Friday, November 27, 2020

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Observations on where Covid Community Cash went in the Highlands - questions to be asked on Nairn's share or lessons to be learnt?

One of our regular readers has seen a document from July that lists Covid Community Grants payments made from Highland Council to areas of the Highlands. Our observer suggested we look at COVID-19 Grant Awards Appendix 1 in a document that went to the full Highland Council committee on 30 July and was entitled “Review of Covid-19 services: Humanitarian assistance and food supply”.

The early part of the year and the full lock down was an extremely challenging time for communities and for the local authority and the needs of each area would have been very different perhaps – as the document itself says:

“The scale of the task has been considerable. By 10 July 1,234 shielding people have been supported to access Scottish Government food boxes, a further 1,024 households have been supported to access our food support, just over 6,000 bags of emergency food have been distributed, medicines have been delivered to 438 people, 174 people have been referred for welfare support and over 200 for social support. We have received over 6,100 calls for support, advice and guidance and made outward calls to over 5,000 to understand their needs and check in on their well-being as well as face to face contact through deliveries. We have borrowed over 120 staff from across Council services, engaged over 120 volunteers from HLH, Eden Court and worked directly with over 110 community bodies. We have redeployed our fleet and made alternative use of council buildings.

In looking at the appendix however (Click on the image below to enlarge) our regular reader maintains the following can be observed:

Aside from the £182,405 allocated to "Highland wide" groups, the following received money
Caithness & Sutherland              £ 469,437     consisting of £429,858 to 83 community organisations, plus £39,579 to Caithness wards
Ross & Cromarty inc Black Isle   £ 492,009      to 109 local groups
Eilean, Caol, Mallaig, Aird           £ 389,494      to 78 local groups
Inverness                                    £ 388,404       consisting of £271,218 to 60 local groups, plus £117,186 to Inverness wards
Ft William & Ardnamurchan        £ 149,379      consisting of £121,344 to 18 groups, plus £28,035 to Lochaber wards
Badenoch & Strathspey              £ 143,015      to 9 local groups
Culloden & Ardersier                   £    6,100      to 4 groups
Ward 18 Nairn[shire]                    £  4,906        to 7 local groups

Our correspondent added:


“Nairn(shire) with the second largest urban centre in the region and 5.5% of Highland population, got precisely 0.22% (£4,906) of the total money dished out to Highland communities. 


Badenoch & Strathspey has about the same population share as Nairn (5.9%). They got almost £150k (6.7% of the total funding).


By comparison Caithness and Sutherland (17% of the population) got 21% of the total money;  Ross & Cromarty (24.5% population) 22%;  Ft William etc (4.7%) got 6.7%.”

As we said above, horses for courses and all that and things could have been very different in other places. Gurnites will remember that the existing and new networks that popped up performed really well from a standing start and maybe our community networks needed less help to perform to the best of their combined abilities. 


We hope however that our Community Councils will quiz our elected Highland Council members as to why Nairn was presented with or needed such a small amount of cash compared to other areas in the Highlands and whether any lessions can be learned here for the future. 

Click image to enlarge

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Meanwhile on the 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, November 19, 2020

Café Lavender support petition on planning points gathering momentum - 10 jobs under threat?

 A change.org page in support of the popular Café Lavender reads:

"Help keep Café Lavender in business and save 10 local jobs as well as our livelihood

 Please support us, as we are trying to keep our Café Lavender open for you and push back at some planning permission points that we find harsh, we want to continue serving people who have praised us on Trip Advisor, Google and Facebook and been loyal customers to us. 

We employ 10 local people and use all local suppliers and bring a taste of German cafe culture and hospitality to beautiful Nairn where we love living and communicating with our many loyal customers and tourists. Please sign to help our campaign to keep open and continue business."

More on the petition site here. 

 

Update after careful consideration we have decided not to take comments on this article

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Sandown Common Good Land for sale - going for about 6-7 million but a small matter of public consultation first

 The Highland Council consultation document reads:

"What is proposed?

A sale of 38 hectares of Common Good property lying either side of the A96 at the western boundary of Nairn. The extent of property included in the proposal is shown in the plans and images below and is described in the Highland Council Common Good Asset Register for Nairn as follows:


Inverness Road, IV12 5NT.

UPRN: 130111934.

The lands run either side of the A96.

On the left/north side (heading towards Nairn) the lands are bordered by road to Ruthven, A96, Sandown Farm Lane & properties to the rear of Tradespark Road.

On the right/south side the lands are bordered by A96, Sandown Road, Rear of properties on Wyvis Road & Moss-side Road.


The allotment gardens together with a parcel of land for extension of the gardens will be excluded from the proposal."

 You can download a copy of the document here.  


Meanwhile a few opionions already emerging from the community over on the Nairn our Town, our views Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Nairn County raising £1,000 to support Alexander's Journey to provide food parcels, gifts & mental health support to those vulnerable or shielding at Christmas in Nairn.

The crowdfunder page states: " Alexander Sherret is raising money for his local community as part of the `County at Christmas` Campaign. He has volunteered to do 19.14miles in his wheelchair around Station Park, the home of Nairn County FC assisted by a team of helpers.

Weʼre raising £1,000 to support Alexanders Journey to provide food parcels, gifts & mental health support to those vulnerable or shielding at Christmas in Nairn.

 The goal, together with other fundraising events, is to raise £1000 which will be spent in local businesses to purchase food parcels and small gifts for those vulnerable or shielding over the Festive Period. Also to donate towards local mental health charities who are supporting people who are particularly challenged at this time of year."

More information on the Crowdfunder page here 

or click image below to enlarge 


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Common Good consultation on proposal to dispose, by lease, of the Tearoom and on proposal to dispose, by demolition, of the old store and return the land to public amenity, both located on The Links, Nairn

A copy of the consultation document is available here on the Highland Council website.

Here's why this consultation is taking place according to the document linked above

"The Highland Council have a statutory obligation to seek court consent before disposing of Common Good land which may be ‘inalienable’.

In this context ‘inalienable’ refers to Common Good property that falls into at least one of the following categories: -

  • The Title Deed of the property dedicates it to a public purpose, or

  • The Council has dedicated it to a public purpose, or

  • The property has been used for public purposes for many years (time immemorial) without interference by the Council

In this case the property is located on The Links at Nairn which derived its title from the Royal Charter of King James VI dated 15 October 1589 and, as such, it is considered that a question of alienability may arise. Therefore, the proposed lease cannot be concluded until Sheriff Court consent has been obtained. If after this consultation, the proposal progresses to a court application the public will have a further opportunity to make representations within the Court process. A statutory advertisement will be placed in the Nairnshire Telegraph to inform the local public that the court process has been commenced."


Nairn West and Suburban AGM and regular meeting – a perfect Zoom event – but should the gathering storm(s) have been discussed?

Given the previous evidence from River CC of how Zoom meetings can go off the rails into chaos and rancour this was a remarkably well organised event (divided into two because of the Zoom basic package limit of forty minutes). Brevity, polite behaviour and concise language were the order of the evening. Testament perhaps to how much of our lives are moving into the online sphere now. In times to come when we get a bit clear of Covid then surely a lot of these types of meeting will continue in the Zoom fashion and save people venturing out on cold winter nights - saving organisations cash too when it comes to hiring venues. 

(Here at the Gurn we are delighted with the Zoom meetings we have participated in with various groups. After meeting socialising is possible on Zoom too with a cuppa and biscuits or something stronger if you wish. But we digress - back to NWSCC matters.)

A virtual observer might have found the discussion strangely unsatisfying and lacking in substance - it felt very unusual to this observer  A case of watch dogs that have suddenly stopped barking for some reason?

As for the AGM the formal proceedings and election of office bearers was undisputed, perhaps this suggests a lot of careful prior consultation and planning.  In these difficult times there is something perhaps to be said for continuity and well done if there were consultations beforehand too, it saved time on the evening – after all who would want to be a community councillor these days – all your debates and decision making can tempt the wrath of social media and you can be pilloried on occasion whether you deserve it or not. The tendency and ability of us all to hit the Facebook front page with our thoughts must surely deter some from stepping forward to allow themselves for selection to these roles? So well done all those who continue to do their best and at the same time but themselves up for increasing levels of scrutiny.

There was nevertheless something odd about the discussion.  The town has been going through turbulent times.  Covid has had a major impact on the local economy.  Businesses have been struggling, visitors staying away, and the next six to twelve months look bleak.  Alongside that, there has been controversy and dissension over plans for the future of the town centre, with plans for a new housing block and offices pushed through in face of strong objections from across the community - including the CCs.   Anxiety is growing over the way in which some feel that Common Good assets might be exploited by Highland Council. Here at the Gurn we do feel there should be more frank discussion on the way forward for the Common Good and associated subjects. The Common Good really does need to come home in the full sense.

But from last night's discussion there was little sense that that the rescue and regeneration of the town is a top priority.  We had a brief reminder - given the evidence of last week's spate - of the importance of action on flood prevention, where progress seems to be remarkably slow.  There was reference to the hoped-for improvements in local 'active travel' routes and signage for which Highland Council has a special allocation of funds because of the Covid social-distancing requirements.  In passing, the possibility of parking charges and the vexed issue of motorhome facilities were mentioned without debate.

For debate on parking charges and argument about the flats and CAB office to be built in King Street it is perhaps worth turning to the editorial colums of the Nairnshire Telegraph this week. The Nairnshire concludes: “Will there be a need for all that parking in a future in which Nairn High Street may not be functioning as a retail centre? Should we wait out the current recession before making any plans at all?”

Maybe that is where we all are just now, individuals, councils and businesses, waiting for the Covid dust to settle to pick up the pieces see what we can resume of the old way of life? No doubt Highland Council and the Scottish Government have recovery strategies, how they will fit into what Nairn will have to face seems to be unclear at the moment.

Perhaps inevitably, there was discussion of how best to adapt to the new normal of virtual meetings, managing the technology, and developing an online presence and website, where NW&SCC has a long way to go. For some considerable time now they have been debating a potential web presence, perhaps it will happen this time round.

Otherwise, we were back to parochial concerns.  One was about speeding traffic in the residential streets of the West End:  this seems to have taken over from seagulls and dog-poo as a neighbourhood watch issue.  Councillor Heggie seemed to think this was a matter for CCs to deal with, we think he was indicating here at a consultation level – or maybe Highland Council could sponsor a speed gun for local residents to use or some other out of the box initiative to counter a growing problem?  He was reminded that road safety and traffic management are statutory responsibilities of the local Council.

The prospect of a new Nairn Academy was also raised.  Not just the priority and timing, but concern that basing the new school on a forecast of 780 pupils would provide inadequate capacity if the many thousands more houses indicated in development plans were to be built.  It was also suggested that a new school might be better relocated nearer to such new housing.  Tom Heggie said there had been meetings with officials... there would be more meetings ..... there would be public consultation .... alternatives would be considered ..... before plans were drawn up.  As for location, Cllr Heggie said that building on the playing fields would involve "nil cost" for the site, and anyway, people were "used to the current school location".  One thinks here to the established obligations on developers - so spectacularly squandered at Lochloy - whereby a developer contribution takes the form of the allocation of a site for a school or other community facilities. Any new development can pay a huge chunk to new school costs?

To round off the evening, Tom was asked for an update on Highland Council's current priorities and activity, the response was that "there were a number of ongoing matters being resolved elsewhere".  Here at the Gurn we wonder what those ongoing matters are and whether any of them will explode into prominence in the way so many issues have done in Nairn in the past. Or maybe the spirit of polite efficient Zoom meetings will trickle down to all levels of civic debate in our immediate and uncertain future and all will suddenly become uncontentious.



Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Old Social Work Building survey

"NICE, Nairn Connects BID and The Highland Council are working together on a funding application to Scottish Government and other sources to regenerate and bring the King Street building known locally as the Old Social Work Building back into use." 

You can participate in their survey here on the NICE website. 

 



Friday, October 23, 2020

SNP Nairnshire branch asks party to oppose Cromarty Firth freeport proposal

Press Release frm SNP Nairnshire Branch
SNP Nairnshire branch asks party to oppose Cromarty Firth freeport proposal  


At a branch meeting held online on Tuesday evening the branch discussed the proposal to create a freeport in Cromarty Firth and the dangers that poses to the area, and especially to Nairn and agreed to ask the party to oppose them at its National Conference in November. 


In April 2019 the European Parliament called for freeports to be scrapped across the EU as a result of a report on tax evasion and money laundering but despite this Westminster are now proposing to create freeports around the UK and the Port of Cromarty Firth is looking to be included on that list. 


John Hume, who used to work in the shipping industry and so had some experience in this area, explained how freeports work. 


“A lot of people don’t understand the full impact freeports might bring but it’s really, fundamentally, a little tax haven. They won’t be paying tax in the way that normal businesses will, they will be exempt from a lot of planning rules so goodness knows what buildings may be developed on and around the freeport, and they won’t necessarily have to apply by other regulations around employment such as the minimum wage and may not have to pay National Insurance. We’re going to have enough problems in the UK and Scotland with a bonfire of regulations post Brexit even without freeports.”


Thinking specifically about the dangers to Nairn, branch member Paul Oldham said: 


“If Cromarty Port is made a freeport all of the marine protection will go, so the threat to Nairn’s beaches will be back. The Scottish Ports Group, of which the Port of Cromarty Firth is a member, is already calling for a review of the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives because the Group feel it is critical to the functioning of an effective port. 


“What this means is scrapping long standing environmental protection legislation which would be catastrophic for the Moray Firth. Our fish, dolphins, whales, birds and other marine life will all be seriously affected; the long term damage of increased marine traffic, its pollution to our beaches and environment, and to other Highland and Moray Firth businesses and tourism will be immeasurable. All the hard work which went into preventing Ship to Ship Transfers in the Moray Firth could, in one fell swoop, be undone.”


A branch member who had watched a recent meeting of the Highland Council Recovery Board said that board members were told that local councillors, MPs, and MSPs supported the proposal for the Port of Cromarty Firth to become a UK Freeport i.e. all taxes and customs policies along with other important issues, will be under the control of Westminster and it looked like the Council’s support would be “rubber stamped“ before there was any debate about its merits, or otherwise, in the council chamber or in the wider community. 


Branch convener, Luan McCormack said: 


“Our branch is very concerned about the proposal for a freeport just across the Moray from Nairn and that our local councillors seem oblivious to the dangers it poses. We hope that the Scottish National Party will agree at its conference to oppose freeports throughout Scotland and especially at Cromarty Firth.”

Gurn reader praises Nairn Health Care's flu jab "fantastic service"

Dear Gurn,

As with many of your readers we went to have our Flu Jab yesterday. 
In a world where everyone criticises and moans about everything it's a real pleasure when one can stand up and say thank you for a fantastic service. I would like to publicly say that to Nairn Healthcare and their staff. Their operation at the clinic to administer the jab was organised with military precision, it was efficient and yet not officious, it was welcoming and incredibly well organised.

I would like to say a big 'well done' to Nairn Healthcare, we're lucky to have them.

Regards
David Clem
Clunas
Nairn

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Spate on the River Nairn morning of 22/10/20 - video

After a night of heavy rain the Sepa online measurement for Firhall shows that the amount of water coming down the Nairn more than doubled since midnight. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Popular Cafe Lavender retrospective planning application stacking up comments for and against on the Highland Council e-planning site.

 Gurnites who wish to get themselves up to speed with all the issues for and against the application may wish to head to the Highland Council e-planning pages here and read both the comments and the documents section. 

When this cafe opened up just after the lockdown restrictions loosened it was an instant hit and many folk could be seen enjoying refreshments in the summer sunshine (this thread on the Nairn Rocks Facebook group is full of compliments for example). Now with a retrospective planning application in the planners and councillors who will decide the issue have an increasing number of submissions to consider. 

Perhaps the Planning committee will be minded to consider some of the mitigation proposals from Nairn River Community Council listed in the text of their letter below:

"NAIRN RIVER COMMUNITY COUNCIL
Comhairle Coimhearsnachd Abhainn Narann
chair@nairnrivercc.org
secretary@nairnrivercc.org
22/07/2020

Highland Council Planning Department
Glenurquhart Road
Inverness

For the attention of Christine MacLeod case officer

Reference 20/03552/FUL Retrospective part change of use of existing guest house to cafe (Class 3) and takeaway Cawdor House 7 Cawdor Street Nairn IV12 4QD
   
Planning Application.

We write in connection with the above planning application. We have examined the plans and we know the area well.

 Cawdor House B&B Cafe Lavender, retrospective planning application to include a cafe/ bakery and takeaway.

This is not an easy submission to write as there are diverse and sometimes contradictory  views raised by the various objectors who have posted comments on the Planning website.
We will try to address as many as we can.Some local residents have also emailed their concerns directly to us as a Community Council seeking our support.

In writing this submission Nairn River Community Council seeks to summarise written comments along with additional information collected by speaking with the Cawdor House owners (the applicant) and two of the neighbouring parties.

We have also tried to clarify some inaccurate information and conjecture presented in some of the written Objections posted on the planning site. Our clarifications are based on evidence observed by Community Councillors onsite and information provided directly to us by the applicant on questioning.

By doing so Nairn River Community Council have determined not to take sides but to focus on the facts.

We have also included here a list of recommendations for a number of ‘mitigation’ measures which we recommend could be included as conditions, which would require to be satisfied by Cawdor House owners, if the Planning Committee is minded to approve consent for this retrospective change of use Application .

Noise -Objections to the noise from the outdoor seating area.
This was described by objectors as cutlery and crockery noises along with conversation.
The café owners made clear to Community Councillors that they were willing to put measures in place to reduce or eliminate this noise.
As hours of business for the outdoor café are restricted to daytime, we noted that there would also be other background noise at that time from passing road traffic, and trains at the nearby railway station, which at times could be louder than the café noise.
Mitigating measures we discussed with the applicants to protect neighbours on the No 3 Cawdor Street side included
1/ raising the wall height with a fence to reduce ‘echo’ and deflect sound back into Cawdor House garden
2/ more robust screening of tables to limit noise and to prevent café customers from overlooking directly the neighbour’s driveway and two upstairs windows of No.3 Cawdor Place.
We noted also that the licence to sell alcohol, applied for and granted in 2019, does not permit the playing of music, live or recorded outdoors.
Limiting noise or disturbance is also in the interests of the owners to ensure the comfort of their residential paying guests.
To limit noise, traffic and disturbance, we suggest there may also merit in reducing maximum outside seating capacity by up to 20% next year from the 35 maximum cited in the application, to 25 adults at any one time. However we also note that based on this summer’s popularity of this enterprise, this could add to queuing issues at peak times.
Overlook Concerns that café customers look into the windows of No.3 Cawdor Street
We noted that the two upstairs windows in question at No.3 Cawdor Street are also visible from the pavement outside and from across Cawdor Street, as far back as the Post Office.

However, it is clear that without screening sound from the café is likely to be amplified by the side wall of No 3 Cawdor Street and hard for those neighbours to ignore, if at home.
We could see that this must have been pretty noisy, and potentially a source of stress and annoyance in the afternoons when the café was busy, for neighbours confined to their homes and gardens all summer due to COVID restrictions.

In summary to reduce noise and overlook – we recommend the following conditions
Mitigation Proposal No.1 – increase the height of the wall between Cawdor House and No.3 Cawdor Place using fencing to a height above the existing gazebo roofs(approximately 1 metre) . This will minimise ‘overlook’ and contain sound of café conversation. We have advised the proprietors to seek agreement with the neighbours before adding the fencing.

Mitigation Proposal No.2 – Review existing café table layout, to reduce noise disturbance, and invest in more robust ‘gazebos’ with ‘back walls’ to screen view to No.3 and to help deflect sounds of conversation back into garden.

Parking
 Parking pressures on Cawdor Road are a longstanding issue which predates the Lavender Café. With close proximity of two primary schools, and staff and customers from other local bars, shops and businesses all competing for limited parking space parking in the Cawdor Street area is at a premium. Highland Council recently added to this pressure by introducing 1 hour parking restrictions during the day between Cawdor House and the Classroom

Objection to owners ‘placing bollards on Cawdor Street to reserve parking’ – the owners reported that this did happen on only two occasions. Once when they had a delivery of liquid concrete for their yoga shed foundation and a second time when tradesmen required to deliver materials for refurbishment of Cawdor House. These were exceptional circumstances.
Objection to Cooking / Baking Smells
The kitchen is located on the far side of Cawdor House from No.3 and therefore far away from No 1 and 2 Cawdor Street.
 ‘Bakery’ smells have been cited as nuisance but we note no complaints regarding other kitchen smells more typical of a Scottish B and B – such as fried breakfasts.
Cawdor House Kitchen is little different in size from a ‘normal’ domestic kitchen therefore capacity for cooking and baking is limited. Owners told us that they have no plans to expand catering beyond supplying their B and B, café and takeaway operation
It was also noted that the cafe owners have already added a wooden barrier to increase the height of the stone boundary wall at the kitchen side ( No 6 Cawdor Street), to provide added privacy for these neighbours. Since this neighbour has also lodged a complaint that this screening is inadequate we suggest the following
Mitigation Measure No 3 – erect a more substantial visual barrier fence on top of wall adjoining No 6 Cawdor Street (similar to measure No 1) – to increase privacy and reduce overlook.
Objections to smell of cigarette smoke
Restricting smoking on the premises is an issue for the Applicant too as a hospitality business owner. They have permitted smoking in the past at one table only in the café area but told us that they were open to reviewing that policy. We suggested that they could consider banning smoking altogether in the food service area.
Mitigation Proposal No.4 – review smoking policy and either ban it altogether on the premises in outdoor food service areas, or at least relocate the designated smoking area (currently near No 3) to minimise nuisance to neighbours.

Complaint that there is ‘No indication that the café owners are willing to compromise‘
All mitigation proposals put forward by NRCC members were welcomed by the owners, and they showed us the measures they had already put in place on request to improve neighbour privacy on the Kitchen side of Cawdor House.

Alcohol Licence - concerns that Cawdor House proposes to hold larger ‘drinking’ functions including weddings, birthdays etc.
Below is the document granting the alcohol licence for Cawdor House.
It clearly states the conditions and times that alcohol can be served that are permitted.
The licence is for B&B residents only and terminates at 21:00 outside and at 22:00 inside. There is no provision in the licence for table service outside. As it is a small B&B establishment there is insufficient space to host weddings and larger events. The owners assured us that they had no plans to do so as this would compromise the peace and quiet of their B and B guests.
8.3 Ref: HC/INBS/645 Applicant: Partnership of Anika Schulz and Andreas Schulz, Cawdor House, 7 Cawdor Street, Nairn, IV12 4QD Premises: Cawdor House, 7 Cawdor Street, Nairn, IV12 4QD Type: On and off sales
There had been circulated Report No HLB/082/19 by the Clerk which advised that timeous notices of objection to the application had been received from Mr and Mrs Sinclair, Richard and Fiona Paxton and Mrs Jocelyn Ward. The Board was invited to determine the application.
The Licensing Standards Officer reported that the applicant sought to sell alcohol solely to residential guests who had booked accommodation at this well run premises. This would be an ancillary service to the main business of providing accommodation and food. The applicant had traded for a number of weeks in this manner under occasional licences with no issues arising. He recommended that a condition be attached to any grant of a licence to the effect that after 2100 hours, alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks shall not be consumed in any outdoor drinking area. The applicant was content with this condition and had advised that she was on good terms with her neighbours. He was confident that if the application was granted, the premises would be operated within the licensing objectives.
Ms A Schulz, applicant, confirmed that alcohol would be sold to guests only and it was in her own interests to ensure there was no noise and disturbance arising as there were other guests staying in the premises.
In discussion, it was suggested that the concerns expressed by the objectors were not directly relevant to this application as the sale of alcohol would be to guests only.
The Board AGREED to GRANT the application for a new premises licence subject to mandatory conditions, the local conditions and the special condition as set out at 7.2 and 7.3 respectively of the report.
7.2 Local conditions Should the Board grant the application as applied for, the Board may wish to consider attaching the following condition(s) from the schedule of local conditions: (m) After 2100 hours, alcohol or non-alcholic drinks shall not be consumed in any outdoor drinking area. n(i) No live or recorded music shall be played in any outdoor drinking area. 7.3 Special conditions The Board may wish to consider attaching the following special condition: Alcohol will only be sold to persons who have booked accommodation at the premises.
Concerns that Cawdor House has been operating a cafe business ‘illegally’ -
As a result of the COVID 19 situation the Chief Planner for Scotland issued a number of memos in April, May and July 2020 giving permission for businesses to operate outside normal operating parameters, and for planning regulations and enforcement to be relaxed during these unprecedented times.
Far from being illegal, Cawdor House’s ‘outdoor café’ was precisely the sort of business operation that the Scottish Government was encouraging businesses normally operating indoors to adopt to comply with COVID restrictions in challenging times –

PLANNING PROCEDURES AND COVID-19 2nd July 2020.The first page of this is below.
2 July 2020
Dear Colleague,
PLANNING AND COVID-19: USE OF OUTDOOR SPACES AND THE ‘28-DAY RULE’
In our letter of 29 May, we encouraged a supportive, pragmatic and flexible approach to temporary developments and changes of use which would enable businesses to diversify or adjust the way they operate as the lockdown eases and many people can get back to work.
This letter seeks to build on that guidance, with a specific reference to uses of land which can already happen in line with time-limited permitted development rights, and also in recognition of current interest in temporary outdoor uses such as the provision of outdoor seating by pubs, cafés and restaurants, including beer gardens. As the hospitality industry re-opens with physical distancing measures, we want to encourage the sector to take steps to provide a safe and pleasant environment for customers. This will also assist the viability of the sector.
In the main, the most appropriate, straightforward and efficient way planning can allow for reasonable temporary changes of use during this period is through informally relaxing planning controls; particularly by agreeing not to take enforcement action against acceptable planning breaches that will allow for businesses to operate and for some normality to return to life within our communities.
Planning enforcement is a discretionary activity and Scottish Government policy and guidance sets out that planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control. We have written several times since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak to discourage enforcement action in different circumstances, to allow the effects of the virus and physical distancing to be addressed for planning interests. That remains a reasonable approach at this time.
 

Concerns that Cawdor House intends to develop a Commercial BBQ operation.
The owners have confirmed to us that they had no plans for a barbecue provision.
There has been conjecture in planning objections about a concrete slab recently installed in the Cawdor House back garden. This is not part of this Planning application and is intended as a base for an additional shed for the exclusive private use of the Cawdor House proprietors. The concrete slab is out-with the area marked on the drawing for this application. We were informed that the shed will be used by the owner for yoga practice – so not likely to generate any additional noise or cooking smell

Cawdor Street neighbouring residential properties were purchased in the full knowledge that there was a B&B and other hospitality businesses in the vicinity
When purchasing their homes the neighbours would have known that there could be future parking and noise issues from neighbouring businesses at the top of the High Street. There are six private residences in the area and six commercial businesses. The two closest (the British Legion and Classroom bar and restaurant) are both licensed premises, and both have developed out-door seating areas in recent years, certainly after the houses were purchased by the Cawdor Street residents who are now raising objections to Cawdor House outdoor operations
         ______________________________________________
Café Operating Parameters and Opening Hours:
There are approximately ten members of staff involved with the Lavender Café not including the owners when operating.
Café opening hours during summer 2020 were 13.30-17:30, that is four hours per day, in the afternoon only. The operating hours of the takeaway, are from 11:00 to 18:00.

The proprietors have informed us that their average total customer through-put per afternoon during the opening period this summer has been 50 for the café and 15 per day for the takeaway,
This is an average of 12.5 café customers per hour. On the busiest day, during the summer, there were 150 customers in total per afternoon, including small children
 
This represents the outdoor café operating at maximum capacity of 35 customers per hour.
This level of business occurred only on two or three days in fine weather.
We appreciate that this is exceptional but can also appreciate that this volume of business is bound to generate significant traffic and noise in the area

Neighbour complaints that ‘the pavement is consistently blocked’ by customers queuing for both the cafe and the takeaway and ‘parking disabled buggies’
The customer figures above suggest that there were only a few days when this level of congestion is likely to have occurred.
We also note that due to COVID 19 restrictions and social distancing requirements, queuing has become a normal feature in many establishments
Owners told us that after current ‘end of season’ indoor renovations are completed and business resumes, later in October, outside cafe operations will be limited over winter to use of the tables in front of the house only, and not those on the side garden next to No 3.
We suggest two further additional mitigating measures to be considered before next summer season

Mitigation Proposal 5 – reduce maximum capacity of outdoor café to 25 adults at peak times

Mitigation Proposal 6 – review café service and table layouts, and screening to restrict neighbourhood disturbance, and to better accommodate queuing, disabled access and space for prams and disabled buggies

In summary, in considering all points of view as a Community Council, we can understand why this sudden and unexpected development over the summer has caused a degree of concern, annoyance and distress for some in the neighbourhood
It is also concerning that the applicant has not applied sooner to Planning for this change of use, but we do understand that the COVID situation has been unprecedented and unexpected
It is therefore also understandable that the applicant might seek ways to quickly adapt and sustain his business in challenging circumstances, at a time when Scottish planning guidelines were encouraging development of outdoor hospitality services and there was also temporary relaxing of planning enforcement to allow such operations, and because normal planning oversight activity was not possible in practice due to COVID restrictions.
This new cafe has attracted considerable custom both from locals and visitors, in the short time it has been open and is to some extent a victim of its own success here

We want to see Nairn’s local economy thriving but not at the cost of the wellbeing and harmony of the local community so would not recommend that SPAC consent to this application, unless a number of conditions are attached.
These would require that before next summer season, the applicant puts in place robust and effective mitigating measures for the longer term to minimise noise nuisance and disruption to the surrounding neighbourhood

Mitigation Proposal No.1 – increase the height of the wall between Cawdor House and No.3 Cawdor Place using fencing, to raise screening above the existing gazebo roofs (approximately 1 metre). This will minimise ‘overlook’ and contain sound of café conversation. We have advised the applicant to seek agreement with the neighbours before adding the fencing.
Mitigation Proposal No.2 – Review existing café table layout, to reduce noise disturbance, and invest in more robust ‘gazebos’ with ‘back walls’  to screen view to No.3 and to deflect sound of conversation etc back into garden.
Mitigation Measure No 3 – erect a more substantial barrier fence on top of wall adjoining No 6 Cawdor Street (similar to measure No 1) – to increase privacy and reduce overlook.

Mitigation Proposal No.4 – review smoking policy and either ban it altogether on the premises in outdoor food service areas, or relocate designated smoking area to minimise nuisance to neighbours

Mitigation Proposal No 5 - reduce maximum capacity of outdoor café to 25 adults at peak times

Mitigation Proposal No 6 – review café service and table layouts, and screening to restrict neighbourhood disturbance, and to better accommodate queuing, disabled access and space for prams and disabled buggies.


With regard to growing parking pressures in the area, we are of the view that these problems pre-date the Lavender Café and are part of wider parking capacity and access issues for the whole of Nairn Town Centre
We would suggest Highland Council keeps the current parking restrictions in Cawdor Street under review in consultation with local residents, and would suggest that it might also be helpful to trial reduced ‘restricted hours’ on Cawdor Street to better fit the needs of the area both for residents and visitors.
We would also encourage Cawdor House owners to direct their B and B guests to park their vehicles in less congested areas where there is free parking overnight such as at Nairn Station nearby, to reduce pressure on residential parking in Cawdor Street
Finally as a Community Council we would advise any local residents with mobility issues concerned about local parking access (including Objectors to this application) to apply to Highland Council for an on-street disabled parking space.


On behalf of Nairn River Community Council (NRCC)

Tommy Hogg
NRCC Chairman

A short disclaimer:
Finally, please note that our submission is in respect of the proposed development. While we have taken every effort to present accurate information for your consideration, we cannot accept any responsibility for unintentional errors or omissions and you should satisfy yourselves on any facts before reaching your decision."

Highland Council press release: HC is ready for winter - apply now for community resilience grit bins

The Highland Council’s winter maintenance service commences on 14 October 2020, continuing through until 14 April 2021.  

Within its winter roads maintenance budget of £5 million for 2020/21, the Council is ready to salt - according to its policy – the 6,766km of roads for which the Council has responsibility. Area Winter Maintenance Plans are set by Area Committees within Council strategy and budget allocated by the Economy & Infrastructure Committee. 

Chair of the Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson said: “We have the supplies and resources in place to provide a winter service this year in the Highlands according to the Council’s agreed winter maintenance policy.  Council roads and pavements are gritted as specified within the council’s policy with the added assurance of mobilisation of extra staff this year. Details of the council’s highland wide and local area gritting policies and maps are on the council’s website at www.highland.gov.uk/gritting.

As in previous years, Highland Council will offer assistance to communities who wish to take action in their own area to help clear snow and ice from footpaths.  While the Council does operate a fleet of footpath tractors, the resources available are simply insufficient to clear every path in the region.  We recognise that communities may be able to assist with treating a more extensive path network or target the treatment of highly trafficked areas earlier than the Council.

The Council will assist with the provision of salt in either bins or heaps, snow shovels and pushers, gloves and hi-viz vests, Health and Safety advice to volunteers and public liability insurance.  It is a condition of the scheme that volunteers must register their intention to assist via their local Community Council - through which the scheme is administered.

Full guidance and an application Form can be found on the Council’s website at: https://www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/download/836/winter_resilience_community_aid

There have been no changes to this year’s winter policy so service levels throughout the local Areas will remain, essentially, unchanged from last year.  The service will commence at 6am each day as and when required. There will be a Monday to Friday service in which all roads are treated and a weekend service which includes treatment of all the Primary routes, strategic Secondary routes and difficult ‘Other’ routes. The service will be provided within the resources available and as weather conditions permit.

The Council can confirm it has adequate salt stocks with supplies continuing to be delivered through October and it is expected that approximately 45,000 tonnes will be in storage ready for the start of the main winter season. The Council has no concerns about future provision of salt deliveries. The total salt usage for last winter (2019/20) was 48,000 tonnes, which was less than previous years reflecting what was a milder than average winter. The cost of the salt for winter 2019/20 was in the order of £1.68 million.

The winter fleet mobilisation programme is substantially complete and includes vehicle servicing and calibration of salt spreading equipment.  The Council’s winter fleet includes 105 gritters, 42 footpath tractors, 2 snowblowers and over 200 staff providing winter maintenance services.

This year (2020/21) the Council has made provision for the replacement of 10 vehicles in its heavy fleet; eight of which have arrived with the remainder to be delivered later this month.  On completion of this latest order the Council will have invested a further £1.5 million in its winter fleet.

Staff involved in winter services provision at area level are trained in using the Council’s weather forecasting service. The forecasts are used each day to assist local decision-making on daily and longer-term winter services actions.

Service delivery during Covid-19 - risk factors

The arrival of Covid-19 during 2020 has presented the Council with significant challenges and there remains uncertainty as to what level of transmission may occur within the Highland area over the coming winter. Motorists and members of the public must recognise that despite the Council taking all necessary precautions there is still a risk, that should an outbreak occur within one of our larger depots, the level of service provided may be affected due to the need of driver(s) to self-isolate. Should this occur resources will be supplemented, where possible, with drivers who have the correct licence requirements from within the Council. Subsequently this could have a knock-on affect in the delivery of other services such as Waste and Amenities.

In a worst-case scenario, it may be necessary to reduce the extent of the road network treated at any one time. This may result in the shifting of resources to concentrate on the treatment of the Primary and Secondary networks only. Alternatively, it may be the case that the whole network continues to be treated but it is late afternoon or the next day before all the minor roads and residential streets are treated. The Council is required to adhere to the driver’s hours regulations which limits the length of time a driver can operate a vehicle so driver resources are not limitless.

For further information visit www.highland.gov.uk/gritting

 

Friday, October 09, 2020

King Street planning application passed at Highland Council

The application for flats and a CAB office on the King Street site was passed today at Highland Council. There was an amendment by Cllrs Ron MacWilliam and Laurie Fraser to refuse but it didn't gain the necessary support to succeed. There was considerable discussion and the segment of video below is quite a long affair with presentational material from a planning officer. The Councillors start to speak at 3.36.50 into the video however. 

Monday, October 05, 2020

New business appears on Nairn High Street - Nairn Denture Studio

The former Hairdressers opposite Castle Lane that has been shut for some time now has another business occupying the premises. 



Thursday, October 01, 2020

Joan Noble submits Independent Transport report concerning King Street development parking arrangements to all councillors on the planning committee

Joan Noble has already questioned the parking arrangements for the proposed King Street development and submitted representations along with other groups and individuals (for and against the development) to the Highland Council's e-planning file which can be accessed here.  
 
Now she has also submitted an Independent report. In a covering letter she tells the Highland Council planning committee members:
 
"I write to respectfully ask you to consider the attached independent transport report compiled by one of the foremost experts in the field, Kevin Martin.
Mr Martin has appeared as an expert witness in many enquiries and appeals including several for Highland Council.

I commissioned the report from him as I was distressed at the apparent loss of 25% of Nairn town centre car parking, and hoped that an expert report might support objections about loss of parking submitted by Nairn BID, Association of Nairn Businesses, both Nairn Community Councils and Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise, plus individuals.  
 
I was also very concerned that, even to a lay person, the parking layout  proposed by the architect on 19th August  (purporting to redesign the car parks to produce 20 more spaces) respected neither HC or National guidelines and safety requirements, and was a danger to the public.   

Mr. Martin's report speaks for itself, and confirms in a completely independent way that between loss of spaces and increased usage Nairn car parks will lose 50 or more spaces.  Safe and legally compliant redesign of existing car parking can produce 2 new spaces at best."
 
Gurnites can find a copy of the report here - you may wish to make a cuppa before reading the document, if short of time however, the conclusions are on pages 13 and 14. 

The application is due to be discussed on Friday October the 9th and a copy of the relevant meeting documents is available here.  
 
This meeting replaces the scheduled meeting of September 22nd which was cancelled due to technical difficulties. 

 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Restore the Coronation Draught Board presented by Provost John Mackay 1937?


One of our regular readers sends us an image of the Draught Board down at the Links games area and  suggests that a clean up and thorough restoration by the authorities is long over due.


Friday, September 25, 2020

Fergus faces selection battle to stand again as SNP candidate in next year's Holyrood elections

The National reports: "Shirley-Anne Somerville and Fergus Ewing are both facing selection battles after party activists forced a contest."  More here.

All SNP members who are currently registered with branches in Fergus's Inverness and Nairn constituency will have the opportunity to back him or any challenger(s) in a ballot. 

Flashback to 2016 and a confident looking Fergus Ewing campaigning on Nairn High Street in the spring sunshine. 

 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

King Street application breaks the Internet!

One of our correspondents tells us it didn't go ahead. Here's what they say on the Highland Council webcast page:

"South Planning Applications Committee - 22 September 2020 - CANCELLED DUE TO TECHNCAL DIFFICULTIES, NEW DATE TO BE ANNOUNCED"

More time for those for and against to continue articulating their points of view?


Monday, September 21, 2020

King Street - Controversial planning application to be discussed tomorrow (22nd September) - NICE iterim survey results submitted to planners

 A 43 page document is presented on the agenda of the Highland Council South planning committee tomorrow at Glenurquhart Road. You can download a copy of it here (item 6.3).

There is a huge file of objection and support comments here on the e-planning file including a latest comment from Joan Noble re parking matters and also the results of the NICE survey.

Below is a screenshot of the interim results. Michael Barnett of NICE tells the planners that the full survey and analysis will shortly be published.


It will be interesting to see the level of debate tomorrow and the decision on a controversy that has been raging for a considerable time now. As we suggest we recommend that readers that have the time have a read of the comments for and against. 

Here at the Gurn we read with considerable interest this document submitted by Joan Noble that outlines her criticism of how Highland Council feel the development will affect the parking situation in Nairn and her considerable concern on how the loss of spaces will impact on the town centre.

And so tomorrow and a decision awaits - there will probably be a few folk in Nairn tuning in to the webcast from Glenurquhart Road tomorrow. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Oor Liz quits SNP group on Highland Council for new group " Independents for Independence".

The Inverness Courier reports:

"Councillors Ron MacWilliam (Inverness Ness-side) and Kirsteen Currie (North, West and Central Sutherland) – both known as vocal champions of their wards – had been suspended during the lockdown but tonight they were reinstated.

The move did not go down well with everyone and co-leader Maxine Smith (Cromarty Firth) resigned along with Pauline Munro (Cromarty Firth) and Liz MacDonald (Nairn and Cawdor) to form their own group Independents for Independence."
 

Nairn M&Co store building up for auction with 7 other stores

 Insider.co.uk reports: "Eight stores from Glasgow-based retailer M&Co's portfolio are to be sold in an online auction next week."  Although a sign on the outside of the shop advertising the auction says "Business not affected".

"The properties are in High Street in Nairn, Rotterdam Street in Thurso, Dockhead Street in Saltcoats, High Street in Wick, High Street in Hawick, Main Street in Wishaw, Channel Street in Galashiels and Dalrymple Street in Girvan."

 Tuilleadh an seo - more here 

Three phone boxes set to go in Nairn - one objection received

Details on this Highland Council page. The objection to the removal of one of the boxes at "Fraser Park" states: 

"1 objection received, citing importance to school children and motorists on A82. Removal would exacerbate risks to public safety in the event of an emergency as well as deprivation for local residents without access to mobile phones."

 More details here, the consultation is still ongoing and will close on the 10th of October. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Nairn Town Centre Plan - Interesting comments stacking up on the NICE survey page

The controversial King Street development is making headlines in the Nairnshire Telegraph this week and the editorial in the paper centres on the ongoing arguments for and against the development. 

Anyway if you have any thoughts about what is best for the town centre then this survey page over on the NICE website may be of interest to you and also the comments entered below it.

Hands on for clocking on

Hands went back on the final empty face of the Courthouse clock tower this morning. 


Saturday, September 12, 2020

A new chapter in Nairn's retail history

 The Home Bargains store is open at Balmakeith. Definitely more choice for consumers in the town now and this is the type of store that people travel out of town to visit, jobs have been created too. There are worries however of potential impact on the High Street. 


Update: been up this evening and that was a very good experience. Bargains yes, well worth a look and traffic light entry system if things get too busy. Verdict - will be back.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Parking charges for the Harbour, the Maggot, Cumming Street/Links areas back on the Agenda - NRCC asking public questions about how to proceed with Highland Council proposals for Tourist Welcome

Nairn River Community Council state on their website that during a recent online meeting between the town's two Community Councils and 3 of the town's Highland Councillors it emerged that : 

"At this meeting Highland Council representatives presented the following priority areas for discussion. 

 
 

River CC have posted additional information re this and other issues and are asking a number of questions, including the following on Parking:
 




 



Saturday, September 05, 2020

Community Council request planning committee site visit for controversial King Street application

"In early August, and again today, Nairn River Community Council as Statutory Consultee, requested that Planning Officers  arrange a 'site visit' for members of the South Planning Application Committee to give them an opportunity to see for themselves how this proposed, newbuild would impact on Nairn's Town Centre and the existing local Masterplan, before they make their decision." 

More on the Nairn River CC site here.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Nairn County delighted with uptake of new Club 1914 loyalty scheme for fans

 The Wee County social media page states

***CLUB 1914 - 50 MEMBERS***

Our new supporters' loyalty scheme, Club 1914 launched on Tuesday and we are absolutely delighted to report that within 24 hours of the launch, we have 50 members signed up.

Club 1914 rewards supporters for their loyalty with a number of members only benefits and payment milestone gifts. Members receive merchandise discounts, advanced option to purchase new shirts before general sale, breaking news notifications and free exclusive pin badges, hats, scarves and shirts after reaching each payment milestone.

For more details and to join, click on the link below:

https://www.nairncountyfc.co.uk/supporters-corner/

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Nairn County have launched a new supporters’ loyalty scheme to reward fans for their backing

Nairn County have launched a new supporters’ loyalty scheme to reward fans for their backing. 

Club 1914 named after the year the football club was founded gives supporters all over the world the chance to make direct contributions to the running of Nairn County and in return, they will be rewarded each time they reach a payment milestone as well as receiving exclusive members’ benefits. 

The idea is the brainchild of County committee member and former full back, Ali Nicol. 

Ali said: “We wanted to come up with something which rewarded fans not only locally but from far and wide as well for their support of the club. We feel that the membership benefits and payment milestones offered to Club 1914 members does that. 


“It gives fans the chance not only to help the club out but to get closer to the club than ever before.

 “We realise that the supporters have been fantastic for us, particularly over the last few years and we wanted to reward that loyalty along the way.

 “It is really quick and easy to sign up to Club 1914 and supporters can contribute as little or as much as they are comfortable with and still take advantage of all the members benefits.

 “The funds raised go directly into helping the club with strengthening the playing squad and improving the facilities around Station Park, so we hope that fans feel their contributions are being put to good use.

All members of Club 1914 receive free entry to Nairn County home friendly fixtures, 20% off club merchandise, advanced option to purchase new kits before general sale, breaking news notifications direct by email and free entry to quarterly prize draw

.As well as this, once members reach payment milestones of £50, £100, £300, £500 and £750 they will receive a free Club 1914 pin badge, woolly hat, scarf, unique Nairn County shirt and match day hospitality pass for two people respectively. 

For full details and to join, visit nairncountyfc.co.uk/supporters-corner

Club 1914 is the new supporters’ membership scheme from Nairn County where fans can contribute directly to the club and earn rewards along the way.

An exciting new initiative from  the Wee County

What is Club 1914?

"The Nairn County fanbase stretches the world over and we are all in it together – supporter, player and the football club.

Club 1914 is a fresh initiative which allows supporters to show their loyalty to Nairn County no matter where you are in the world and we believe that your loyalty should be rewarded.

Fans now have the opportunity to get closer to their club than ever before and receive a number of members only benefits along the way."

 More information here on the Nairn County site. 

 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

"Highland Council to construct 12 new flats and a new Citizens Advice Bureau office in Nairn"

 The CAB and flats option for King Street is to go ahead then? The Press and Journal reports: 

 "A £3 million development will create 12 flats and a new Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) office in Nairn."


More here on the Press and Journal site. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Thursday, July 23, 2020

King Street flats and CAB application - submissions to Highland Council's e-planning pages stacking up - including submission from a heritage architects firm in Edinburgh

This observer has just had a browse at the the Highland Council's e-planning pages for the King Street application file. There have been a number of submissions recently both in support and against the application and all those serious students of Nairn planning matters that have been paying attention to this matter may wish to go and read the latest material which can be found here both under the comments and documents tabs.

It will be interesting to see what attention Councillors from other parts of the Highlands will make of all this material when the decision is eventually made. It seems unfair perhaps that given there has been so much debate locally that councillors from elsewhere will be the ones that decide, but that is the nature of the Highland Council planning set-up

There are personal pleas for much needed housing and the CAB, worries about parking, more from the Community Councils and Nairn BID. One particular submission caught our attention this morning from Simpson and Brown architects, it reads:

"Mr John Sanders
Comment submitted date: Mon 20 Jul 2020

We have been commissioned to comment on this application on behalf of the Nairn Residents Concern Group and private individuals.

We object to this application due to the following concerns;

- that the conservation of the existing listed buildings and the stone buildings within this historic area has not been fully taken into account.
- The development could prevent or restrict the prospect of regeneration of the listed buildings on or near the site
- The design does not full respect the urban history of the site
- The proposed design is too large and high for the site and overshadows an existing listed building
- A bin store would be built against the wall of a listed building - this would damage its appearance and restrict beneficial future use

The regeneration project for central Nairn is clearly important. Regeneration of a historic urban area should start with the conservation of existing buildings of value. This must include listed buildings but should also include all stone buildings. The underuse, dereliction or demolition of these buildings would harm the historic character of the area. If these buildings are in good condition and in a sustainable use, then they enhance the character of the area in a way that no new building could achieve.

Effective and well considered planning for the regeneration of a historic area must enable a sustainable new use for the listed and other heritage buildings. A proposal which puts a further constraint on the already difficult to achieve conservation of existing buildings, is poor quality planning. We consider that it is vital that this application should include, in its design statement, an explanation of how this project aids or impedes the regeneration of the surrounding area. This should include an options appraisal for the school and police station buildings. This study should include an assessment of the possible uses of the buildings and the amenity, servicing, and parking requirements for each use. This kind of assessment is needed before the new building is designed. If the proposed building overshadows the existing buildings to the point that they could not be used for conversion to housing or offices, for instance, this consideration should guide the design to reduce overshadowing or proximity. If excavation or services trenches for the new building could also include the necessary upgrade to services for the existing buildings, then that would save money in the regeneration project overall.

The building only responds to the historic urban grain because it is a rectangular building set at right angles to the direction of the main street. In a historic context, understanding urban grain is essential before producing a design. It needs to be considerably more subtle than has been shown for this application. The ordnance survey maps of 1866 and 1904 show that the plots for houses on the High Street ran at 90 degrees to the street, as would be expected in any Scottish town. However, due to the high status of many of these houses, this grain was not particularly urban. The area around the free church and school was not developed apart from the gardens, and presumably, garden walls, until the late 19th century. For its first half century, the building would have been visible from the west and east. The development of the immediate area involved three major buildings - the Free Church of 1840, the Free Church School 1847, and the Police Station 1869-1902. This means that the two surviving buildings were two thirds of the total of the first and only generation of development of this backland to the north side of the High Street. Paramount in responding to the urban grain should be a respect paid to the surviving buildings which are now the only surviving record of this urban grain. Without them, we would have no above-ground physical record of the urban grain in this area, or of the character of development, or of the attractive sandstone used to build them.

John Sanders

Simpson & Brown Architects"