centre development, that the proposed flats are located in an area already largely dominated by car parks and that Nairn has good public transport connections by road and rail, are there no other options available to the applicant to deliver 15 parking spaces that do not require the demolition of this group of historic buildings?

For the provision of only 15 parking spaces, the demolition of this group of buildings is not only a significant loss architecturally but also a significant loss to Nairn's history and character. In both conservation and sustainability terms I am unable to support this part of the application without further justification and evidence that demonstrates that there is no other option and no other viable solution. Therefore the Historic Environment Team objects to the proposal.

The proposal is contrary to Historic Environment Policy for Scotland, specifically policies for Managing Change (HEP2 and HEP4) - happy to expand on this if required. Furthermore, the proposal does not accord with Policy 57 of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan which requires the Council to judge proposals in terms of their impact upon the natural, built and cultural heritage. As an application relating to an unlisted building listed on the Highland Historic Environment Record (previously Sites and Monuments Record), Policy 57.1 states that developments are suitable where it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that they will not have an unacceptable impact on the protected amenity and heritage resource. In this case the unjustified demolition of a good quality and attractive grouping of Victorian buildings and consequent negative impact to the wider townscape for the purposes of providing additional car parking is not considered to be acceptable."

Friday, June 05, 2020

Nairn Youth continue their Black Lives Matter protest

One of the young people at the demonstration told the Gurn that they hope to continue their socially distanced protest for as long as they can beginning at 1pm each day and all are welcome. 



Police in Nairn are appealing for information following two males causing disorder on Maggot Road, Nairn around midnight on Thursday, 4th June.

Police in Nairn are appealing for information following two males causing disorder on Maggot Road, Nairn.

At around midnight on Thursday, 4 June 2020, on Maggot Road in Nairn, between Parkdean Caravan Park and Riverside Court, two males approached a passing vehicle and shouted and swore at the driver which casued him fear and alarm. The driver of the vehicle had to reverse down the road, turn and make his way back towards Parkdean Caravan Park due to the behaviour of these two males.

The first male is described as being approximately 50-60 years old, heavy build, with a dark beard, dark hair and wearing dark clothing.
The second male is described as being approximately 40-50 years old, with short hair or a bald head, wearing blue jeans and a dark jacket.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number 0006 04/06/20

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Highlands not yet back open for visitors says Finnie

Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands has welcomed the First Minister’s announcement of a roadmap out of lockdown, but warned that for now the Highlands must remain closed to visitors.

The Scottish Government has signalled its intention to begin a phased end to lockdown restrictions on the 28th May, but restrictions on travel, tourism and hospitality businesses are likely to remain for sometimes to come.

The Green MSP has previously issued calls for short-term let operators throughout the Highlands to stop taking bookings throughout the crisis and for people with second homes in the region to stay away for now.

Mr Finnie said: “Today’s announcement from the First Minister provides some light at the end of the tunnel but it’s important to remember that restrictions remain in place and won’t be completely lifted for some time to come. The risk of overwhelming health services in remote and rural communities throughout the Highlands remains very real and would be exacerbated by an influx of tourism from the rest of the country. I would therefore implore those with second properties to please stay away until we can be sure the threat from this deadly virus has passed.”

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Highland Council proposes network of safe walking and cycling routes in response to Coronavirus pandemic - consultation for communities

A Highland Council press release reads:

The Highland Council and NHS Highland have submitted an ambitious bid to the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund seeking support to deliver rapid active travel interventions. If successful, towns across Highland and the city of Inverness will see a roll-out of temporary walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure over the coming weeks and months. The measures will include footpath widening, temporary bike lanes and other works that seek to ensure people can walk, wheel and cycle safely on essential journeys and taking daily exercise.

By delivering safe active travel connections across settlements to link major healthcare facilities and other destinations, the proposals aim to maximise opportunities for social distancing. Importantly they will also provide a necessary springboard for town and city centre recovery and regeneration as lockdown measures are eased and places need to be adapted to be safe for work, business and leisure.

Whilst a rapid programme of work has been undertaken to submit the initial funding bid, the Council considers this as only the start of the conversation and will continue to review, monitor and evaluate schemes and proposals as they emerge.

Communities, businesses and other stakeholders are being encouraged by the Council to get involved. To ensure the council responds appropriately it has set up a consultation (https://consult.highland.gov.uk/kse/ (external link)) so that people can share their views on the proposed interventions now and as they are implemented. This will enable Highland Council to maximise the impact of measures and respond to the evolving needs of our communities as the current pandemic situation changes.

You can read the full press release here

We had a quick look at the consultation documentation for what is proposed for "Nairn Interventions" and it's a bit minimalist really but as they say above "the Council considers this as only the start of the conversation". Picture from that part of the webpage below. You can participate here. 


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

River CC online meeting - lots of ups and downs tonight

A lot of disagreement at the latest online meeting of Nairn River Community Council tonight.  It is hard to see how the organisation can effectively proceed with the present fault lines that were apparent tonight. It was quite extraordinary really, this observer is quite sad after witnessing proceedings this evening.

We would anticipate a full report perhaps in next week's edition of the Nairnshire Telegraph.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Council support to families in time of need "Help is at hand for bereaved families in Highland who may find the unexpected cost of funerals out of their reach during the COVID-19 pandemic"

Highland Council press release:

Help is at hand for bereaved families in Highland who may find the unexpected cost of funerals out of their reach during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Highland Council has provided funeral directors in the region with information leaflets to ensure that they are aware of the financial support that is available to relatives for some funeral costs in specific circumstances. Depending on the individual circumstances of bereaving families, help may be available through the ‘Bereavement Support Payment’ and ‘Funeral Support Payment’.

Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee Chair, Cllr Linda Munro said: “The Council is acutely aware of the unexpected pain and hardship that the sudden loss of a loved one can cause for surviving relatives and the financial hardship this can cause to surviving relatives especially where the deceased was the main source of income in their home. That is why we are keen to share this information about support that is available.”

To help those most in need at this difficult time, the Council’s Welfare Support Team can assist eligible families to apply for help with funeral costs and to claim all entitlements that may be due because of such a significant change within their home.

There may also be additional benefits and help available on an ongoing basis to help with living costs. For example, a 25% discount from the council tax bill may be available together with a further reduction from the means-tested Council Tax Reduction scheme. Furthermore, some households may be entitled to Pension Credit to top-up their state pension on a weekly basis.

The support is free and confidential, and the Welfare Support Team can be contacted by emailing: welfare.support@highland.gov.uk or by phoning 0800 090 1004. 

Contact can also be made by completing a secure online form at www.highland.gov.uk/welfaresupport

"Nairn councillor Tom Heggie called Parkdean irresponsible and said he was writing to tourism secretary Fergus Ewing to ask for his intervention."

More on the Press and Journal website:

Outrage as national caravan operator offers Highland bookings from May 16

Monday, May 04, 2020

Nairn River Community Council online meeting Tuesday 12th May 7.30 pm - public to be invited

The Gurn understands that Nairn River Community Council hope to have a mechanism in place to allow members of the public to attend their online meeting  (Tuesday May 12th). An unreliable source close to senior NRCC movers and shakers contacted the Gurn with this information earlier today. 

Details of how to join the meeting should appear on the NRCC site here soon.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Nairn Task Force Web and mobile app launched

The remarkable Community Resilience organisation that sprung up in Nairn just before Lockdown and has done marvelous work through this crisis have now launched an app to make things easier for those that need help, those that wish to volunteer and/or donate during the Covid-19 crisis. 


Tish Joyce of the Task Force told the Gurn: "This is a really important step forward as it means that the Task Force is largely self managing with minimal
interaction required by myself, Rhona and Nicola. The aim is to reduce emails and phone calls as much as possible, and enable those requesting support or offering support to self serve via a simple app that can be used on the web or on their phone.

I am now looking at how we can adopt this as a Community Tool, on an ongoing basis. It can provides Nairn with a simple tool that can be used in the event of further challenges with Covid-19 or in fact any other threat that requires community members to support one another. It has taken a lot of hard work to design and develop over the last four weeks, and we have been fortunate to have been provided with it as a pro bono offering from Cognizant UK Outreach Team."

Earlier Tish had posted the following message on the group's Facebook Page:

"7 weeks ago today, the idea for Nairn Task Force was born, anticipating a lock down scenario. Sadly it happened, and we've all been on quite a journey. There is no doubt that the spirit and work of the volunteers has really helped our community to get through these times. 
It was hard work to setup initially but thanks to the support of Nicola Mackinlay, Rhona Macdonald and Elaine MacPhail we established a working pattern, that became easier. The intent was always that the Task Force become self managing and the WhatsApp Sub Groups have really helped to make that happen. Today I can announce the launch of the Nairn Task Force App which is now live and enables self service for:
- Volunteers to update their availability and pick up new support request without emailing, texting or calling us
- Those in need to request help efficiently, and track their request, with minimal intervention by others
- Those wanting to make a promise of a donation to do so, and this can then be assigned to a volunteer who can use it to support someone.
I have been working with the UK Outreach Group from Cognizant, as they have designed and built this for us free of charge. We are hugely grateful to all of the team who have worked day and night to build an amazing solution ''ARAM - Aspire to Serve' . Please pass on our thanks Sathish Kumar. Nairn Task Force has been the inspiration for this app, and we are the first users..
VOLUNTEERS
Please log into the app today via the link below and update your information, availability to volunteer - it will take just a few moments. If you have a gmail address log in via Google or use your email as user name and mobile number as password. You can then change your password as required and update details. You can do via your phone and add to home screen and this will become an app on your phone or you can access via the web

THOSE NEEDING SUPPORT
Go to the app below, you don't need to log in, but you can request help via the I NEED SUPPORT button and we will ensure you get what you need.

THOSE WANTING TO DONATE
Anyone who wishes to make a promise to donate can also do that via the I WANT TO DONATE button. We will be in touch when we can use your promise.

THOSE WANTING TO VOLUNTEER
Any new volunteers can also register via the I WANT TO SUPPORT button and we will be in touch.

Thanks again for everything,
You are amazing
Tish"

How about learning some Gaelic during Lockdown? Three hundred thousand people around the world are already and there's no shortage of learners in Nairn as well!

The Scottish Gaelic Duolingo course (entirely free) has been around for five months now and it already has an incredible 300,000 plus active learners registered.

We had quite a few meet-ups in Nairn  for Duolingo learners and other folk with some or quite a lot of Gaelic before the  Lockdown. We are still continuing online. You can get more details here on this Duolingo events site dedicated to what is going on in Nairn.

During this continuing Lockdown period perhaps you might fancy a go yourself? The Duolingo app suits the times we live in and you can get a few minutes of lessons anytime you have a spare moment or a longer period of time to yourself and a lot of us have quite a bit of that on our hands just now.

You can enroll for the free Duolingo Gaelic course here.  

There are plenty of other resources for learners online too at Learn Gaelic.scot and of course there are other learners and native speakers in Nairn to try out a bit of Gaelic with.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Nairn - Think tank suggests we are the Scottish town with the most people employed in sectors currently shut down due to Covid-19

We start this article with the following tweets from the Centre for Towns organisation:
Here at the Gurn the first thing that came to mind was the methodology used to determine these statistics. We asked and promptly received the following reply:

"The source is the BRES dataset, which is available at small area level. We use our own lookups to convert small area data into towns/cities/communities and aggregate up.
The link for the data resource is here fyi: https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/datasets/newbres6pub "  

We had a look at that site and it is part of the Office for National Statistics set-up. It does contain a caveat about being a prototype however. The study that Centre for Towns did for England and Wales was reported on SKY News here and in other media outlets. Readers may find that report for England and Wales entitled "COVID-19 and our Towns" of interest. 

So no report for Scotland yet but some tables published on the Centre for Town's twitter account.  Readers may also wish to explore the Centre for Town's website which looks into the economic and social dynamics of small towns, they describe themselves thus:  "The Centre For Towns is an independent non-partisan organisation dedicated to providing research and analysis of our towns. Whilst our cities receive a good deal of attention, we believe that there should be equal attention paid to the viability and prosperity of our towns."

Regular readers may have seen the Scottish Government information that we posted earlier today: "How best can the tourist and culture industry bounce back in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, asks Holyrood’s Culture Committee." 

Here at the Gurn we feel that communities such as Nairn that rely heavily on the Tourism and Culture sectors will need substantial and long lasting support when we eventually emerge from this crisis. 

How best can the tourist and culture industry bounce back in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, asks Holyrood’s Culture Committee

The following Scottish Government information will be of interest to those who have businesses or are employed in this sector. Perhaps there will be a few folk in Nairn with ideas. The Gurn understands that Nairn BID are already proactive in looking towards coming out of this crisis:

The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee has today issued a call for views from the culture and tourism industry on the current Covid-19 crisis. The committee is seeking to consider how best the industry can be supported during this unprecedented time.

The Committee will use feedback received to recommend how the Government should provide effective support that mitigates the devastating impact the virus is having on the industries.

The Committee has set no deadline for responses. The call for views will remain open on an ongoing basis and will provide a forum for raising issues of concern.
Committee Convener, Joan McAlpine MSP said:

“These are unprecedented times and the Committee is here to listen. As the weather warms our tourism industry should be coming into its high season. Instead hotels are empty, pubs are dry, and theatres are quiet.  Visitors have been told not to travel to rural areas for understandable reasons, but that will have a devastating impact on tourism business in some already fragile local economies.

“The protection of life and the ability of the NHS to cope as the virus spreads has rightly been the priority but the long-term impact that Covid-19 has created will last longer than any lockdown.

“Scotland relies heavily on its tourism and culture industry and it is vital that our industries are supported effectively during this crisis, so that they can come back and contribute to the economy once more."

Deputy Convener Claire Baker MSP said:
“Mitigating the impact of this crisis must be a top priority of the Scottish Government, as it is for the Committee.
“The mass cancellation of events and the effective lockdown of tourism will have a profound lasting effect. We will be working with the Cabinet Secretary to ensure all that can be done is being done.”
The committee will publish responses on its website on a regular basis over the coming weeks and months.  

Background
The call for views can be found here
Media information
Tim Hustler: 07511 670 492
Text Relay calls welcome
Public information
  • Telephone enquiry line: 0800 092 7500 or 0131 348 5395 (Gàidhlig)
  • sp.info@parliament.scot
  • Text 07786 209 888
  • Ask a question online through live chat
  • We also welcome calls using the Text Relay service or in British Sign Language through contactSCOTLAND-BSL.
Contact Information
Tim Hustler

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Highland Council planning now behind closed doors - Nairn's Community Councils send letter of protest to Glenurquhart Road and copies to MSPs

The Gurn has received a copy of a letter sent today to senior Highland Council Planning officers by Nairn's two Community Councils. Copies of the Letter have also been sent to MSPs and other high heid yins at Glenurquart Road.
Here is the text of the letter:

JOINT LETTER FROM NAIRN WEST & SUBURBAN COMMUNITY COUNCIL
AND NAIRN RIVER COMMUNITY COUNCIL


(By email)

Dafydd Jones, Acting Head of Development Management

Nicole Wallace, Head of Planning and Environment

David Mudie, Area Planning Manager (South)

Jimmy Gray, Chair, South Planning Applications Committee


Highland Council 27th April,2020
Glenurquhart Road
Inverness

Dear Highland Council Officers and Councillor Gray,

Just after 8pm on Thursday 23rd April 2020 Community Councils received an email forwarding a notification you had issued titled “Maintaining our planning function during Covid – 19: Guidance for Community Councils”.

This was circulated to both Nairn Community Councils by their respective Secretaries and was read with varying degrees of worry and dismay by members. 

This Saturday, 25th April we read the P&J headline which confirmed that we were not the only people deeply concerned by the proposed changes. The heading states “Horrifying change in decision-making”.

The element that causes most disquiet is that planning decisions will be made privately between the planning official and the Chair of the relevant planning committee. The remark made by Highland Councillor Andrew Jarvie – himself a member of the South Planning Applications Committee – is both disturbing and apt: he is quoted in the press as saying, “This proposal to allow one councillor to be judge, jury and executioner is quite horrifying.”

This amended Scheme of Delegation may be temporary. But it is totally undemocratic. It removes the key element of scrutiny by a representative committee. It appears that the full planning reports normally provided to committee will not be published or circulated. The remarks made by another Highland Councillor suggest that no members other than the Chair of the planning committee will receive papers. Such an arrangement prevents proper scrutiny and is neither transparent nor properly accountable. It places extraordinary powers in the hands of two individuals, the case officer and the committee Chair, who are effectively empowered to make decisions behind closed doors. There is no indication in the details provided so far of any review or appeal procedure. The Community Councils of Nairn find this totally unacceptable.



It is a cardinal principle of all planning legislation that the rules, the standards, the criteria and the procedures are consistent across the country. If Councils are now permitted to adopt substantially different arrangements to deal with current applications, this too is “undemocratic and unacceptable”, as Councillor Baxter has observed. 

The area he represents, Lochaber, is – like Nairn – a tourist destination. Planning and development proposals are thus often particularly sensitive. We have recently lodged representations about two very contentious planning applications. In normal circumstances we would have expected both to be considered by SPAC and subjected to full public scrutiny and debate. We have pressed for them to be deferred. For such highly contentious applications to be assessed only by HC planning officials and decided by a single Councillor with no connections to the town of Nairn would be absolutely intolerable. 
We have since learned that at least one of our own local Councillors, Peter Saggers, also has serious misgivings about the new procedural arrangements and the implications for major planning applications affecting Nairn which are currently on the table, and that he intends to raise the matter with the Leader of the Council.

The notification circulated on 23 April states that the new Scheme has been agreed by the Council and approved by the Scottish Government. It does not however indicate how – in the absence of public meetings and records – the Council made the decision on such a significant reassignment of its powers. Both national legislation and the Highland Council’s own existing Scheme of Delegation (section2) make clear that by law, Councillors have to decide (which implies a formal vote) on any alteration in the delegation of their own powers. The fact that councillors currently serving on planning committees have expressed dismay, including even the Vice-Chair of SPAC Cllr Carolyn Caddick, raises questions about the apparently arbitrary way in which the changes have been introduced. 

It is also difficult to see how the Highland Council arrangements can be regarded as compatible with the terms of the Chief Planner’s letter of 3 April. There is no proposal for any “…. online alternative [to public consultation events], so that local people can still be engaged and have an opportunity to have an influence on proposals that affect them.”

The Chief Planner’s letter of 3 April also noted that “There are options available to enable decisions to continue to be made on planning matters. Local authorities already have the power to hold meetings virtually.” Indeed, the Highland Council has already and for some time convened and managed online or remote-linked videoconference meetings to enable participation in meetings by members around the region. 

That being so, the claim reportedly made by a Highland Council spokesperson that there was “insufficient support to ensure a stable enough IT platform for the numbers who could be participating” is simply not credible. Highland Councillor Emma Roddick has commented that she is “…. sick of hearing that it's impractical or impossible to hold meetings during COVID”. As one of our own Community Councillors wrote in an email, “The excuse of not being able to use IT for virtual meetings is unacceptable as it’s actually very simple to set up with a vast array of platforms available”.


It is noteworthy that both Moray and Aberdeenshire have thought laterally and found alternative options which are as democratic and as fair as they can set up during the pandemic. These local authorities – and indeed organisations all over thecountry – are moving to, and able to manage, a transition to online meetings which enables planning committees (and other such groupings) to convene, discuss and make decisions on current matters. 

There seems no reason why Highland cannot do likewise. There is no plausible justification for giving selected individuals the power to deliberate and make decisions on planning matters without public scrutiny or debate. Highland Council has IT staff who should be more than able to set up some form of teleconferencing if it really is not possible for the committee to meet in one of the larger chambers.

Engagement and accountability are cornerstones of the planning process. It would be unfortunate if the Highland Council were to be seen to be using the opportunity of the Covid crisis to bring in measures which might be described as introducing greater "social distancing" between local citizens, elected Councillors, and planning decisions.

As the two Community Councils representing the people of Nairn, we recognise that the present situation is difficult. We wish to see arrangements in place which provide for proper appraisal of planning proposals and which enable a process of publicly accountable, open and representative discussions and decision-making. We do not believe the procedure adopted by Highland Council meets this objective. We believe there are alternative, and better options for dealing with the present exceptional circumstances. We therefore urge the Council to reconsider their approach.

Yours sincerely, ( Issued and signed jointly)

Sheena Baker
Chair Nairn West & Suburban Community Council 
Tommy Hogg
Chair Nairn River Community Council

CC: Donna Manson
Kate Forbes MSP
Fergus Ewing MSP
Kate Lackie
Margaret Davidson
Scott Dalgarno
William Munro
Laurie Fraser
Tom Heggie
Liz MacDonald
Peter Saggers
Andrew Baxter 
Andrew Jarvie 
Carolyn Caddick.