Thursday, December 03, 2020

Community Council critical of Highland Council decision to use "Developer contribution" cash to fund cafe at the swimming pool - "unfair competition"?

On Monday night, at their regular online meeting, Nairn West and Suburban Community Council discussed the ongoing Common Good consultations for the Links Tearoom and the old store a little further along the links. Their response on the Links tea room is that they are very sympathetic but would like the lease to be carefully drawn up.

As part of an extensive report to the Tearoom consultation (which we hope to cover later if time permits) they are critical of Highland Council funnelling Developer Contribution cash (that is the money developers pay into public funds for every house or other accommodation built) for a cafe which would compete with existing businesses in the town. A section of their response to the consultation reads:

"5.Unfair competition

As noted, NW&SCC strongly supports local businesses (such as the applicant) which are prepared to invest in providing and improving services to residents and visitors.

That being so, NW&SCC regard it as unacceptable that the Council should allocate funds (in the form of Developer Contributions totalling some £72,000) which are intended to deliver infrastructure improvements and similar common facilities linked to urban development – to fund the addition of a café and dance studio to their own property (the HighLife Highland pool). This allocation of DC funds has not been subject to any local consultation.

It is not appropriate for DCs collected by the Council to be used to pay for improvements and extensions to its own premises and operations. Moreover, using public money to subsidise the establishment of another new seafront café which directly rivals adjacent private businesses is unreasonable, unjustified, and unfair competition. (Likewise, using DCs to pay for a dance studio when there are suitable excellent facilities already available at the Community & Arts Centre and Sports Club is a similar but separate point, and equally inappropriate).

When the the DCs in question are derived from housing developments at Lochloy/Meadowlea and in the town centre, it is not consistent with the official guidance for the money to be redirected to fund new facilities in an entirely different part of the town. The DCs are needed in, and should be used for, the areas of Lochloy/Meadowlea and the town centre respectively.

The agreement on a long term lease for the Tearoom/Strathnairn Cafe should thus be accompanied by a reassignment of the DCs to fund improvements in those other locations in town."

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