Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Old Social Work Building survey

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

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


Friday, October 23, 2020

SNP Nairnshire branch asks party to oppose Cromarty Firth freeport proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Branch convener, Luan McCormack said: 

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

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

Dear Gurn,

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

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

David Clem

Thursday, October 22, 2020

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

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full guidance and an application Form can be found on the Council’s website at:

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

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

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

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

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

Service delivery during Covid-19 - risk factors

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

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

For further information visit


Friday, October 09, 2020

King Street planning application passed at Highland Council

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

Monday, October 05, 2020

New business appears on Nairn High Street - Nairn Denture Studio

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

Thursday, October 01, 2020

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

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

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

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

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