Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Highland Council Coronavirus Update Monday 30th March - issued to Community Groups - A long read but important information for our community

The Gurn has received a copy of the The Highland Council Coronavirus Update Monday dated 30th March from Cllr Tom Heggie :

There has been a huge amount of activity in responding to the national Coronavirus Covid19 Emergency and preparing for the impact of this on the Highlands.

Our social work staff, out third sector welfare staff and our welfare teams experienced huge trauma across Highland families last week and we know this will continue to escalate in the weeks ahead. We have been working closely with our partners in the NHS and this partnership is going to be vital as we work together to support vulnerable people at home.

The majority of the calls to our new helpline have been about supporting businesses and employment related issues.
Our Business Gateway website provides information for businesses and ACAS and CAB can also help with employee questions and concerns.

This week our major focus will be on the opening of our Humanitarian Assistance Centres which we have called ‘Local Community Hubs’ (LCHs) and the ‘bringing together’ of the Volunteer movement across the Highlands. We have 10 LCHs based in locations around Highland and one virtual LCH which combines the requests for help with the offers of assistance before routing them to a specific LCH. We have had a tremendous response from people and groups wishing to volunteer in their communities. Over 240 groups have registered so far. Please see the national guidance for community groups who wish to help out.

There will be an allocation of a Hardship Fund to Wards as well as a central application fund based on welfare criteria. We expect to get the total allocation of £2.3 M to those families who need it most as a matter of urgency. We will also be sending out briefings about the Food Welfare Fund and a strategy for helping with food poverty.

Adjustments to Service ‘Business as Usual’ arrangements
  • All traffic enforcement has been stood down.  The Council will not be collecting income for the next three weeks as a start and Rose Street Car Park barriers have been raised so there is no need for any customer interaction.
  • Waste collection:  Due to staff shortages the waste collection service has already been reduced and we are monitoring what other changes may be needed.  In addition, new measures are being put in place to ensure social distancing for refuse collection staff.  As part of the communication about the changes in service, guidance will be provided on how communities can help in managing their refuse to reduce the amount going in the bin and to collection points.
  • Council Tax: The Council will not be offering a payment holiday because of the major impact this would have on the Council’s finances at a time when most other sources of Council income are being badly impacted and costs in response to the emergency situation are spiralling.  Late payments and arrears will not be actively pursued at this time and there will be an even stronger focus on using our advice lines to provide money advice.
  • Free School Meals: A voucher system has been established.  Engagement is underway with key retail chains like Scotmid, Co-op, Lidl, Aldi and Farmfoods to ensure the vouchers are widely accepted. 
  • Social Work: Social work and health staff are adapting their normal duties to prevent over exposure to the virus which will still include direct and remote ways of keeping in contact in order to support families. This means that along with national guidance the following will continue: child health assessments (some will be amended), immunisations, family nurse partnership, breastfeeding support, speech therapy, OT and other specialised support. Staffing to out of hours has been increased as calls and people in crisis will increase.
  • This week, letters have been sent out to parents of children on the child protection register, to children and parents of looked after children to explain how we will keep in touch including some visits to family homes and to children in care.  Staff are working a rota out in the areas in an attempt to keep our workforce as health as possible.
  • Criminal Justice: some adaptations have been put in place and offices will be kept open to see adults on CJ orders. Courts have changed and we are liaising on local arrangements.
  • Planning, Building Standards and Environment: Working remotely, no site visits being carried out but work is continuing. 
  • Project Design Unit/Flood Team: Sites have been closed down so site supervision is no longer required.  Design work will continue wherever possible with home working being used.  Similarly for flood team – working from home.
  • Roads and Transport: Harbours and Corran Ferry will continue to operate as per staff availability – there may need to be amendments to timetables etc.
  • Essential road repairs (i.e. emergency or danger to life) and emergency lighting replacements (e.g. traffic signals) will continue but generally the workforce have been sent home – roads operatives may be required for waste management duties or for other humanitarian tasks such as driving deliveries etc.
  • All housing building sites have been shut, housing development prep work will continue with working from home.
  • Economy and Regeneration team fully occupied with assessing and distributing the SG support for business grants – all being done remotely, collaborating with finance teams and business support.
  • Complaints/FOIs/SARs: customers are being advised that any non-emergency or non-Covid related requests will not be responded to. 
  • Committees/Boards/Working Groups: all formal and informal Member meetings at HQ have been postponed.  Ward Business Meetings will be carried out using virtual means.
Business Grants
  • c5160 businesses are estimated to be eligible for the £10k grant and 522 eligible for the £25k grant. Total grant to be disbursed £64.6m approx.
  • Guidance is awaited from Scottish Government on eligibility of self-catering businesses. It is unclear to what degree this will impact on current Business Grants process or whether there will be a HMRC dimension.
  • Applications Received: By the end of Friday 27th March the Council had received 2160 applications. Applications are receiving an automated ‘thank you’ on receipt, but they still need to be checked as complete before they can be formally acknowledged (and 10 day target processing clock starts).
  • Automated response and acknowledgement email also contains guidance to business reiterating Council policy that we would never instigate a phone call to request bank details and that they should only send bank details to the generic COVID-19grants@highland.gov.uk email address.
  • Processes: The focus of our efforts has been to get our systems designed, established and tested with a small batch of applications. This work is currently ongoing with the aim that by Monday this first batch process will be effectively complete – with process refinements made across the various teams involved.
  • A national issue has been identified that actual payments to business now before 5 April may have adverse tax implications for individual businesses. National advice is awaited before we make any actual grant payments to business.
  • A key objective has been to design a grant admin/processing system that can be quickly scaled up but also one that is robust if any of the staff currently involved are absence due to illness.

Key Worker Hubs
Key Worker hubs are intended for children where either both parents are key workers or for the children of a lone parent who is a key worker. The clear message from the Government is that, wherever possible, parents/carers are expected to exhaust all caring opportunities within small family or community settings to prevent the spread of the virus. Category 1 Key Worker applications have been prioritised but there are still hundreds of key workers without a childcare allocation due to the high level of demand - over 3,500 places have been requested. Despite this apparent high demand, very few of the 890 allocated childcare places were taken up last week, leaving our hubs over-staffed and under-utilised.  We have therefore contacted everyone who had previously submitted an application to ask for it to be withdrawn if it is no longer required so that we can reallocate to those who have greatest need and have a critical role in dealing with Covid-19. 

Humanitarian Assistance Centres (HACs) – Our Local Community Hubs (LCH) Update

Our Local Community Hubs will connect requests for help from individuals with the offers of support from local community groups, and our and HLH staff.  Data on requests and offers are fed to each LCH by the virtual LCH. Please note that these are not public caller buildings. The LCH will distribute supplies to people to their door. We are promoting their location because we do not want to attract attention to an centre that may be perceived to be storing food or medicines.

The Highland Council is responding to the Scottish Government’s communication last week on shielding people ‘at risk’ from coronavirus.  People with specific health conditions which put them at higher risk of harm from the virus will receive letters from the NHS advising them they must self-isolate for 12 weeks to protect themselves.  Anyone receiving a shielding letter can contact the Council for support during their period of self-isolation.  People in this position may need different types of support and they might change during the 12 weeks. Some people may need no assistance at all because they have family or friends who can help. Those seeking help are being asked to use the Council’s dedicated helpline at (01349) 886669 or complete a form online at www.highland.gov.uk/shielding to provide their contact details and the type of support they require.

If any further groups want to offer support to help people self-isolate, please fill in the on-line form at https://www.covidhelp4highland.org/volunteering.html or call the Council’s new helpline at 0300 303 1362 and select the ‘want to offer support’ option.  The Council is working closely with the Highland Third Sector Interface (HTSI) in co-ordinating all offers of help.
Individuals interested in helping local groups can fill in a form to register their interest  here (https://www.covidhelp4highland.org/volunteering.html), or call the Council’s new helpline at 0300 303 1362 and select the ‘want to offer support’ option.     
Over time the group of people to support is likely to broaden to other groups who are self-isolating or need additional help. Anyone requiring support during self-isolation can call the Council’s new helpline at 0300 303 1362 and select the ‘need help with welfare’ option.  We will prioritise support for those with shielding letters but will also help other vulnerable people.

Education Update
The Council ‘s Education at home package last week received significant praise both locally and nationally with many of our innovative resources being used by other Councils. We have created a strong partnership with both HLH and Eden court who will support us in the next phase of virtual learning for our most vulnerable  young people. Virtual creative and aesthetic sessions will be piloted across the Highlands during the Easter break.
Wendy Mackay, Head Teacher Duncan Forbes– Teach at Home. 10am Numeracy, 11am Literacy, 2pm – something else! Practical, differentiated sessions for primary schools kiddies.
Literacy Session
 Kevin Raistreck, Head Teacher Dingwall Primary School
Morning assembly with the whole school
 Ruth Mackay, Holm Primary School and Holm ELC
Holm ELCC (@HolmElcc) tweeted at 3:05 pm on Thu, Mar 26, 2020:
Welcome to story time with Miss Smith and Miss Cowie, today it’s the gruffalo! Sign along if you can! #StoryTime #JuliaDonaldson #TheGruffalo https://t.co/JcrgJdJSQT
 Muirtown Primary – Rainbows
 Stephen Stewart, Loachaber High Schools supporting the NHS
 A Scottish approach to ICT training, sharing knowledge and resources:
Park Primary sends rainbows:

All Education staff have received daily briefings from the Education improvement team on key matters such as SQA, senior phase study support materials and key support for the safeguarding of all our young people.

Take care and keep safe, your support is invaluable in such challenging times.

Donna Manson
Chief Executive
The Highland Council

Friday, March 27, 2020

Need something to do for a week or two? Learn Gaelic for free with Duolingo!

There is a thriving learners group in Nairn too that can offer help and online meetings. Once this crisis is over they will return to their real time meet-ups which were all great craic with lots of Gaelic spoken or learnt.
Another site with a large amount of material is learngaelic.net
All learners and speakers welcome in the Group. Bidh fàilte cridheil oirbh uile

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Highland Council free helpline during crisis

Sent on behalf of Willie Munro, Nairn Ward Manager

The Highland Council has launched a free helpline to give assistance and to collect details of individuals and community groups looking to provide volunteering support during Covid19. The number will be live from 2pm today (Wednesday 25 March).

The single line number – 0300 303 1362 – will connect callers to relevant Council specialist teams and will operate Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm. All calls are free.

Callers will be able to get advice on benefits and personal support, education and social care and there will also be advice for businesses who may need help with financial support. Helpline staff will also be signposting callers to other organisations that can provide help and assistance as well as gathering offers from individuals or community groups wishing to volunteer.

The service is operated by council staff and Eden Court volunteers who will be home based. Staffing levels will be kept under review to respond to the demand.

Chief Executive Donna Manson said: “I want to thank everyone involved for all their hard work for getting this helpline up and running in such a short time. As well as Highland Council employees volunteering we are also very grateful for the assistance of Eden Court staff. The Helpline is now in place to help those most in need of assistance, so we are requesting that anyone who can continue to use our on-line forms and resources do so as much as possible.”
To make a payment visit https://www.highland.gov.uk/pay
To report a problem visit https://www.highland.gov.uk/report
To request a service visit https://www.highland.gov.uk/request

The new helpline is just one of several proactive actions the council is taking. Work to set up a number of Humanitarian Assistance Centres across the Highlands is underway and details are expected to be published in the next 24 hours.

The Council is continuing to co-ordinate all offers of community group support, while the Highland’s 3rd Sector is co-ordinating individual offers of support. There will be close joint working to maximise the valuable offers of support from community groups and individuals.

Kind Regards

Willie Munro
Nairn Ward Manager

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Need help in the Nairn area during this crisis? - Nairn Task Force Request for Help online form

Here's the Nairn Task Force Request for help online form.

Also if you wish to volunteer locally during this crisis here is the Nairn Task Force online registration form.  More details of where exactly in the area help is needed in post below.

Nairn Task Force Volunteer Registration online form - over a 100 volunteers already but more needed

Want to help locally during this crisis? Online form for registration here. Nairn Task Force are looking for more volunteers so the entire community can be covered. Tish of the Task Force told the Gurn:

"We now have over 100 signed up volunteers actively supporting the community but the following streets are in need of more volunteers and we are getting many many requests for support multiple times a day...

High Street: Gordon St, Douglas St, Royal Walk, Castle Lane, Acre Street, Rose Street, Durban Place, Queen Street, Millbank Street and Crescent, Cawdor Street and Road

Lodgehill: Fraser Park, Woodville Gardens, Lodgehill Park, Highland Cottages, Forbes Drive, Lodgehill Road, Chattan Drive, Lodgehill Gate, Lodgehill Wynd

Lochloy: Montgomerie Drive, Caron Street, Kingsteps.

Queenspark: William Street, Whitelaw Crescent, Anne Crescent

Tradespark: Seaforth Rd, Sandwood Drive, Penny Lane, Davidson Drive, Blair Road, Russel Place, Croft Road, Delnie Place, Cameron Rd, Wyvis Rd. Blairfield Rd. Muircote Rd. Lochdu Gate, Albyn Court, Moss Side Road, Tradespark Rd.

Auldearn: High Street, Millcroft Rd, Cawdor Rd, Battlefield Rd. Lethan Rd, Boath Terrace, Manse Road, Montrose Ave, Doocot Rd, Innes Terrace. 

Wider Nairnshire, or those willing to travel to support remote places"

Highland Council document: Initial Community Resilience Guidance For Community Groups Wishing to Provide Support - Version 1 March 2020

The following Highland Council document is available for groups wishing to help during this crisis - a copy on a googledoc file here.

"Shop local never been more important" Nairn BID list - local deliveries available in some instances

From the Nairn Connects BID page:

Now more than ever it is important to support your local businesses. Many local businesses are now offering telephone orders or online orders. Free delivery is available in some instances but please also see the community support page for collections.

Grahams Dairy – Call 01768 833206 or online at Grahams Family Dairy
Milk delivery to your door

Forbes Farm Fresh – Auldearn – Order online at Forbes Farm Fresh or call 07824 471185

Swansons Fruit and Veg – Call 01667 455262 (free deliveries for orders over £10)

B Clark Butchers – Call 01667 453221, open for meat sales, limited customers in store at one time

Ashers Bakery  – Call 01667 453206 or online (free delivery orders over £7)

One One Two on the Brae – Email manager@cafeoneonetwo.co.uk or call 01667 457135
Wine delivery to your door or wine take away

Gateaux Regal – Nairn – Call 01667 455166 Gateaux Regal
Home delivery on cakes and Easter eggs and chocolate

Househill Farm Shop – Open for customers or call 01667 452548 or www.househillfarmshop.co.uk

Wester Hardmuir – Brodie, Open for fruit and meat sales Call 01309 641259

Surf and Turf Highland, Home deliveries on meat and seafood Surf & Turf Highland and on Facebook, or call 07850 599593

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Parking charges drops off the agenda for the duration

We hear from Sheena Baker of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council that the following has been received from a Highland Council direction:

"UPDATE: pre-engagement for off-street car parking project

I am writing to inform you that following the overnight change in national guidance, we are no longer looking for stakeholders to feed back at this time.  We are no longer operating under ‘business as usual’ as we focus our efforts to prioritise and deliver our statutory services, caring for the vulnerable, cooperating with our Resilience Partners and supporting economic recovery. We also appreciate that the priorities for everyone within communities are now different. We will continue to follow national advice and guidance and will advise when it is appropriate to restart this process. 

Kind regards,

Car Park Project Team"

Monday, March 23, 2020

2020 Nairn Highland Games cancelled

Sunday, March 22, 2020

As we all start to spend quite a bit more time at home - how about learning a bit of Gaelic on a free online course?

Parkdean resorts to shut

News is emerging on regional news sites that Parkdean have announced the closure of their holiday resorts. There has been increasing criticism on social media that the company was still open to holiday makers when official advice is not to travel.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A moment or two of normaility in the Saturday sun as the snowdrop splitters get to work at a social distance

  Picture Murray MacRae 

Nairn County out and about helping folk self-isolating today as players hand over their several hundred pound end of season party fund to aid efforts

"Today the Players and Committee were able to make ten deliveries around Nairn of shopping and medicines to help keep those self isolating going. The players also stepped up by donating their Fines Fund, which normally goes on their end of season party, to help the Community during this tough time. This totalled several hundred pounds. Image here.

Legion in Nairn offers help to members and non-members alike

A message posted on social media reads:

"Any member or non-member for that matter, living in the Nairn Area and requiring assistance during this difficult period is requested to email nairnlegion@gmail.com. All requests treated in confidence and we will assist where possible. Service Not Self"

Troubling times but considerable generosity being shown today towards a foodbank collection on the High Street this morning.

Troubling times but considerable generosity being shown today towards a foodbank collection on the High Street this morning. This was the scene just after 11 am with the collection still to run for another hour and a half.

Only Flush 3Ps - Pee, Poo and (toilet) Paper - take care of the Nairn Sewage system

A couple of readers have contacted the Gurn with their concerns for some of the pinch points in the town's sewage system given that some people unable to buy toilet roll will be using alternatives and flushing them with the potential to clog up the system. Obviously at this time of crisis it is sensible to avoid anything that could cause other health problems and divert resources from the authorities response to Covid-19.

 Here's a Scottish Water press release that deals with the subject:

Scottish Water has issued a reminder to flush only the 3Ps – pee, poo and toilet paper– to help keep the country’s sewers free from blockages.

Un-flushable alternatives to toilet paper which are not biodegradable are a major cause of sewer chokes resulting in flooding.

Customers are being asked to help protect the waste water network by sticking to the simple 3Ps guidance and flushing only toilet paper.
Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Alternative un-flushable items such as wet wipes, kitchen roll, cotton wool, tissues or other forms of paper can cause blockages in the pipes.

“Additional sewer chokes at this time of heightened concern around health could pose additional risk through internal flooding, as well as causing an obviously unpleasant disruption in the home.

 “We would urge people to flush only pee, poo and toilet paper in order to reduce the risk of internal sewer flooding. Such blockages are preventable and by following the simple 3Ps guidance together we can ensure the network is fully effective.”

Increases in the number of sewer chokes reported could place extra demand on response teams who are despatched to unblock drains. Currently Scottish Water responds to around 3000 sewer chokes every month. Around 1 billion litres of waste water are treated every day in Scotland.

The waste water drain which goes from a house to the public sewer is usually only about 4 inches wide, which is around the diameter of a DVD, meaning it can easily become blocked by a build-up of non-flushable materials.

Scottish Water customers can learn more about what they can do to keep the cycle running, what should not be flushed down toilets or poured down sinks and how they can save their drains, protect their homes, their neighbours’ homes and the local environment at www.scottishwater.co.uk/cycle.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Covid-19 preparations in Nairn - a view from Nairnshire Committee Convenor Tom Heggie

Tom Heggie gives an insight into what is going on behind the scenes as the local authority prepares for what might happen in the Highlands during the Coronavirus crisis.

Also how local groups and organisations and individuals willing to help will fit in with the bigger picture. He agrees things haven't been ideal in recent times with Highland Council not the best vehicle to represent our community but says that we have to support the resilience planning set-up which includes HC for the benefit of all in our communities.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Nairn Task Force social media group publishes plan to move from online set-up to activity to help fellow citizens during the Covid-19 crisis

 The following was published on the Nairn Task Force Facebook page last night (18th March)
Update from Nairn Task Force...
All we all know too well, the impacts of COVID-19 are being felt by all, and are changing by the hour. This post is intended to communicate the approach of Nairn Task Force and to seek your support in enabling us to progress through the steps below as quickly as possible. This will enable us to do our best for each other, and thus ourselves, in a challenging and unprecedented situation.
Nairn Task Force primary objective is to supplement the way in which we are all, already, naturally helping our family, friends and neighbours to deal with COVID-19 and the challenges it brings to our daily lives.
To do this we are creating a communication network which will provide those struggling to have access to local people who can direct them to existing services and provide some additional community support.
The Nairn Task Force is not intended to replace any existing services, councils or voluntary groups, rather help others to get access to them.
  1. Connected with existing services including CAB, Red Cross, Community Councils, Highland Council, Local MP, Rotary Club, Community Centre, Nairn Bid, Helping Hands, and a number of existing voluntary organisations .. All of these are using their established structures and experience to determine how they can best support our community. This is still work in progress for all of the above and many more.... businesses, councils and governments are mobilising their responses as a reaction to the daily changes....
  2. Established a Nairn Task Force Group Facebook site, which is specifically for volunteers to register their interest in being a volunteer. I have requested contact details, location and areas of expertise.
  1. Creating a Nairn Task Force Volunteer Register which will then be divided up into subgroups. The subgroups will be based on location e.g Fishertown. Each sub-group will have a Connection Lead. Target Completion: Friday 20th
  2. The Connection Lead of each subgroup will establish a WhatsApp Group for their fellow volunteers. This will enable us to break the challenge down into smaller areas and decentralise. Target Completion: Friday 20th
  3. Determining which of the existing communication channels can be used most effectively as a single source of consolidated factual information on COVID-19 (Newspaper, existing website, posters on chemists, stores etc... the purpose of this is to ensure people know where to go for information. Target Thursday 19th
  4. Setting up these communication channels and ensuring there is clear responsibility for them. Target Completion : Saturday 21st
  5. Creating a simple leaflet that will be distributed by 'sanitised hands' to everyone in Nairn by the each of the SubGroup Team. This leaflet will signpost individuals to the information sources indicated above. It will also signpost to key services for the most vulnerable eg CAB, Foodbanks etc.. It will explain the role of the Nairn Task Force and provide 2 contact numbers (see below at 6) Target Completion: Friday 20th
  6. Briefing Volunteers on their role as part of the Task Force to ensure that they are comfortable with it. Within each Sub-Group the team will divide themselves and write 2 contacts on each each leaflet. Their role will be to be there if someone is not able to access local services and / or does not know how to. The individual can message or call the volunteer whose aim is to support them in accessing services or information . If they cannot they can use their WhatsApp SubGroup for support. Initially the intent is to offer neighbours additional support such as dog walking or collecting prescriptions or shopping that they have ordered online. Target Completion: Friday 20th
  7. Establishing a Forum via conference call for all of the SubGroup Connection Leads to communicate on a daily basis so that the types of challenges can be understood by all and we can learn and develop. This Forum is also intended include representatives from the established organisations and voluntary groups who will continue to develop their support plans. This will enable the Forum to then communicate back to the subgroups and ensure a consistent message. Clearly the other communication channels will be updated. Target Completion: Saturday 21st
  8. Completing distribution of leaflets to all Nairn household Target Completion: Monday 23rd


If you are NOT able and willing to take on the responsibility described above in light of recent changes please REMOVE yourself from the NAIRN TASK FORCE facebook page today. The Nairn Task Force FB page is is purely for organising the above, not as general source of information.

It is important that only people who are willing to take on the above responsibility are on the Task Force FB page or the register of volunteers that we are creating will be ineffective and the systems will not work.

Please do not email or text me with specific issues or even offers of help at this time. It is taking up valuable time and delaying the above. Until we get this network established I will become the single point of failure. Once we have this established, communication will be consistent but decentralised and you will have better responses.

Please DO continue to access your existing networks and local services - Nairn Task Force is not replacing them.

Please DO NOT start discussions on the Nairn Task Force FB page at this time. It is delaying progress as I need to review it all to consolidate the register. Use it to offer your services as a volunteer, and if you haven't already, email me at tishjoyce@gmail.com you phone, email and home street so that I can complete the register as quickly as possible.

As the existing services and volunteer groups evolve their approaches and services we can use this network and the information channels established, to cascade further to everyone. The first step is to establish the network and decentralise so that others add value in their local areas.
Thanks so much for all those that are working in their day and voluntary jobs to support this community. Thanks to all those offering support via Nairn Task Force too...
Apologies for what may appear to be delays but this is complex and we are moving forward. It will not be perfect from day 1 but we can evolve
I will not accept any more people onto the Nairn Task Force site this evening. I will wait for you to read this and email me with the information requested if you are able to volunteer in this manner. Please remove yourself if you cannot offer this support - IMPORTANT.
There are many more ways to support and this is not the only route.
I will not be responding to any individual emails or messages until we have completed the important steps to create the network outlined above, so please do not be offended.
Feel free to share this as required..
Thanks again.

Nairn West and Suburban Community Council suspend public meetings - they will continue to do their best to represent the community though

 Jimmy Ferguson told the Gurn

It is with regret that we at the Community Council will suspend its public monthly meetings for the foreseeable future. The decision to suspend comes on the back of Highland Council and Scottish Governments recommendations.

At this point in time we are unsure as to when we will be able to re commence our planned meetings, when we recommence we shall advise via advertisement in the local Nairnshire Telegraph and here on social media. 

Meantime the Community Council will remain in place and will continue to support issues within the Nairn Community . So watch this space. Stay safe all of you where ever you are. The Nairn West and Suburban Community Council.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Nairn County Football Club pledge to stand by the Community in time of crisis: " You have supported us, now its our turn to do the same for you."

Awesome stuff emerging from Station Park tonight, Club Secretary Ian Finlayson posted on the Club's Facebook page earlier tonight:

"Now to our wider responsibilities. When we were in financial trouble several years ago, we asked the community for help and the community responded. We remember this and now it is our turn to repay this debt. In the coming days we will be in touch with local businesses to pay forward what we can for the coming season so that businesses will have that cash now when it is most needed, instead of next season. Further, we have no football to report, so we will devote our Social Media channels to advertising our local business sponsors and encouraging people to shop local and to consider making future bookings and buying vouchers now for local Hotels, hostelries, pubs and restaurants and all others to get some much needed cashflow into local business."

"With regards to our fans and the community as a whole. Well we are not playing football for the foreseeable future, so if we can help on a Saturday with anyone in self isolation, be it picking up your shopping, getting your prescription to you or even just walking the dog, drop us a message or give us a call and we will sort something out for you.
Nobody knows how long this virus will be with us, it could be a long haul, but we want you to know that your Club is with you. You have supported us, now its our turn to do the same for you."

Fantastic Community spirit being shown by the Wee County tonight. 

Covid 19 - Current advice (13th March 2020) for Nairn residents from Doctor Adrian Baker of Nairn Health Care Group - video, pictures and article

Signs at Hospital and surgery urging instructing anyone showing Corona virus symptoms not to enter premises

“Behave as if you have it” is the message about the Covid 19 virus from Dr Adrian Baker, Nairn Healthcare Group. Speaking on Friday Adrian told the Gurn that at the moment Covid 19 cannot be stopped and the important thing is that we need to modify our behaviour to reduce the speed and rate of infection. As of the 12th March 2020 there were no official cases in the Highlands, this doesn't mean there aren't any and it is only a matter of time until the virus is reported.

He feels that one of the main problem's for NHG is becoming overwhelmed with hundreds of cases in a day, but if we're all sensible and behave as we've been asked to do we stand a chance of getting through this ongoing situation on a day by day basis.

Short video interview with Dr Adrian Baker

He pointed out that we all have a personal responsibility to protect both ourselves and other people and to reduce the risk from this virus as much as possible. Washing your hands, using a tissue if you cough or sneeze (and then dispose of it), keeping a distance from other people, these are all simple actions but could make a huge difference.

For 80% of the population this will be a very mild illness and while children or young adults are at less of a risk, the group which is more vulnerable is people over 70, especially those who have underlying illness and are on multiple medications. If you are in this group you should be especially careful and try to avoid crowded areas as much as possible and keep a safe distance from other people.

Parents and older people should be careful around younger children as they are very good carriers of viral illnesses, everyone should be aware of this and take precautions to reduce the risk of picking up the virus from children.

One of Adrian's biggest concerns for the town is the Care homes and Nairn Town & County hospital. There are 200 care home beds and 20 beds in the hospital and many of these people are already frail or ill. He urges people not to visit people in care homes or hospital unless they absolutely have to and to carry out hand washing or cleansing before you enter the premises. If you have a cough or temperature or have recently been to an area where there has been an outbreak of the virus his advice is not to visit to protect residents.

The surgery has carried out some adjustments to the layout of the waiting area, seats are now at least 2 metres apart. The self check in screens have been closed down and you should queue at the reception desk leaving at least a metre between yourself and other people. You will be asked to wash your hands on entry to the building. Please do not touch your phone or other devices once you have washed your hands as you may contaminate surfaces. Further precautions will be introduced over the next week with the aim of protecting patients, protecting staff and protecting the building.

New layout in waiting area at Nairn Health Care - seats 2m apart

The most important things we should all be doing are;
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds using soap and water
  • Don't touch your face, especially your eyes and mouth
  • Social distancing – stay at least 1metre or preferably more from other people
  • Don't shake hands
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze and put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Regularly clean phones, iPads, kindles, tablets, etc as these are fantastic vectors for transmitting infection and the virus can live on glass and hard surfaces for a number of day's. Check online for the most appropriate instructions for your device.

The main symptoms of Covid 19 are
  • a fever or high temperature
  • a new, persistent dry cough
  • shortness of breath
Do not go to the surgery if you have these symptoms. If you have are suffering significant shortness of breath ring the practice on 01667 452096 for advice and assessment.

What to do if you have the symptoms
  • If you develop a persistent dry cough and you've got a temperature over 37.3C treat it as flu. You should self isolate and stay at home for 7 days. Look after yourself, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol or ibuprofen if required. There is no need to contact the surgery at this stage.
  • If you develop significant shortness of breath you should stay at home and ring the surgery where arrangements will be made to assess you and work out the best course of treatment
  • During self isolation don't leave the house. If you require shopping you should arrange for someone else to get it and leave it at your door.
  • For 80% of people this will be a very mild illness and after 5 day's you should start to improve
  • Do not come to the surgery if you have any of the symptoms
  • Do not visit Care homes or the hospital if you have any of the symptoms

Nairn Healthcare Group can be contacted on 01667 452096 where you can speak to a doctor or nurse during the day or out of hours.

For further information and guidance on Covid 19 visit www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus

For information and advice on cleaning your smart phone and other gadgets www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/technology-51863924/coronavirus-how-to-clean-your-smartphone-safely

For information on how to wash your hands www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/health-51637561/coronavirus-watch-how-germs-spread

Regional MSP David Stewart cancels Friday (March 20th) advice surgery at Nairn Community and Arts Centre - phone session available instead

A constituency advice surgery will be held over the phone instead of face-to-face at Nairn Community & Arts Centre at King Street on Friday as the government and the NHS gear up to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Regional MSP David Stewart has pulled adverts for the lunchtime meeting to comply with social distancing measures.

Mr Stewart, who is Scottish Labour’s shadow health secretary, said it was always good to meet people in person but for now it was practical to hear their concerns over the phone.

Anyone who would like to discuss an issue or a concern with Mr Stewart can ring 01463 716299 between 1-2pm on Friday, March 20, or email david.stewart.msp@parliament.scot

Monday, March 16, 2020

Snowdrop splitting Saturday March 21st at the Riverside

Another event that will take place around the concept of Social Distancing. Annie of KNC told the Gurn: "People can collect a bag of plants and keep a safe distance from others; we'll all be wearing gloves" 

Foodbank collection Saturday 21st Nairn High Street

The Gurn understands that "social distancing" will be in operation at this foodbank collection this Saturday (21/03/20)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Signs at Nairn Hospital and Health Care Centre urging anyone with symptons of Corona virus not to enter premises

Earlier today the Gurn was invited to attend a briefing given by Dr Adrian Baker to senior local councillors on the Corona virus situation locally. Later this evening we will publish details of the briefing and also a short video interview with Dr Baker.

Police in Nairn are appealing for witnesses after a number of vehicles in the Queenspark area were broken into overnight on Thursday 12th into Friday 13th March.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Nairn's promising future, the progress, the blocks, new projects on the horizon - a wee blether with Alastair Noble about his optimism for our community

It's almost exactly three years since we last had a blether with Alastair Noble about the issues affecting Nairn's future and how the community could take more control of its destiny. We went back to have another conversation with him this week and he remains optimistic on the things we can achieve as a community. He talks about the progress made, where more could be done, the stumbling blocks and new projects that are taking shape.
Get yourself a cuppa or pour a dram and sit down and catch up with most, if not all, the current issues affecting our community (some of them controversial).

Work to provide the new Team Hamish splash pad for Nairn will begin on 30 March 2020.

 From the Highland Council Press Release:

The splash pad is a jointly funded project between Team Hamish/NICE, Nairn Common Good and Highland Council and is the result of extensive engagement with the community in Nairn.   One recommendation of the Nairn Links Development Plan, this project is seen as phase 1 of the overall plan for the Nairn links area.

Cllr Tom Heggie, Chair of the Nairn and Nairnshire committee said: “I am delighted that work on this new facility is beginning.  This will be the first one of its kind in Highland and will be a fantastic development for the community.”

Sam Hey of Team Hamish said: “Susan and I are really excited about the prospect of this work finally starting.  We have planned for this over a long period of time and want to thank everyone who contributed to the Team Hamish fund who have made this happen.” 

Flood protection - Murd urges experts to look to floods of 1956 and examine how the Fishtertown was unaffected

Readers may have seen the recent Gurn article which details how ComCllr Brian Stewart outlined how action needs to be taken urgently on a flood protection plan for Nairn and how things have not moved on substantially for a number of years. 
The River Nairn during the floods of 1956

Murd Dunbar refers us again to images of the floods of 1956 and suggests that the water in those days had somewhere else to go and thus the Fishertown got off lightly. He went on to tell us in his opinion that is not the case today with the obstacles on the other side of the river preventing the water going where it used to go in the past. He urges the experts, if they ever do undertake their study, to analyze the events of those times and consider a return to the previous situation.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

King Street application - town centre car parks to lose 39 spaces to flats and office parking?

This observer just been over to the Highland Council e-planning file for the application that involves the demolition of the Old Social Work Buildings and the building of flats and an office on the adjacent car park and a document from the Highland Council's own Transport planning team states:

"The proposed application therefor should have 32 parking spaces."

You can read all the relevant documents, comments and see the plans here. Probably all worth taking in alongside this recent Gurn post which is a good read in itself and worthy of a dram or a cuppa to accompany it. 

Joan Noble, an accomplished critic of past Transport Assessments accompanying large planning applications in Nairn had recently turned her eye to the parking arrangements for the proposed development. Here is how she has articulated her concerns in a submission to the Highland Council:

Mr Keith Gibson,
Planning Officer
Highland Council

Objection to Planning Application 20/00338/FUL

Dear Mr Gibson,

Further to my objection letter of 28th February, I have today looked at the Highland Council’s own Transport Planning Report for the application and was most surprised to read the following:

‘Parking and Turning

The Councils Parking Standards are fully set out within the Roads and Transport guidelines for New Developments. 

Houses and Flats with Communal parking for residents require 1.2 parking spaces plus Visitor Parking (Communal, may be on-street) of 0.3 spaces each.
This provides a calculation of 12 flats multiplied by 1.5 parking spaces, giving 18 parking spaces for the flats. 

The Flats require cycle parking. The Minimum recommended cycle parking provision for residential Flats should be: 2 spaces per flat provided within secure enclosed storage facility. May be reduced to 1 space per flat where communal storage is provided. 1 visitor space per 10 flats outside/near main entrance.

If we consider the CAB offices to be Offices, the maximum parking per Gross Floor Area is assessed at 1 space per 30m2 GFA. The Application states the GFA of the Office to be 420m2 , providing a calculation of 420m2 / 30m2 giving 14 parking spaces. 

The offices also require cycle parking. Minimum parking requirement for office cycle parking of 2 spaces plus 1 space per 250m2 GFA.

The proposed application therefore should have 32 parking spaces.’

In spite of this report by HC’s own transport department, the planning application avers that the whole development will produce no additional parking requirements at all, and the net loss of town centre parking will be 7 spaces. In effect what has been calculated and is advised by their own team will lead to 39 parking spaces being lost.  

This sort of behaviour seems to be the antithesis of PAN 82 which cautions Councils to be extremely careful to make sure the whole process is scrupulously honest, open and above board when they have a direct conflict of interest in an application.

I would like to add this to my previous objection.

Yours faithfully,

 Joan Noble

Friday, March 06, 2020

A must read for all those concerned about local democracy and the planning process in Nairn - very serious questions raised in planning objection to controversial King St build and demolition of heritage buildings next door

Citizens we urge you all to get a cuppa or pour a large dram and consider this objection to what is proposed for the site next to the former Old Social Work Buildings in King Street and the demolition of said OSWB (also known as former Police Station Buildings).  This letter has appeared on the Highland Council e-planning pages and there is other documentation concerning the controversial application here on the relevant file on the Council website.   

Please consider everything outlined here folks. Are we on the cusp of a new "Community Empowerment" dawn or does this application just mean more (actually lots more) of the same?

"For the attention of Keith Gibson, Planning Officer
Highland Council
PLANNING APPLICATION 20/00338/FUL: Nairn Town Centre/62 King St

I object to the proposal set out in application 20/00338/FUL
Before setting out the detailed and specific reasons, I wish to make three general observations.

• Regeneration : This area is the critical central part of the town. It defines the character and identity of Nairn, for both residents and visitors. A revived town centre has to fulfil a number of functions as well as complying with official guidance and responding to public expectations. Nairn town centre requires (and has) an overall, integrated development strategy which meets all those objectives. We have only one chance to get it right. The present application neither delivers nor contributes to that outcome.

• The CAB . The planning application by Highland Council is to construct a single building. It is not a popularity poll on the activities or worthiness of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, which has been identified as potential occupant of the ground floor. I recognise, like most of the community, that the CAB does useful social work. That is not however a justification for it to be located in this particular proposed site. Admiration of CAB activity is not the same as support for the proposed new building. Whether or not the CAB does good work is not a consideration relevant to the planning decision;
• Housing : There is general acknowledgement that some more housing should be provided in Nairn. But it does not follow that constructing a new block of flats in this particular location is the best, best-value, or most appropriate response. Other options exist and should be fully
and carefully examined.

Objection 1. The application does not comply with, or meet the overall objectives of, the agreed Nairn Community Town Centre Plan (NCTCP); nor is it consistent with the guidance in SPP, PAN 82, or the policies for the site set out in the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan.

The NCTCP has a clear overarching policy which is echoed in NA7 of the IMFLDP: “The development plan highlights a clear objective to strengthen Nairn’s historic town centre with a specific focus on promoting uses that add to commercial vitality and viability, improve the physical appearance of the town centre and increase pedestrian links and footfall to the High Street. It confirms that the Council will not support development that is likely to have an adverse effect on the town centre’s vitality and viability.”

PAN 82 stipulates that: “In carrying out that assessment [of a planning application] the authority must identify all aspects of the development plan which are relevant to the proposed development, interpret them carefully taking account of the wider aims and objectives of the plan as well as the detailed wording of stated policies. ”

SPP para 28 makes clear that

"..... the aim is to achieve the right development in the right place. It is not to allow development at any cost."

SPP para 29 establishes a firm principle:
... making efficient use of existing capacities of land, buildings and infrastructure including supporting Town Centre and regeneration policies ... protecting, enhancing, and promoting access to cultural heritage including the historic built environment".

The IMFLDP is equally specific about the priority objectives relevant to Nairn town centre:

"Para 2.8: Promoting and protecting city and town centres. One of the main elements of the strategy...is to focus attention on the areas of towns and local centres to bolster their role as well connected meeting places and as hubs for local facilities ...

“Para 4.34: "Develop the role of Nairn as a tourism and employment centre...”

• The new building will do nothing to add to the commercial vitality of the area, nor will it increase footfall into and through the town centre and to the High Street shops and services;

• Nor will it provide the improved social and amenity space or facilities which are identified as the wider aims of the NCTCP;

• The application offers neither a ‘well connected meeting place and hub’, nor are the functions of the building in any way related to attracting tourism or creating employment;

• A housing and office block does not offer any incentive to local residents – or passing tourists – to visit, linger, or spend time in the vicinity. It therefore fails to meet the key objective of promoting the town centre’s vitality and viability;

• The 1 or 2 bedroom flats will suit working people, whether single, couples or with those very young families: adults are likely to be away at work, children either pre-school or away at school. This will generate no more footfall or communal activity, during daytime or evenings, than occurs around the existing bus station apartment block and Royal Walk flats;

• Moreover, the planning requirement for dedicated parking provision, bin storage and access etc for a larger new building will take away space currently available and used by all the town’s residents and many visitors; • The CAB is an important support for those in the community that need help. It is essentially a private, confidential advice service. Its clientele are almost entirely from within the town’s population and – by definition – mostly those with financial and personal needs and difficulties. A substantial proportion of its clients are unlikely to regard their attendance at the CAB as a part of a wider engagement with the other services and businesses of the town centre. In that respect its location on this site is counter-intuitive;

• Relocating the CAB to the building will actually decrease the footfall to the High Street, and will leave another premises on the High Street/Cawdor Road vacant and unoccupied.

All these considerations mean that the application fails to comply with the two key requirements of the NCTCP and PAN 82 and the wider objectives of the IMFLDP. The Council (as planning authority) should therefore not be submitting or supporting the application.

Objection 2. The proposed building would pre-empt, or complicate, the delivery of other elements of the town centre regeneration plan, and does not enable or deliver on key requirements for the revival of the town centre and High Street.

The NCTCP outlined very precisely the requirements. It envisaged:

“Theme 1 .
...a civic hub in the town centre ...”

“Theme 2
... better use of area between King Street and the High Street....streets and open space could be made more attractive for walking, cycling, sitting and other social activity...”

and in particular:

“Proposal 6. Establish a new Town Square
Nairn currently lacks a large, attractive outdoor space that can accommodate community activity in the town centre... A town square’s vitality relies on it being well linked to popular walking routes, well-overlooked and surrounded by active ground floor uses...An appropriate location could be identified through the development of a masterplan for the area between the High Street and King Street, which should also set out proposals for buildings, land use, parking and movement, including improvements to east-west walking and cycling links.”

“ Proposal 8. Reconfigure car-parking to achieve more efficient use of space
Car parks in this area need to be safer and more attractive with good pedestrian access, attractive landscaping, and improved surfacing, lighting and wayfinding. Consideration could also be given to coach parking... Making car parking space more attractive was identified as a priority ..... Consultation feedback considered it to be essential to the vitality of the town centre, capable of setting parameters for other projects to follow. The layout should include dedicated parking for tourist buses.”

• The current application offers none of these these possibilities. It does not accord with the existing (master)plan, and would render more difficult the subsequent provision of a coherent and integrated multi-functional public space;

• It proposes a single rectangular block which does not, and could not, serve as a civic hub;

• It does not incorporate any open, public social or recreational space that might fulfil the function of a town square;

• Local town residents and visitors will have neither incentive nor opportunity to stroll, relax and take in the sights of that vicinity as they come and go with their shopping or their kids. • The application includes only statutory parking for its housing residents (achieved by demolishing a historic building) and precludes, or prevents, a more ambitious reconfiguration of the parking space to incorporate space and amenities for tourist, visitor and coach parking.

For these reasons consent for the application as proposed should be refused.

Objection 3. The design of the building does not acknowledge, complement or link to the important adjacent historic town centre buildings and does not enhance the appeal of the town centre as a destination.

There are three important, traditional stone buildings on the site, all owned by the Council. Two (Courthouse and Italianate School) are listed buildings. The third has been badly neglected. Each has significant history. Individually and together, they represent the character and heritage of this core part of the town.

• The application proposes a bulky rectangular building devoid of character and without distinctive features, local identity or architectural merit. The town has several of those already. None enhances the attractiveness of the town centre;

• A 12-unit housing block surrounded by car parking and bin storage is no-one’s idea of an "enhanced streetscape". Visitors will not be queuing up to take photos of a new town-centre view centering on a housing block and a patched-up (standalone?) old public toilet!

• The current proposal envisages the demolition of one historic building (the former Police Station/Old Social Work Building), and makes no reference to, or connection with, the others. The NCTCP explicitly proposes such a connection and the reconfiguration of functions between them;

• The destruction of the former Police Station/OSWB to be replaced by a new housing block with parking and bin storage is directly contrary to the spirit, objectives and wider aims of the NCTCP, and undermines the concept of a civic hub focused on, but extending from, the Courthouse into and across this area as set out in the NCTCP:

“Theme 1
.... a civic hub in the town centre providing a range of community and visitor services, for example, the library, citizens’ advice, tourist information, museum or other public services. Nairn Court House may have potential to accommodate some new services particularly if extended to the rear to create a new frontage to the space between King Street and the High Street....”

This application would preclude, or pre-empt, the delivery of the NCTCP proposals; and it would constrain other options (already being discussed) for the relocation and redeployment of other civic services and administrative functions in the various town centre buildings. It should therefore be refused.

Objection 4. The proposed demolition of the former Police Station/Old Social Work Building (which appears to be a prerequisite or integral part of the proposal) is unjustified, unacceptable and inconsistent with the NCTCP.

The NCTCP is quite categoric:

“Proposal 9. Bring the Council’s former social work building back into use.
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... 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.”
• The dilapidated state of the building is entirely due to neglect and the owner’s (Highland Council) failure to maintain and protect it. It would set a very unfortunate precedent if it were to be accepted that in order to justify demolition or redevelopment the Council could simply let sound older buildings decline through lack of care and maintenance;

• The proposal to demolish the OSWB – in order to create parking spaces for the new block – is disguised within the application. It has apparently been the subject of a separate, unpublicised warrant which, despite the provisions of the NCTCP, had not been subject to consultation. This is unacceptable. The grant of the warrant ahead of consideration of the planning application implies bias and pre-judgement of consent and thus raises questions about the integrity of the decision-making process;

• The application dated 26 Sept 2018 by the CAB under asset transfer legislation is for the renovation of the building(s) at 60-62 King Street, not for demolition. There is no publicly available record of the consideration and approval of this application. This would suggest that the proposal to demolish is non-compliant with the terms of that application;

• It has been claimed that restoration of the OSWB is “uneconomic”. This is no more than an assertion – made by the applicant, who has a vested interest in its removal as part of this planning application;

• No independent survey evidence has been provided to support the assertion. No valuation of the site and building is currently available. No costed studies have been made available on alternative options for the re-use of the building. The case for its demolition has not been conclusively made;

• Demolition implies that the building has negligible or no value. This is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the Council has previously sought bids of – reportedly – around £70,000 for the building from local community groups seeking to bring the building back into use. This previous approach also stands in stark contrast to (and raises questions about) the arrangements under which it appears the site of 60-62 King Street was to have been sold off to the CAB for £1.

Objection 5. The prospective occupancy of the ground floor by the CAB has not been supported by agreed public policy or a published business case, and raises questions about the basis for its occupancy and the viability and longer-term utilisation of the building.

It is debatable whether the identity of the occupant of the office-space in the proposed new building is a material planning consideration. The plans indicate that the ground floor would be purpose- designed, and that the CAB will be the occupant. This is being used by the applicant as a way of appealing for support for the proposed new building.

• There is no information in the application’s design statement or supporting information which sets out the business case for the occupancy arrangements proposed;

• The CAB is an independent organisation (like many other comparable third-sector bodies) and part of a national network. It is responsible for its own financial management and for its own office arrangements. It is not a Highland Council department or subsidiary. The application sets out no reasoning or explanation as to why the Council should be constructing and providing dedicated and purpose-designed office premises for this particular organisation when it does not do the same for other comparable and possibly equally-deserving groups which deliver a social or community service;

• This also leaves unexplained the relationship between the applicant (Highland Council) and the CAB, which is a grant-funded organisation, neither a part of the Highland Council nor a private or commercial enterprise. The proposed site and building appears not to be that which the CAB sought (and may have been granted) the right to purchase. Will the CAB be tenant? Freeholder? Shared owner? The terms applying to its occupancy, and the duration of any lease or contract, are matters of legitimate public interest as well as being relevant to the status of the planning application;

• This matters, and it is material to the application, precisely because the application indicates the construction of dedicated, purpose-built premises. So the configuration of the premises is a matter for assessment as part of the planning appraisal. There are clear implications if for whatever reason, now or in the future, the CAB became unwilling, or was unable, to take up or remain in occupancy of the offices in the proposed building;
• The question thus arises of what the effect of the proposed configuration might be on the longer-term prospects for the viability and utilisation of the building, and the impact on the surrounding town centre site. Were the ground floor offices ever to fall vacant (and prove unlettable for other purposes, or be occupied by a different kind of tenant) the consequences for the town centre vicinity could be serious.

Objection 6. The application process, provision of information, and level and timing of local engagement, on a proposal where the Council is both applicant and planning authority and so at risk of conflict of interest, have failed to meet the criteria laid down in official guidance.

Local engagement in local planning is now a cardinal principle of the 2015 Community Empowerment Act and the 2019 Planning Act. In addition, PAN 82 sets out very stringent guidance in situations, such as this, where the Council is the landowner, the developer, the applicant, and the planning authority. In such circumstances there is a clear and high risk of conflict of interest.

• In this instance, the handling of the application has raised serious concerns about the integrity of the process and the good faith of those involved. Despite the adoption of the NCTCP as supplementary guidance, and the high level of local concern about the future of the town centre, the application has been prepared in private meetings, and presented fully- formed as a fait accompli (initially in a press report) with no prior public consultation and no local engagement other than – at a much later stage – in the statutory period following formal submission of the application;

• The separate and unannounced submission and approval of the demolition warrant, ahead of the planning application and discovered only by chance, adds to the impression of secrecy and bad faith, irrespective of whether the minimal formal requirements for notifying and processing of such warrants were observed.

• Given the multiple roles and direct interest of the Council in respect of this application, and in the light of para 17 of PAN 82, a decision by officials under delegated powers would be inappropriate: the application should be considered by a planning committee.


It has been claimed – by the applicant – that the current application "... complies with..... and is sympathetic to...." the NCTCP and many of the proposals within it. That claim is nonsense, and a matter of opinion. It cannot be accepted as fact. The seven specific objections itemised in detail above demonstrate that the proposal is in many key respects inconsistent with the NCTCP, and actually renders delivery of the other elements of the overall plan more difficult if not impossible.

I do not oppose the (re)development of this town centre site. My objection is to this building, for this limited purpose, in this particular part of the site. It is the wrong building, in the wrong place. It is a piecemeal, short-term initiative. It appears to have been proposed for only two narrow motives: to meet housing targets and secure a modest grant associated with relocation of the CAB.

This application prejudices the prospects for the achievement of a genuinely vital, diverse, multifunctional town centre with a range of features and facilities which might offer a focal point and destination for residents and visitors alike. This application is a wholly inadequate response – by the principal landowner and the planning authority – to the vision set out in the NCTCP.

Some of those who have already commented in their consultation-responses have identified other additional elements which ought to be incorporated in a project-design and planning proposal, and which might make it more acceptable. One of the fundamental elements of an approach to the redevelopment of such a key town centre site should always be (and usually is) that it should include 'planning gain'. Put simply, the opportunity to develop - whether offices, residential units or other business-type functions - provides a mechanism for seeking from those who develop, benefit or profit, an appropriate contribution to, or the incorporation of, spaces, facilities and amenities which are of public or community good.

At present there seems to be no thinking or planning – in this single stand-alone building proposal – for any associated or additional works which deliver that wider benefit. Consent to redevelop such an important public and community space in such a key location should only be given if it also delivers a significantly greater contribution to the rest of the vision for a revived town square and welcoming, remodelled public spaces. At the moment this building only delivers for the Council (social housing targets) and CAB (new office). In the present application there is absolutely no "dividend" in terms of improvements to the public realm, reconfigured structures, or other changes that will serve the wider public good and make the town centre more attractive, accessible and fit for the future.
Nairn, and this town centre site, deserves better. If development is to proceed, it requires a much more comprehensive design than the present single building. It has to be consistent with the NCTCP. It has to be integrated more sensibly with the existing and adjacent buildings. It has to be accompanied by appropriate landscaping rather than just bin storage and parking spaces. It has to contribute to, not ignore or detract from, the objectives in that agreed plan.

This application should be refused. The proposers should go back to the drawing board. The town centre needs something much better.

Brian Stewart
3 March 2020"