Friday, February 28, 2020

Erection of 12 flats and CAB offices, bin store, landscaping and associated infrastructure - Nairn West and Suburban Community Council submission to planners

The Gurn has received a copy of the submission by the Nairn West and Suburban Community Council to the recent planning application for the King Street site:

"Erection of 12 flats and CAB offices, bin store, landscaping and associated infrastructure
62 King Street Nairn IV12 4DN Ref. No: 20/00338/FU – Comments

At the monthly meeting of the Nairn West & Suburban Community Council on Monday, 24th February, 2020 the application to build a new 12-unit housing block with office for the CAB was thoroughly discussed. The majority of voting members were against the application for various reasons. Two members were in favour of the proposed plan (with some suggestions for possible modifications).

All NW&SCC members are supportive of the CAB and the excellent role it plays in our community. However, the need for a bigger CAB building has been ongoing for over fifteen years. Several workable good options were proffered during that time but not grasped. The members are also fully supportive of the need to provide suitable housing in the town. NW&SCC has requested, along with another Nairn organisation, to meet with the appropriate Highland Council officials to find ways to regenerate empty first floor and other properties located in the town centre. There is a firm belief that those involved in such a meeting would be able to identify properties which could be converted or remodelled to meet the needs of those on the waiting list. It is also believed that there are several building blocks located on the High Street, Leopold Street or Cawdor Road where the ground floor could be made suitable for the CAB and the upper floors repurposed for housing. 

Against this background, the feeling of the majority of NW&SCC is that this application is inappropriate, and is being pushed through purely to access a small fund of money on a specific timeline. Few if any other options seem to have been explored for the provision of local housing by repurposing existing buildings, nor for an alternative for the CAB. This application is piecemeal development: a single building, proposed simply to gain a small government hand out. This is not the most appropriate way to deliver the regeneration of Nairn’s town centre. It does not justify ignoring an already-agreed set of principles and an adopted town centre plan which is supposed to be a blueprint not just for the next ten years but for the next hundred.

The key point made by those commenting on the planning application was that it was inconsistent with the existing agreed town centre regeneration plan. This plan was produced in a charrette organised in 2014 by Highland Council, facilitated by consultants (Rydens) and funded by a £40,000 grant from the Scottish Government. Its aim was to consult the town on an agreed future town plan which included the best use of the centre of Nairn, vennels and walkways. The charrette was well attended over its two day duration. The plan agreed at the charrette was later formally adopted in 2015 by Highland Council as Supplementary Guidance. It is therefore a material planning consideration.

Recent legislation, namely the 2015 Community Empowerment Act and the 2019 Planning Act, have given further stimulus to the local community in Nairn to take forward local place planning. We were encouraged by the readiness of Highland Council planners at the recent meetings convened by Scott Dalgarno to engage and collaborate in such efforts. It now seems to be inconsistent for the Council to ignore the existing agreed guidance and the collaborative approach we were anticipating. The proposed building risks pre-empting or preventing, rather than enabling, the improvement of the central heart of the town.

The chance discovery of the existence of a very recent building warrant (dated 13 Feb and apparently agreed within days, with no public notification or consultation) for the demolition of the historic old Police Station building now referred to as the Old Social Work Building, has considerably increased local disquiet. In the 2015 adopted Nairn town centre plan it clearly states that the building should NOT be demolished and that new uses should be explored. It is a heritage building which complements other nearby historic buildings namely the listed former school and the Courthouse. We are told that its demolition is intrinsic/directly related to the current planning application. Its removal is allegedly necessary to allow the planning application to meet the car parking requirements and to compensate for the loss of the car park on the proposed site of the new build. 

There are many questionable matters surrounding the Building Warrant, not least the timing issue. The warrant was submitted and approved before the planning application was received and subsequently logged. There has been no process of local notification or consultation around this building warrant for the demolition. What assessments have been made regarding the condition of the building, the business case for retention or removal, evaluation of alternative options and the implications of its demolition both for the adjacent common good property and the historical heritage of the town? There is a clear need for the whole process to be transparent, for full and proper appraisal and most importantly for full local engagement with all the foregoing facts made public before any decision either way is made!

Aesthetic consideration also needs to be given to the change of view that would be seen driving through the town on the A96. Again the Nairn Town Centre Plan has clear criteria surrounding the need to plan and prepare for the A96 Bypass and to develop a vital, diverse, and attractive town centre that will attract visitors, link the High Street to the Viewfield area and offer both better public space and improved amenities. The OSWB is [as per the charrette plan] an important historic building with character, that merits resurrection. The housing block proposed in the current application would do nothing to enhance the historic character of the town, neither would it provide amenities for visitors or residents. It would obstruct the one attractive visual view of the Courthouse and the clock tower. Little thought appears to have been given to this during the planning process so far.

We would appreciate receiving answers to all the questions posed above, before any decisions are made or action taken. Given the existence of approved plans and guidance, and the commitment to a new, and collaborative approach to the town’s development, meetings need to be arranged to look at all other options. Time must be allowed to enable the views of the town and its residents to be discussed, but to allow that to happen we now need to receive full information, detailed evidence and a clear explanation why this is the only option available.

Sheena Baker

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

“It's the whole principle of asking people to design their town centre and then throwing it in the bin.” Demolition of the old Police Station on King Street – serious concerns raised on how Highland Council are going about it

At the NWSCC meeting in the Community and Arts Centre on Monday night there was much discussion on the merits of the flats proposed for the car park area which is the site of the former Community Centre. There were various opinions on the merits or otherwise of the proposed building with flats on two floors and a relocated CAB office on the ground floor – any readers not up to date with he proposed building can find the application here and then submit their own thoughts if they wish.

What is becoming increasingly interesting though is the demolition procedure for the old police station itself. There were claims that Highland Council are riding roughshod over the wishes of the community despite claims of a new dawn of community empowerment. From the public seats over at the Communtiy Centre on Monday night folks it certainly did seem like it was more of the same one-way traffic from Glenurquhart Road.

The restoration of this building seemed to have been enshrined in a Town Centre Plan produced with funding from the Scottish Government back in 2015 as a result of local folk been extensively consulted. Here's what Joan Noble had to say at the meeting:

“I would just like to come back to the Charrette process starting in 2015, that was a two year process which I think cost £40,000. A huge number of people from Nairn took part, both at the meetings, by letter, by was led by consultants, it was extremely well done and then it was drawn together into this town centre community plan. Which was an integrated plan for the town centre that would encourage the economic health of the High Street, encourage visitors to come and all the things that we have heard about.

It was actually approved by the then Councillors from Nairn in 2017. So it has actually been adopted by our own Highland Councillors and we have to say to them, that they do, even if they weren't on the Council at that time, they have a corporate responsibility to support that plan until a time that that plan is changed. So you can't just say that you can't support the plan because it has already been enshrined, it's been enshrined in the Inner Moray Firth Development Plan and it is also in the new Inner Moray Firth Development Plan which we saw the beginnings of at the meeting with Scott Delgarno. It's supplementary planning guidance so it can't just be chucked in the bin like that.

But the last question I have to say is: why should people in this town bother going through these huge processes of consultation and drawing together really good ideas and everybody getting enthused about it and suddenly out of left field with a couple of weeks notice, boom, the whole thing just goes up, just explodes, the whole reasoned argument that has been worked on for four years for our town centre. So there's a huge point of principle here, you come to a town and you ask everyone what they think – you get together, you talk together and it's all written out and put in our Highland-wide plans and it is supplementary guidance. Then all of a sudden just because we get money from the Scottish Government you can't throw everything that has been decided.

That's my first point, it's the whole principle of asking people to design their town centre and then throwing it in the bin. It really gets up my nose.”

A little later, both Mandy Lanswon and Hamish Bain of Nairn River Community Council spoke.
Mandy said that her organisation had not been informed of the demolition.

Hamish said:“The demolition order has got no risk assessment, no plans, there's no documentation at all. There is nothing in there that I would consider a normal process.”

Concern was also raised as to whether the public toilets on Common Good Land would be damaged during the demolition.

So there we have it readers – it is allegedly the age of Community Empowerment but it just looks more of the same with Highland Council dictating what it wishes in Nairn. Whatever your feelings about flats being built and the proposed flitting of the Nairn CAB there are surely deep democratic issues here that have rightly been raised?

And here's the result of the Community Consultation back in 2015 when it comes to the buildings scheduled to be demolished in King Street:

This former office building is vacant and its prominent site should be brought back to productive use, ideally serving a community/cultural purpose.

 Restoring these buildings to active use was identified as a priority at the public consultation event onthe Draft TCAP in March 2015. Feedback highlighted their value as part of the traditional fabric of the town. There was keen interest in establishing an appropriate new use, with preference for community use/ownership or public use, e.g. tourist information. There was little support for demolition, despite concerns over the property’s neglected appearance and setting.

 These Council-owned former offices and public toilets were recently advertised for sale and attracted some interest from private buyers.

 This building is suited to residential use, which would be particularly compatible with Proposal 14 to reinstate King Street’s original town centre character following de-trunking of the A96”

Looks like funding for a Nairn Bypass will still be in the mix then as the Greens do a deal with the SNP

In an article headlined "Scottish budget 2020-21: Free bus travel in SNP-Green deal" the BBC state on their website:

"The government has also agreed to review plans to upgrade the Sheriffhall roundabout on the Edinburgh bypass, although ministers have rejected calls from the Greens to scrap works on the A9 and A96."

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Time for Nairn's Highland Councillors to put their organisation's latest car parking charges proposals into the public domain

Last night in the Community and Arts Centre Cllr Peter Saggers told NWSCC members:

“We have been given proposals for each of the seven car parks, setting out what they thought should be the charging structure, who should be allowed to park there, what kind of parking should be applied. We gave them our views on it, they've gone back to think again. Following that they are due to come to the community councils sometime before the 16th of March to discuss with you as a statutory consultee. They will take on board what you say. Go back and think again. They will then...”

Cllr Saggers was then interrupted by the chair Sheena Baker who said: “do you think that they are going to tell them to go back and think again or they will go back and think again?”

Cllr Saggers continued: “They have told us that they will take into account your views. This will run on till the end of March and some time before the end of April they will publish a traffic order for each of the car parks.”

Then he indicated that there would be a further period of consultation after the publication of the traffic orders when further comments will be considered. He went on to say that it was much more likely that some people won't be happy with what is being proposed and the result being that what the Council is proposing will go to the June area committee and then the councillors will either approve it or amend what they are proposing.”

Here at the Gurn we feel that our Councillors should immediately put into the public domain what the Council has come up with so far for the Nairn car parks and what they have put in as their own submissions. We've seen the disaster that the implementation of car parking charges have been in the Angus towns and we need maximum transparency now – Nairn residents and businesses need to know what is going on – lift the lid on the language and machinery of local government that is cloaking these proposals now!

Wouldn't it have been far out if Peter Saggers and Tom Heggie had said last night: “Parking charges are unacceptable to Nairn in any car park and there are no circumstances under which we will vote for parking charges at the June area committee meeting.”?

Fireworks for Christmas

Last night in the Nairn Community and Arts Centre it was revealed that the Fireworks cash that has been sitting in Nairn West and Suburban CC accounts will be used (subject to Nairn BID getting the relevant permissions) for a fireworks display on the Links as a finale to this year's Christmas Lights switch on.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Nairn Duolingo Gaelic learners group Newsletter

Halò a chàirdean, Our second meeting in the Bandstand took place on a wild, wet, stormy night but it didn't deter eight folk from turning up for a blether. We'll be going back there next month, details soon. 112 on the Brae took us in on Wednesday afternoon and kindly gave us the very comfortable back room where we indulged in coffee, cake, scones, soup and other goodies – we also managed some Gaelic.

So what's up next? The Cearcall Còmhraidh are flitting from the Library for one day only on Saturday the 7th of March, they'll be going over to the annual Fèis Inbhir Narainn in the Community Centre between 11.00 to 12 Midday for coffee and cakes. More details of what will be happening at Fèis Inbhir Narainn here.

Duolingo meet-ups are starting in Inverness now and the first one will be on Tuesday the 10th of March at 6.30 pm. Seonaidh who has been through to a couple of our events is organising them. There's a link below where you can find full details about where to find the venue on Castle Street. And here's a few more events that will appear on our Nairn Group pages very soon

Skype Sunday 15th March 9 pm – We'd just like to see if there is demand for this as often it is near impossible for some folk to get to anything due to various commitments – so if you fancy a meet-up without having to go out of the house then maybe this could be for you. Register for the event and then send an message via the Duolingo “contact us” button at the bottom of the event page – send us your Skype name and then you can be invited in on Sunday the 15th of March at 9 pm

Tuesday 17th March back to the Bandstand at the usual time of 7 pm for a blether and a glass of something.

We'll be back in the Library on Sat 21st at mid-day until 1pm. The Cearcall Còmhraidh usually have a few folk there every Saturday but once a month there's a bit of an advertising drive for one of the Saturdays.

Sunday March 22nd. Cuairt na h-aibhne. Meet up outside the Courthouse at 10.30 am for a walk round the river as far as Firhall, commenting a bit about things on the way down then the flora and fauna of the riverside as best as we can (perhaps assisted by at times) then back down all the way to the harbour, along the beach – aiming to be at Jame's Cafe sometime between 12.00 and 12.30 for midday coffee or even ice-cream if warm enough. You could of course just turn up at the Cafe if you like and wait for the walkers to arrive. Like all our events, open to all ages and Gaelic abilities.

Weds 26th and it'll be back to 112 on the brae for more Coffee and cake etc at 2 pm. Please forward this on to any friends who are learners or speakers and if you have any ideas about what we can do in the future to give opportunities for people to try out their Gaelic in a friendly informal setting then please let us now. Mar sin leibh an-dràsta.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

"I find it absolutely astonishing that Highland Council have closed down public toilets, forcing visitors to go behind a wall to have a pee or a shit."

Interesting call to embrace the campervan visitors to Scotland and create cheap and well-resourced, welcoming "aires" for them and boost local economies. Here's Cameron McNeish's video:

Nairn in Whiteness and Light

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Scottish Water close Merryton Bridge until tree can be safely removed

Update sorted around lunchtime today 20 02 20

Friday, February 14, 2020

Nairn West & Suburban Community Council meeting for Monday 24th of February

Meeting Agenda
Nairn West & Suburban Community Council

Monday 24th February, at 7pm
in Nairn Community & Arts Centre

Chairperson: Sheena Baker


1. Chairperson - Welcome, attendees and apologies

a. Declaration of Interests

b. Meeting being recorded

2. Minutes of Previous meeting – correction and adoption

a. Matters Arising

3. Treasurer’s Report

4. Secretary - Correspondence

5. Items for discussion:

a. Web site

b. VE Day Nairn

c. Flooding/Flood Protection/River dredging

d. Request for meeting with HC ECO Kate Lackie update

e. Schools and library provision

f. Common Good Identifying tasks for proposed sub-group

g. Parking Consultation document

h. Report on IMFDLP meeting with Scott Dalgarno

i. Empty properties Town centre

j. Town centre regeneration – HC planning application for 12 flats and CAB office

6. HC Update from Elected Highland Councillors:

a. Grass cutting proposal

b. Links

c. Toilet strategy for Nairn

d. Other live matters

7. A O C B

8. Questions or Contributions from Members of the Public

9. Next NW&SCC meeting – Monday, 23rd March,2020, Nairn Community and Arts C

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Nairn West and Suburban draft minutes from Monday 27th January now online

They will of course be subject to amendment but anyone wishing to keep up to date on several important issues affected the town may wish to read them. 

Also on tonight is the first full meeting of the new Nairn River Community Council. This observer believes there may be some interesting dynamics surfacing in the Community and Arts Centre this evening. Agenda details of NRCC meeting here.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

12 flats and relocation of CAB to King Street site - plans now in the public domain

At the last meeting of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council on Monday 27th in the Community and Arts Centre Tom Heggie indicated that plans for the proposed CAB move and flats would soon be in the public domain if they were not already. It emerges that a new plan had to be drawn up as the public toilets are Common Good Property. 

That new plan and associated documents are now on the Highland Council e-planning pages here. The existing former social work buildings would be demolished and become a car park with the existing car park that has the dilapidated wooden fence and contains the electric car charging point would be the site of the building containing 12 flats and the CAB.  

Nairn River Community Council have written to the planners asking for an extension of the consultation period as they do not have an opportunity to discuss this application until Tuesday 11th of February.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

River Community Council Agenda for next week (11/02/20)

More details here.

Events this month for Gaelic speakers and learners in Nairn

Next event is another informal social gathering to practice your Gaelic in the Bandstand Bar on Tuesday next week 7-8.30 pm 11th Feb.

All learners and speakers welcome not just the folk on the Duolingo app (although there are 186,000 out there learning some Gaelic and the majority of them in Scotland according to press reports - probably a few more in Nairn we haven't seen yet so please pop down if you can on Tuesday night.  Here's where you can get the free online Duolingo course.

More details of events here.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Parking Charges - more consulation in the "next month or so"

Cllr Tom Heggie told the NWSCC meeting last week that there will be "extensive consultation" within the next month or so and community groups will be invited.

Gurn opinion:  Just how many times does this community have to say that parking charges anywhere in Nairn are a bad idea and unacceptable?

Artwork by Trish Hossack in the foyer at the Nairn Community and Arts Centre. Exhibition runs until 16th February.

Post office may carry out " further local public consultation on another location"

 One of our regular readers sends us a copy of a letter from the post office, it reads?

"Further to my previous communication in which I advised you of our decision to move the above Post Office to new premises located at McColls Retail Group at 39 High Street, Nairn, IV12 4AG, I’m now writing to let you know thatthe new operator has decided not to progress their application to operate the branch. 

The branch will therefore continue to operate from the current location for the time being. However we may carry out a further local public consultation on another location in the near future. In line with our Principles of Community Engagement, any new location proposal would be subject to a further 6-week period of local public consultation."

Could a move to the Co-op be back under consideration?

Monday, February 03, 2020

"Gàidhlig ann an Inbhir Narann ​​ a 'fàs - Gaelic in Nairn is growing" Display in the Library - Taisbeanadh anns an leabharlainn

"Gàidhlig ann an Inbhir Narann ​​ a 'fàs". Taisbeanadh anns an leabharlainn le fiosrachadh mu sgoiltean, clasaichean, buidhnean, Croileagan, tachartasan Duolingo agus tuilleadh "

"Gaelic in Nairn is growing " Display in the Library with information abut schools, classes, groups, playgroup, Duolingo events and more.

An excellent wee display folks. Well worth popping down for a look at all the information available on what's happening with Gaelic in Nairn.  Just started learning or fluent? Whatever your level here's some events coming up where you'll get a warm welcome.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Sandown Lands confirmed as inalienable from Burgh Charter of 1589 - Viewfield House and Gardens belong to Nairn Common Good Fund too - implications for past actions at Sandown?

At the NWSCC meeting last Monday night in the Community Centre Joan Noble gave an update on additions to the Register of Assets to Nairn Common Good Fund. These changes come about as the result of submissions by Nairn residents:

Falconers Lane CP. The Parking Area (including the toilets) from the back wall of the Old Social Work building, to the back of the High Street properties has been CG land for 45 years. 

Foreshore. All the beach between mean high and low water marks have been CG from 1589 – from Sandown right of way to line drawn out from Kingsteps. (the Royal Burgh boundary). Status of seabed queried.

Viewfield House and Gardens. Bought for community use in 1949. By definition inalienable.

Promenade. An adopted HC road but is on CG land purchased by the Burgh 1948.

Between Harbour St and river. Site of toilets and carwash is CG land from Charter. Harbour shelter is CG.

Kingsteps car park. Now clarified as being CG. Road belongs to Brodie Estate.

Prince of Wales Walk. The pathways and low land from Nairn Bridge to Auldearn Burn on the E bank of the river.

Monuments: Toorie, Grigor Statue, Poets Well, Merkat Cross, Infantry Stone, 4 Paintings in Courthouse.

Sandown confirmed as inalienable from Burgh Charter of 1589. 

The Sandown issue is very interesting as Joan said: "Sandown has now been confirmed as Inalienable CG land. This entails onerous legal conditions on its disposal."

Joan further explained that "inalienable" means that there there is a legal process and a consultation process to go through before there can be a change of use or disposal. The Sandown Lands had been looked on as having been brought as an investment but it hadn't been brought as an investment. She said "so in effect the Council did not have the right to sell that land yet it was put on the market." 

Bill Young went on to speak and maintained that Highland Council's consequent claim to title over a chunk of that land in lieu of the costs they incurred in the sale attempt is not valid. This was brought to the attention of Tom Heggie and Peter Saggers who were present (it was before their time on the Council but they will now be obliged to follow it up after the issue was pointed out to them by NWSCC members). No doubt there will be much more to be heard on the issue of the Sandown Lands and the past behaviour of Highland Council in the weeks and months to come. 

Joan outlined that there were still one or two other wee issues to be finalised concerning Common Good assets. She went on to say: 

"Our four Nairn Councillors face challenges in this respect. On the one hand, as Councillors they are obliged to pursue and promote the policies and objectives of the Council to deliver public services. On the other, as Trustees of our Common Good (with their 80 other colleagues) they are equally obliged to safeguard the assets of the CG and to ensure best use of them for the local community. As trustees they are ultimately personally responsible for the decisions made and the consequences. Reconciling these two potentially conflicting roles is not easy."

It's the old story - the interests of Nairn and the interests of Highland Council are not always going to dovetail - perhaps there will be discussions soon on how everyone moves on from where we are now. Joan Noble suggested and Sheena Baker asked and got CC consent, to set up a working (sub)group of NWSCC members hopefully with River CC representives too, to continue the research and scrutiny on Common Good matters.

Alton Burn flooding discussed at NWSCC meeting last Monday night (27/01/20) – leads to letter on wider flooding concerns for Nairn - measures "deferred, postponed or abandoned"?

Alton Burn flooding discussed at NWSCC meeting last Monday night (27/01/20) – leads to letter on wider flooding concerns for Nairn

Dick Youngson gave the meeting an update on the damage to some gardens close to the Alton Burn. He reported out ongoing investigations were ongoing with SEPA and Highland Council. Stewart Stansfield of NRCC was also at the meeting and outlined how Highland Council was a substantial landowner alongside the burn and had always taken some responsibility.

Brian Stewart raised wider concerns and reminded everyone how Cllr Liz MacDonald had raised concerns some months previously about the delay to the implement of flood prevention plans for the Nairn cactchment area (being either deferred, postponed or abandoned).

The Community Council agreed to write a letter to Highland Councillors to get things “pushed up the agenda somewhat".

Here is a Gurn article from three years ago that outlines the risks as perceived by the powers that be to Nairn from flooding and the actions that need to be taken: Flood risks in Nairn and surrounding area - what might happen and what needs to be done - A SEPA Flood Risk Management document.

Inverness certainly has had a fair bit of flood prevention work, Forres too - meanwhile what about Nairn?  

Nairn - long overdue some extra flood prevention measures?