Sunday, January 31, 2021
Concern raised about 28K town centre cash going to Nairn BID – CC claims of no consultation – comparisons of how cash was dispersed in other Highland communities
At the Nairn West and Suburban Community Council online meeting last Wednesday, the Chair, Sheena Baker, spoke on the subject of £28,000 Scottish Government town centre cash coming to Nairn. She said that she was concerned herself and had also received e-mails. She read information from Nairnshire ward minutes:
“Alan Webster, after consulting Nairn Cllrs did a desk-top exercise because there were no suitable shovel ready projects:”
She asked why Community Councils and other organisations were not consulted before a desk-top survey. She said that it was clear from newspapers that other communities were consulted. She went on:
“If it happens elsewhere, I have to ask, are we second class citizens if we don't get consulted. I am certainly not aware, as a CC chair, of being consulted or told there is 28K coming Nairn's way and have you got any ideas for it or anything like that.”
She went on to comment on Beauly refurbishing their toilets and whether this money could be used for Nairn toilets either at the Links or Harbour Street. She also said that Fort William and Lochaber local councillors had insisted on a public meeting of area committee before making decisions.
Cllr Tom Heggie replied: “We were led do believe that town centre was town centre and we were advised that if we spoke with the BID we could involve local stakeholders and as far as we are led to believe, we spoke with representatives of the BID prior to Christmas and asked if they would be interested in acting as our agent (if you like) to develop a project. This is capital funding money which has then ongoing revenue costs perhaps or not. We were given the advice it was a relatively small amount of money for the town centre.”
Tom indicated the process was continuing through the Nairnshire committee.
Sheena then asked if the BID were the only people that had been consulted
“We spoke with representatives of the BID not just in that short term, we've had quite a while Bob Ferenth and Peter, and were invited to consult others around projects to do with the High Street. There is very, very clear parameter that this is a capital sum of money and has to be committed prior to the end of March.”
As the BID attracts public money, and hopefully it will bring in considerable sums in the future, then it begins to engage in projects that have an effect not only on businesses in the town but on the community in general. It would be good for future transparency then if they would make their minutes available to the public for those projects that impact on us all and not just the business concerns in the town. It would be a shame if things would become too opaque.
Rightly or wrongly it does appear that there was more consultation elsewhere. Should the BID have consulted the Community Councils if they were acting as the agent for Highland Council with this funding?
Thursday, January 28, 2021
The Inner Moray Firth 2 Main Issues Report has been put on the Highland Council website for consultation.
You can visit that consultation page here and see a copy of the report. Nairn is on page 197. There is a map that shows the preferred sites (green), alternative sites (yellow) and non preferred sites (pink) by Highland Council.
Sandown is preferred for development by Highland Council and also part of the Farmers Showfield. The Gurn imagines that both sites will attract considerable comment.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Nairn West and Suburban Community Council website goes live - link and information on how to comment on Highland Council proposal to sell off Sandown Common Good Land
Here is the NWSCC site.
In further news concerning Sandown the Gurn understands that he consultation in respect of Sandown Lands has been extended by an additional 2 weeks. The consultation will now conclude on 26 February 2021.
Monday, January 25, 2021
NHS Covid briefing to Highland Councillors can now go into the Public Domain says Tom Heggie at NWSCC meeting tonight - and here it is as Oor Tom rapidly put it out there to interested parties
At the online meeting of NWSCC this evening Cllr Tom Heggie indicated that previously he had been instructed that Covid briefing e-mails for Councillors should not enter the public domain but that had now changed. And here are the details of the latest briefing - apologies about the bit of white background on a bit of text below, trying to get that sorted:
Key stakeholders update 20 January 2021
The number of new cases is gradually reducing. Yesterday we had 21 new cases, following a period of 80-100 cases a day. The infection rate is 128/100,000 across the NHS Highland area: 78/100,000 in Argyll and Bute and 147/100,000 in North Highland.
We have a total of 26 inpatient cases in Raigmore and one in Lorn and the Isles. With seven COVID patients in ITU, we have had to flex our usual ITU capacity of seven beds to 12, to include five non-COVID ITU patients.
To date we have carried out over 21,000 first dose vaccinations. All care home residents across NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership have been offered a first, with the exception of homes currently experiencing an outbreak.
We aim to meet or exceed Scottish Government targets for vaccination, though these plans are subject to change based on Scottish Government guidance and are dependent on having enough supply of vaccine.
We have a number of temporary residents in our area, for example second home owners. These people should identify themselves to the local practice as a temporary resident and ask to be vaccinated when the vaccine is available to people of their age/group.
We have asked practices to follow Scottish Government guidance, which is to vaccinate temporary residents aged over 80 as if they were residents.
Across the NHS Highland area we have over 100 vaccination centres, principally GP surgeries. For staff based in the South and Mid area we have opened a mass vaccination centre at the Centre for Health Science, and patient-facing staff are now able to book appointments. In the North and West and Argyll and Bute, the more dispersed population means that is it more efficient for us to offer clinics vaccinating all staff at various locations close to their work. This may mean that some staff in a lower priority group in one area are vaccinated a few days before higher priority colleagues in another area, however, we aim to have all patient-facing staff vaccinated in the next two weeks.
When the first dose will be completed
Total population across the NHS Highland area (to nearest 500)
All those 80 years of age and over
All those 75-80 years of age
All those 70-75 years of age
Extremely clinically vulnerable individuals
All those 65-70 years of age
All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers
All those 60-65 years of age
All those 55-60 years of age
All those 50-55 years of age
New face mask guidance
All staff/patients/visitors should put on a FRSM rather than a face covering upon entering the care facility.
All patient-facing staff/healthcare workers working within the clinical areas must wear a FRSM for all patient care and when it is not possible to maintain physical distance.
All non-clinical/patient-facing staff must wear a FRSM when it is not possible to physically distance from colleagues within offices, moving between departments and other settings.
All staff working in specific non-clinical shared office spaces should also ensure they use of FRSM or if this is not possible ensure they wear face coverings of at least three layers, when it is not possible to physically distance from one another.
All patients must be provided with and encouraged to wear a FRSM when it is not possible to physically distance from other patients or HCW. If a patient is exempt or can't wear a mask, this will be documented clearly.
Eight proactive, positive pieces of media coverage have been published supporting the key messages of the vaccination programme, and work is ongoing to increase this. On social media, a series of eight posts have had an average reach of 15,575 and engagement of 3,217.
Friday, January 22, 2021
In the meantime if there's not much being posted here it's worth having a look at the Gurn twitter account. Quite a lot happens in the Nairn twittersphere these days and you can scroll down the wee twitter box on the right hand side as far as you like to see what the latest craic is. You don't have to have an account to look at tweets either.
Tweets by @GurnNurn
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
The Green Hive, social enterprise organisation, have circulated an e-mail around groups in Nairn. In the challenging scenarios that the community finds itself maybe the Hive can see the potential of getting some of the emergency cash that is coming the way of towns and cities in Scotland just now to make the vision of a green portal in the High Street a reality? It isn't actually a new idea and was floated during the heady days of the forerunner of the Hive, from the offshoot of Nairn River Community Council - Nairn River Enterprise. Could be really cool to get one of the empty premises up and running with the like.
Yesterday Snecky Councillors discussed what to do with their share of monies coming to the Highlands and an agenda item that went before the Inverness City committe stated:
"The Scottish Government has allocated the Council an additional £1,066,000 ring-fenced Town Centre Fund (TCF). On 5 November, 2020, Members of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee Members agreed an area distribution of the grant. The City of Inverness Area has been allocated £252,468 to be invested in any of the eligible localities detailed in Appendix 1."
252K for Snecky, how much for Nairn out of the Town Centre Fund then and when will it be discussed? Will the forthcoming Nairn West and Suburban Community Council meeting hear about it from our four local Highland Council members. Would be fab to know what the initiatives are/could be for reviving the local economy post-covid?
But anyway, here's what the the Green Hive are asking, may some folk out there in Gurnshire might wish to respond:
"Green Hive are planning out a Green Portal for Nairnshire, an accessible, exciting and welcoming place for members of the Nairnshire community to learn about sustainable living, local environmental action and activities using our space to bring people across our community together to form lasting bonds and friendships, whilst also benefiting our local environment, individuals and the community as whole. We're reaching out to your organisation as a local exemplar in looking after your community and environment, to see how we can work together and all benefit from a Green Portal on Nairn's High street, we would be very grateful if you could answer these 3 questions which will help us ensure our Green Portal project reaches the whole community and is a relevant and valuable addition to the Nairn community:
1. What do people in the community whom we find difficult to engage with - i.e. the socially isolated, whether from disability, poverty or other disadvantage - most need in terms of events, services, programmes?
2. What do young people in particular need to encourage them to participate?
3. What do young people in particular need to encourage them to participate?
We would really appreciate it if you could take the time to answer these questions - we really would like to keep your organisation involved in these plans as we believe strongly in collaborating and the power of teamwork - we will be reviewing all of your answers and putting together a review in February 2021 and will happily keep you updated on the progress of our project.
Do you have a particular event, activity or cause that you would like to work with Green Hive on in 2021?"
Sunday, January 17, 2021
NAIRN WEST & SUBURBAN
to be held virtually on Zoom
7pm – 25th January 2021
For an invite & link email:
Thursday, January 14, 2021
What exactly Nairn Common Good means and why it exists - the past, present and the future? NWSCC release information document related to consultation on Highland Council selling Sandown Lands
The Gurn has received a copy of the following document:
In response to local media articles and the current consultation about selling Sandown Common Good land a lot of questions are being asked about what exactly Nairn Common Good means and why it exists. Nairn West and Suburban Community Council have compiled a 'Common Good Story' which takes us from the 12th Century to present day. This hopefully will be interesting and raise public awareness about what the issues are and how we could all as a community become more involved in the decisions which are being taken about Nairn community's assets.
Nairn Common Good – the Story.
As Scotland emerged from the fragmented and warlike ruling system of the early middle ages, the accession of King David I to the Scottish throne led to the pattern of settlements that we still see today.
Brought up in England, he had seen the prosperity which came through trade and co-operative working between merchants, tradesmen, seafarers and farmers, and the importance of links to mainland Europe. Scottish merchants were empowered to hold markets and trade prospered between Moray Firth towns, the south of Scotland and the Continent. Fishing and shipbuilding became very important industries.
In the late 12th century, David’s grandson, William the Lion, built the Castle sited on Constabulary Gardens and granted Nairn a formal charter for a separate sheriffdom, the Burgh of Nairn. The burgh was responsible for trade, law and order, markets and fishing rights.
King James VI visited Nairn in 1589 and confirmed Nairn’s burgh status with a new Royal Charter, and lands granted within the Burgh boundaries stretched from Tradespark to Kingsteps. These public lands were known as ‘Commonties’ and could include shared grazing and farmland, peat banks, harbourage, bleaching greens, wells, areas for preparing nets and recreation. Some areas remain in the form of Common Good lands at Sandown, Viewfield, the West Links, Foreshore, Sailing Club, Dunbar Golf Club, the East Links, Caravan Site and the Maggot.
Tolls raised by bailies could be used to improve the Burgh, and therefore the concept of a Common Good Fund used for the benefit of the town was established. Sadly, corruption and grabbing of lands and assets by the magistrates became widespread, until in 1832 electoral reform law introduced proper local elections and the power to charge rates to pay for public health, housing etc. The common good fund was no longer the principal source of funding for a burgh and councils were able to add to the Common Good assets by purchasing or receiving donations of assets and land, or investing.
In 1975, as part of local government organisation, Scottish Burghs were replaced by District and Regional Councils, with district councils scrapped in 1995. The link between Common Good funds and their communities became tenuous and the new authorities had little understanding of the situation, holding Common Good assets on behalf of the inhabitants of the former burghs, but giving those same inhabitants no control over how assets were managed or spent. Asset registers were neglected and have only recently been properly updated and adopted by Highland Council.
Fast forward to 2006 when a plan to market the remaining Tradespark Lands granted in the Charter of 1589, was drawn up behind closed doors at Highland Council (HC). Sandown Farm had been rented out with the proceeds going to the Common Good Fund (CGF).
Significant expense was incurred compensating the sitting tenant and preparing the land for sale, but as the land was protected because of the 1589 charter, HC had actually no legal right to market it without Court permission.
This had not been sought nor the required consultation carried out, therefore the attempted sale was apparently null and void. In the event the developer applied for 550 houses rather than the 300 allowed in the local plan, and was turned down by both HC and the Scottish Government reporter.
HC sought to recoup the expenses in 2013 by claiming some of Sandown Land, but this was also apparently an illegal process, and is currently being challenged.
Meantime Nairn Community Councils and others were challenging the management of the Common Good Fund and the decision making processes. Several high profile mismanagement issues had come to light, in particular the omission to raise the Caravan Park rental on a seven yearly cycle from 1993. This lost the CG fund £187,000, which HC eventually agreed to reimburse in 2014.
This brings us to who is responsible for Common Good Fund spending and decisions?
Nairn Common Good Fund is run like a trust and all 72 Highland Councillors are the ‘trustees’ having a duty to make decisions in the best interests of and obtain best value for the various Common Good Funds in the area. This supersedes their duty to Highland Council. Up to a certain limit, Nairn councillors can make common good decisions for Nairn, and receive financial reports, but there is no designated Nairn Common Good committee as in Inverness.
However, there is a major conflict of interest for these councillors, some of whom may also be directors of High Life Highland who are managing some of the CG assets. As HC becomes more and more in debt, the temptation to replace statutory council spending (which other areas get as a right) with CG money is significant.
Common Good assets can be used to provide public open space or community buildings, to give out grants, or support local events. Where HC uses CG land for statutory purposes like recreation it should pay rental like other users or maintenance in lieu of rent. This happens in other burghs in Highland, but in Nairn HC pays neither rental nor maintenance for the CG lands it uses to provide necessary public open space.
There is a very pressing need for Nairn to have a Common Good committee which includes neutral representatives from the community. This is the pattern in several other parts of Scotland, or even locally in Highland where at least one community council is consulted about CG decisions and spend. A Nairn CG committee was promised in 2012 by HC officials and councillors but was never delivered.
And so to Sandown again………
Sandown Lands have been the property of the inhabitants of Nairn since 1589, over 430 years. Over the last year, behind closed doors, plans have been formulated by HC officials and Nairn councillors to sell all the land to a developer as soon as possible. (according to the Ward Business minutes), and it appears a developer may already have been approached.
The majority of our public recreational spaces in Nairn and some community buildings are Common Good which is why it is so important they are preserved and not sold off. Our common good land is also a major draw for tourists. Without it we would not be a tourist destination and a large percentage of businesses in Nairn benefit greatly. Another reason why having control over the development of Sandown is so very important. It must incorporate and be part of a leisure, recreational, tourist gateway space so that we continue to make Nairn a tourist destination and create diverse jobs and livelihoods.
The process has started with a three month consultation. Court permission must then be sought before a sale can be allowed. The rationale appears to be that more housing is required and that cashing in this property will provide a lump sum for the CG Fund. No evidence has been provided that this is needed now or in the next few years.
What are the issues for our community to consider?
Consultation or lack of it.
Covid. Normally consultation would consist of public meetings and exhibitions. A consultation on selling almost all the assets of the multimillion Nairn Common Good Fund during a pandemic and over the Christmas period with minimal discussion and an insubstantial 4 page document which lacks any rationale for the sale is unacceptable to say the least.
The Community Empowerment Act gives additional legal backing to the importance of consulting communities properly about use of their CG assets.
Disputed Appropriation of Land by HC in 2013 and Lack of Clean Title because this land is from the Charter of 1589.
The land was not made legally available for sale in 2008 therefore no marketing expenses were valid.
Purposes and Alternatives.
No rationale for the sale at this time has been explained and no cost benefit analysis has been presented.
The legal duty to get the best price that is reasonably possible cannot be assured when there is only one option: sale of the whole of the land for volume building. This is likely to be the option bringing in the least money.
Other options of selling plots; leasing to provide long term income streams; selling small areas only and keeping control of options for recreation, leisure and tourist gateway uses of the land would give the community long term control of their asset.
Between Covid and Brexit, the economy is facing the worst recession in 300 years. Investments may be decimated while land and property should be much safer.
Land value. Sandown was valued at £14 million in 2006 with a bid of £22 million from the developer who was turned down. It was £10 million in 2010, £7 million in 2013 and now £6-7 million. Councillors have a duty to ensure that the interests of the CG fund are placed first. This is clearly NOT the time to sell land which we have had for 430 years. Councillors are thought to possibly be individually financially responsible if NCG loses most of its value by doing this.
Need for Housing
Housing is a statutory duty of the Local Authority it is most certainly not a function of the Common Good fund. Current Scottish Government and Highland Council policy is to redevelop and renovate town centre property, not develop greenfield sites on the edge of town.
How would the CG fund be used if this land was sold.
No case has been made for how the money would be used, and as with housing, the possible uses such as regeneration are likely to be as a substitute for HC statutory spend or regeneration grants which the taxpayers of the town are entitled to anyway.
In particular the conflict of interest of Highland Councillors and lack of non conflicted representatives in the decision making process is completely unacceptable and needs addressing as a matter of urgency.
Nairn Common Good lands are hugely important assets to the people of Nairn. Sandown has been in the Common Good for over 430 years and once sold lock stock and barrel to a single developer that is it. Gone for ever. Does Nairn need another bland housing development which profits a single developer? There are other options and we in Nairn should be having more say in what happens to our town and in plans for its long term future. What do we want? Do we want to be a dormitory town to Inverness or to be independent and thriving where ‘place’ and local community are our priorities?
At the moment all development decisions are made by Highland Council. In early 2021 guidance and regulations for community led Local Place Plans, one of the provisions of the new Scottish Planning System will be published. Why is Highland Council proposing the sale of Sandown Lands at this time? Should any talk of sale be off the table until such time as markets improve, and other options have been explored through proper community consultation under the new Local Place Plan legislation? Food for thought! This is your opportunity to make a difference to Nairn. Yes, we need some more housing but is the sale of the entire Sandown Common Good land at this point a good deal for the people of Nairn and it’s future generations? In 2021 we will have the opportunity to work in partnership with Highland Council to shape the future of our town.
Get involved and have your say by submitting your comments by e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or post to Sara Murdoch, Highland Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX.
Closing Date 12th February 2021.
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
It kicks off at Nairn River CC AGM but Highland Councillor Ron MacWilliam does a great job calming things down
High drama as Ron took the chair for the election of office bearers and it was certainly dramatic as the factions split 6-6 for Hamish Bain and Peter Gibson for the Chair but a cut of the cards secured it for Hamish as the Ace of Diamonds put him back in his role.
Then it was Simon Noble who became the Secretary after another cut of the cards and then with yet another cut Veronica MacKinnon became Treasurer.
Ron calmed several outbreaks of dissent by calmly listening to points of order and even took a conflict of interest claim by fellow Highland Councillor Liz MacDonald well and dealt with that effectively.
A lot of unhappiness and there will be reverberations but Ron, here at the Gurn, we thought that you did a great job - a job that would have been impossible for any of our four regular Councillors given the recent history of events at Nairn River Community Council.
But for River CC a nightmare scenario as the Chair and Secretary are now from the two opposing factions - the split is as deep as ever.
Ironically Ron commentated before the vote on how he had never seen so many people at a Community Council meeting and how it indicated that people were passionate about their town.
Big online turnout for Nairn River CC AGM predicted this evening - out of town Highland Cllr Ron MacWilliam to chair election of office bearers
The Gurn understands that there will be a good turnout of members of the public at the Nairn River Community Council AGM this evening. It appears that all the three officer bearer positions have at least 2 candidates so there may be changes when all is done and dusted.
An out of town Councillor, Ron MacWilliam, will handle proceedings for those vital few minutes when sitting officer bearers step down and a vote for the positions is held. It is unusual that someone from out of town should do that but perhaps members felt that was the best way to proceed given the stushie that erupted at the last online event and found its way onto the front page of the Nairnshire.
Details of how members of the public can attend this online meeting are in the image below.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Nairn's housing crisis - could radical ideas be better than conventional development if people are willing to see homes on Sandown?
There is a housing crisis in the Highlands and young people especially are missing out on the opportunity of getting a home. The ongoing consultation for Sandown is about whether the Common Good land should be sold to a developer - but is that sort of conventional development not going to solve much at all? Single person's housing is by far the greatest need and developers like building bigger homes for sale. Here's a screenshot of a post from Facebook that we shared. Is this sort of out of the box solution something we should be considering?
Friday, January 08, 2021
The Nairnshire Courier to hit the streets - well more or less as the Tuesday Courier gets a massive Nairnshire makeover
The new News from Nairnshire Facebook page reads:"
Thursday, January 07, 2021
With the passing of the Nairnshire it's a lot easier to be unaware of things going on in the town in 2021. So an interesting development as Strachans state on their Facebook page:
"Starting on Tuesday 12th January the Tuesday edition of the Inverness Courier will include a Nairn supplement. Supplies may be limited, so phone us on 453219 to reserve a copy."
A tough act to follow though.
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
"There has been a significant increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases across the NHS Highland board area over the last two weeks. There have been more than 700 cases since Christmas Eve"
NHS Highland Press Release:
There has been a significant increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases across the NHS Highland board area over the last two weeks.
There have been more than 700 cases since Christmas Eve and so we are encouraging people to continue to follow national guidance on social distancing, self-isolation and mixing indoors.
Dr Ken Oates, NHS Highland Public Health Consultant, said: “Firstly, thank you so much for all your support so far. We recognise that 2020 was an extremely challenging year for everyone and that we all have made significant sacrifices to reduce the spread of COVID-19 cases as much as possible.
“Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in case numbers across Highland in the last two weeks, particularly in Inverness, Beauly, Dingwall, Invergordon, Alness and Caithness.
“We believe that this is due to pre-Christmas socialising, combined with people mixing indoors over the festive period. This has led to many extended family clusters and we would once again encourage people not to mix with others outside your household, as this is driving up infection rates.
“Please adhere to the new national guidance issued earlier this week to stay at home. We appreciate how challenging this has been for many people, however when the number of cases of COVID-19 rises in our communities, we inevitably also see an increase in positive cases in health care workers and care home staff. This has a detrimental effect on NHS services as well as the health and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“We must all take action to protect each other and the NHS across Highland, Argyll and Bute. Please continue to follow the national guidance on COVID-19 including isolating at home if you feel unwell in any way, and seeking a COVID-19 test.
“COVID-19 will spread rapidly if given the opportunity, especially with the new strain which spreads much more easily. We are asking that everyone thinks about the risks that are involved in increasing the number of people you come into contact with and to please follow the rules to help us in reducing the spread of the virus.”
The typical symptoms of COVID-19 are:
• a new continuous cough and/or
• a high temperature or fever
• a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)
However, people with COVID-19 can present with a wide range of symptoms including headache, sore muscles and joints, tiredness, sore throat and cold-like symptoms. Anyone that becomes unwell should isolate immediately and seek a test.
Monday, January 04, 2021
Nairn Task Force gears up for second lockdown - they ask "how the Nairn Task Force can provide support to the people of Nairn as we enter this new phase"
"Tish Joyce of The Nairn Task Force has posted the following on the group's social media page:
- Who is still able to support ?
- What other ways you believe we can support?
- Any other suggestions you may have for the Nairn Task Force.