Thursday, February 25, 2021

Sheena Baker: "This Consultation offers no monetary figures, is totally open-ended and tries to give HC unfettered discretion to dispose of Sandown Lands"

The Gurn has received a copy of Sheena Baker's submission to the consultation on the Highland Council to sell the Sandown Common Good Lands. Tomorrow is the last day of the consultation, if you wish to make a submission yourself there are details of how to do that on the Nairn West and Suburban Community Council website.

Anyway, here's Sheena's contribution:

 

CONSULTATION ON PROPOSAL TO SELL LAND AT SANDOWN, NAIRN

I am writing in a purely personal capacity and not in my role as the Chair of Nairn West & Suburban Community Council. This is my personal representation to the above consultation.


Introduction


I am of the firm belief that this is not the time to be conducting a consultation on such an important part of Nairn’s Common Good Assets whilst the country is in a pandemic situation resulting in national lockdown.


1. I firmly believe that the timing of this consultation is fundamentally wrong and that it should be withdrawn. How HC can believe that they are fully meeting the need under the CEA to properly engage with Nairn residents on this proposal during a pandemic is beyond my comprehension. A local Councillor reported that a HC Officer had advised that the online responses were higher than normal. I would sincerely hope that that is correct. Both Community Councils, local and Inverness press and social media outlets in Nairn have all put a considerable effort into engaging with residents and urging them to respond. This is still a totally unsatisfactory state of affairs because the ability to hear and question other views has been severely limited by the lack of open to all public meetings during this consultation. Under Covid regulations any public meeting is banned and Zoom meetings do not allow reactive conversations to easily take place and allow everyone to join in. Many residents do not have computers or iPads let alone the facility to use Zoom and there are others, particularly those of the older generation, who do not have broadband connections to their homes. To my knowledge this proposal has not been on public display at our local council offices, public libraries, or the community centre as none of them have been open due to COVID restrictions. All this consultation legally does is allow HC to be able to state “we engaged with the Nairn public” It is, as far as I am concerned, a pure tick box exercise and needs to be recognised as such! This land has been part of Nairn’s Common Good for some 430 years, surely this could have been postponed until the pandemic was behind us and the matter could be openly publicly debated. What makes the rush even more unseemly is that the HC say there is nothing actively being planned. If that is true, there is no need to have a consultation!

2. The Legal situation

3. On 24th November,2020 I submitted a letter to the Nairn Councillors as Trustees of Nairn Common Good. They immediately passed it to Highland Council and after several requests I eventually discovered it was on the desk of HC’s Legal Manager.


4. On 17th January,2021 I chased a response from him and on the 18th received an acknowledgement that he was dealing with it. Since then I have had no further contact from him or any other HC Officer on the matter.


5. I mention this correspondence as I had hoped it would have been resolved and I would then not have to refer to it in this response, regretfully the dilatory way my letter has been dealt with has left me with no other option but to include it.


6. I laid out all the background to my belief that Highland Council have illegally transferred £344k of the Sandown Lands (or a pro indiviso share to that value) to the Council General Fund Balance Sheet. Sandown Lands are inalienable and to have legally taken the action that HC did, they would have had to have received Sheriff Court confirmation before acting.


7. We are left with an illegal act and it is clear that Highland Council need to rectify this immediately by reversing the actions they took in earlier years.
What exactly is the reason for the Consultation?


8. The “mantra” the Council has steadfastly been denying is that there is any developer waiting in the wings to buy this parcel of land. That is patently incorrect. FOI’s and latterly Ward Minutes clearly show that from 2017 to date HC Officers have been actively engaged with ongoing correspondence with two major developers. Both are developers, and both have clearly indicated an interest in acquiring this land. Either the HC Officers have been economical with the truth with our four local Councillors or the quotes made to the press have been disingenuous. If there is any truth in either scenario then that is a very unsatisfactory way for a Regional Authority as big as HC to be conducting affairs relating to Common Good Assets. Officers do not have any legal responsibility in relation to Common Good Assets and their disposal, Trustees however do.


9. If there truthfully is not a development being planned then, I say again, withdraw the consultation. We are told in the statements released by HC Councillors that there is no potential sale in the offing (the Ward Minutes and emails seem to scotch that). If that is true why, oh why have the Four Nairn Trustees and Councillors agreed to this action which from the minutes has clearly been initiated and encouraged by one or two Officers of Highland Council? This appears to being driven solely as a cheap fix for the HC housing waiting list. There is a statutory obligation on Local Authorities/Councils to home people, there is no such obligation relating to Common Good land or assets.


10. If this was to go ahead against the wishes of many in Nairn, and the land is disposed of, it is pie in the sky thinking to believe that any developer, other than HC or an arm of a HC housing Association, would build a development of affordable houses. It is more likely, as has been the way of recent years, that private developers would build and sell the private housing first to maximise their profits then towards the latter stages build some affordable housing. Private developers would look to acquire the land at the lowest price, this is hardly likely to be a good long-term deal for the Nairn Common Good Fund.

ALTERNATIVES

11. The BID working with the NW&SCC compiled a list of many first-floor empty properties in and around the High Street that could easily convert to good quality one- or two-bedroom flats. This helpful suggestion appears to have been hastily sent to the bottom of the in tray of the HC Head of Development. The suggestion clearly did not fit his/HC ideas and timings. This all helps to suggest that there is an agenda being closely followed by HC Officers and the Nairn Common Good land at Sandown is the easiest fix to meet this agenda. Not good enough!


12. I realise that there is a need to find land for development in Nairn but am incredulous at the suggestion in the new IMFLDP that only the Sandown lands have been preferred out of the many other identified and proffered Nairn sites. How convenient that here again HC is judge and jury! The site proffered at Househill would clearly be an excellent site especially now we understand that the Nairn Bypass will be completed. Househill should also be a preferred site on the new IMFLDP thus providing an alternative option.

13. Next Actions and moving forward. Before HC can do anything with any of the Sandown land, they must purify the title by reversing the illegal action they took with this undoubtedly inalienable land. If there is to be development, then the best site would be the area next to the allotments on the north of the A96. It is the only completely dry site and has good access to the necessary services. This site properly marketed, bringing in maximum long-term gain for Nairn’s Common Good Fund, could be developed in a manner allowing for the needs of both private and affordable housing to be built. It could easily accommodate a mix of Housing Association, some individual built sites, and some developer site. This would only necessitate a small portion of Common Good land being disposed of. Let us openly discuss that suggestion in a public forum unlike the decision formulated behind closed door leading to the SHIP proposals for 2021 -2026 which only cites Sandown.

14. Learn from the past - back in 2012 meaningful engagement with Nairn residents took place and due attention was taken to the views of the town. Yet again that was another waste of public money as it now appears that the outcomes of that Charrette have been firmly kicked into the long grass by Officers of HC.


15. Why did HC and the Trustees of the Nairn Common Good not decide to start with a decision to hold meaningful engagement and discussion with Nairn? I proffer the answer – it would not have allowed them to do what THEY have DECIDED IS BEST for Nairn!


16. Over the years I have heard quoted from HC Officers that Nairn is the town that likes to say NO! I am sorry that this is the impression HC has. After all, if we are saying No it is purely because HC keep TELLING rather than asking Nairn what its needs are going forward. Communication is a wonderful thing – why do HC Officers not start with that way of working and maybe then we can all move forward in harmony!


17. This Consultation offers no monetary figures, is totally open-ended and tries to give HC unfettered discretion to dispose of Sandown Lands. If it were to progress it would result in Common Good land, which has been part of the Royal Burgh for some 430 years, being sold off for the equivalent of sweeties. Nairn would be being robbed of its long-term inheritance to fix a hole in HC’s depleted finances.
CONCLUSION – Highland Council should remove this consultation from the table. As always, I would encourage meaningful ongoing engagement from both our local Members and Highland Council with the town, its Community Councils, landowners, and other interested groups such as NICE and the BID. This would allow for an acceptable route map for the agreed future development of this town and its Common Good Assets and Fund.

Sheena Baker
24th February 2021

The Nairn Ward Community Resilience Fund is open for applications

"Have you formed a group or are you a member of a group supporting your community in response to the Covid 19 pandamic? Apply now for funding to support your group's efforts. Grants available up to £1500"

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Highland Councillor Peter Saggers: “ I believe that the reason why Easter Ross and the West Coast may get more attention is because the political background there is more amenable to the powers that be. I think Nairn is seen as a different kettle of fish[...]”

A conversation about playing fields and play facilities in Nairnshire took place last night at the regular meeting of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council. Bill Young started the ball rolling with a call for a general review of playing field provsion and how adequate or inadequate the facilities in Nairn are. We hope to return to this part of the meeting when time permits as Tom Heggie had one or two interesting contributions.

It was some ten minutes into the conversation however when Highland Council member Peter Saggers said something that quite surprised, even shocked, some folk present. It's best to start perhaps with the contribution from Joan Noble that precipitated his comment.

Joan drew herself to the attention of the Chair Sheena Baker and then spoke: “ I think this links in to the work that Peter is progressing about having a proper chair of the Leisure and Recreation budget. I really don't think that voluntary groups in Nairn should be raising all this, be given the responsibility for raising money and maintaining and this and that and the next thing. When, in fact, our Leisure and Recreation budget is actually laughable in Nairn. We have all these figures of comparative spend and Nairn has way, way below the spend of any other area in Highland. Now that is absolutely not right and I would really ask yourself (Joan was speaking to Tom Heggie) and Peter and our other two councillors to start questioning why we don't know what our per capita Leisure and Rec budget should be and why we are not getting a Leisure and Recreation budget. I mean basically, we get a fraction of other areas.

Now I don't think the volunteers and PTAs and Nairn Play and everybody else should be expected to get the funding and do all the spade work and everything else for facilities that are a statutory duty of the local authority. I feel that very, very strongly, I mean it can't be a case we haven't got the money we are not going to do it. The money is actually sloshing around, Easter Ross and the West Coast and all sorts of places and they are getting lots and lots of Leisure and Rec spend.”


Joan then noticed that Peter seemed to be amused and said she would send him the spreadsheet. She continued: “we know exactly where it is going, and that's our money that is going to other areas while we are being asked to form voluntary groups to do this and that and the next thing, and I mean you are talking about the Riverside, the swings there have been chained up, well they've disappeared for two years. Nobody's put in a couple of swings, now for goodness sake. Surely we can afford a couple of swings. This is the sort of thing that is just shameful. It's absolutely not right and it has to be sorted out we need a fair share budget of Leisure and Rec spending for Nairn and I would ask all our Highland Councillors to be on a campaign for that because it is very, very unfair for folks in Nairn, especially the youngsters.”


Sheena said she was seeing a lot of nodding heads and asked Peter if he wished to respond. He said:

“I was smiling a minute ago because I believe that the reason why Easter Ross and the West Coast may get more attention is because the political background there is more amenable to the powers that be. I think Nairn is seen as a different kettle of fish and we do need to make sure that we endeavour to get the proper funding. And the area which I am looking at at the moment is the question of the amount of money that the Highland Council charges the Common Good Fund for grass cutting and such like. That is a work in progress at the moment.”

Gurn opinion. For many Peter's comments will simply confirm the belief that Nairn does not get its fair share from Highland Council and is even discriminated against by the local authority. Thank you Peter for your insight into how things really work at Glenurquhart Road.

Funding for Covid resilience grants in Nairn - Limit now upped from £500 to £1,500

 From the Nairn Our Town Facebook page:

"The limit has now been changed from 500 to 1500 pounds and in the last month more have applied then the previous 3 months Cllr Peter Saggers stated at last nights Nairn west and suburban community council meeting , a couple have been rejected and lots have been accepted payments to be made soon and a couple have just fallen under the guidelines so are getting help from the councilors to help them meet the criteria if possible." 

 More applications are welcome and further details over on Nairn our Town. 

Police in Nairn are appealing for information following a number of vandalisms overnight on the 21st of February 2021

Police in Nairn are appealing for information following a number of vandalisms overnight on the 21st of February 2021. 
 
Sergeant Steven Maclennan of Nairn Police Station said;
 
“We responded to several vandalisms of car windows and property windows in area including Park Street, Harbour Street, Cumming Street, Lochloy Road, King Street, Riverside Court, Firth Street and Glebe Street. 
 
We would ask anyone with private CCTV in these areas to check accordingly and if anything suspicious or of note, please contact Police. 
 
These incidents have caused great upset to the local community and it is disappointing to see that so much damage can be caused in one night, and I would urge that anyone with information to contact the police."
 
Anyone with information in relation to these incidents can contact Police on 101 or via the Police Scotland website. 
 
Anonymous reports can be made to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Ref PS-20210221-3426 / NM/278/21

 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Alastair Noble: " I am registering my strong objection to Highland Council attempt to sell all of our inalienable Common Good land at Sandown."

The Gurn has received a copy of Alastair Noble's submission to the consultation on Highland Council's proposal to sell the Sandown Common Good Lands. You still have time to have your own say on the proposed sale of the entire Nairn Common Good Sandown lands for development. Closing date is now Friday 26th February 2021. More details on the Nairn West and Suburban Community Council website.  

 Here's Alastair's submission:

Objection to Highland Council’s proposal to sell all of The Royal Burgh of Nairn’s inalienable Common Good land at Sandown.


I firstly declare an interest as my wife and I own an adjacent property.


My objection is on the grounds of inadequate consultation; no financial options or choice of alternatives to sale of the whole; the foolhardiness of selling at this time of impending economic meltdown; loss of community control over community land and no community control over what will happen to the proceeds of the sale. In addition there is uncertainty about the title due to an illegal appropriation of Sandown land by HC in 2013.


Notwithstanding these objections, my main interest is in the historic Scottish principle/ownership and use of the Common Good.


We as inhabitants of the old Royal Burgh have owned this land for over 400 years. The Nairn Common Good has some amazing property in its portfolio. It includes the lower section of the River Nairn and its banks, The Maggot, Nairn Dunbar Golf Club, Parkdean Caravan site, the Links, the Foreshore, Sandown, Viewfield and a lot of the Town centre. These taken with other small pieces of land are worth their weight in gold in environmental, green and sustainable terms alone as we move forward to addressing climate change and Scottish Government policies.
These policies include Community Empowerment, Place Planning, Place Principle, Place based investment, linking Community and spatial planning, Town centre first, local resilience, water, sewage transport etc, with above all an infrastructure first approach.


We are also facing enormous financial challenges in as a result of the Corovid 19 pandemic. These Common Good assets are the basis for Nairn Tourist economy. They also make Nairn and Nairnshire a very desirable place to live and work. We should be building them into our economic regeneration recovery plans and helping Nairnshire, the Highlands and Scotland to be financially viable going forward. We need to deliver as speedy an economic recovery as possible.
Some extremely basic questions /philosophical arguments need to be addressed first.


What is in the Common Good? Well for over 4 centuries the good people of our Royal Burghs have answered that by preserving all this valuable land in the Common Good.


Who decides what is in the common Good? This is obviously the question raised by this attempt by Highland Council to sell our Common Good. The fundamental conflict of interest this has raised shows the fundamental weakness in the system at present. No Highland Councillor can meet their obligation as a trustee of the Royal Burgh’s Common Good and their financial and other responsibilities as Highland Councillors. We therefore should use Nairn as a model to fundamentally address and solve this. We must have clarity on this issue before any decisions can be made.


Who decides what is the best use of our common good assets? Again, it is obvious that all the Highland Councillors cannot and should not take this conflict of interest position on themselves and leave themselves personally exposed to any financial risks as trustees of the Common Good and its assets.


Andy Wightman in his Common Good book titled The Poor had no Lawyers sets out what has happened in the past to a lot of Scotland’s Common Good land where robber barons have taken over. The difference here is thanks to the careful custodianship of our forebearers we can have access to due legal process.


The obvious answer is to halt this process now and use our shared knowledge base to sort out a sensible and sustainable future for all of Scotland’s Common Good. Nairn is very willing to contribute and assist this process.


I do not think we can look at Sandown in isolation and would strongly support Highland Council withdrawing this proposal and working with the inhabitants of the Royal Burgh, jointly approaching the Scottish Government to achieve lasting legal clarity about how we maintain our custodial role of the Common Good and pass it onto future generations in as good or better shape than what we inherited.


If Highland Council decide to play the robber Barron role, I reserve the right to use any or all of the submissions from Nairn West and Suburban CC, Nairn River CC, Nairn Resident’s Concern Group and their supplementary submission in any Court Action before a Sherriff as well as this submission.


In conclusion, I am registering my strong objection to Highland Council attempt to sell all of our inalienable Common Good land at Sandown.

Dr Alastair L. Noble MBE
21/February/2021

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Nairn Common Good Chronicles, Part 2: Sandown is not the only asset that could be “disposed” of soon?

The Sandown Common Good lands are certainly headline news these days. The consultation about selling off the Sandown land, launched before Christmas, has  been extended.  Nairn West & Suburban CC have put out a useful guide giving an explanation of exactly why Common Good matters to the town. The recent comments of Provost Laurie Fraser, echoing considerable concern in the town, also bring the whole subject into greater focus.

Just before Christmas the Gurn research team revealed evidence that local Councillors, urged on by Highland Council officials, had been considering and planning the sale for over a year.  

But it emerges that Sandown is not the only asset whose disposal our Councillors are contemplating.  The records of Ward Business Meetings during 2019 and 2020 reveals that list of sites in the frame is rather longer – see attached copies of extracts from those records, now publicly available.

Among the other assets potentially up for grabs is the Viewfield Stables building.  Back in December 2019 Ward Councillors decided that in the light of enquiries from “a community group lingering in the background” officials should look into the practicalities of marketing the property for lease or sale.  Official advice was that “…[As] the property is seriously dilapidated, an outright disposal would seem appropriate”.  Since the building is a Common Good asset, consultation for change of use or disposal would be required.

Viewfield Stables have of course been useful for local community activity.  Part of the building has been used to store equipment. Green Hive have had a small tool store there for some time. More recently the enthusiasts of the Coastal Rowing Club spent many months using the Stables as a workshop where they could construct their skiff.  This observer was however under the impression that the stables were part of the curtilage of Viewfield House and so a Category B listed building.   

As one Councillor observed, there is however no strategy for the management of Viewfield.  While the Sports Club and the St Ninian Bowling Club have lease agreement for their sites on Viewfield, and pay rent into the CG Fund, Green Hive created a  community orchard where Councillors feel there is no need for a lease or a rent agreement*.  It is hard to imagine that the Common Good trustees would agree a similar rent-free arrangement for the entirety of the Stables for any interested group or individual.

Other assets which our Councillors seem set on getting rid of include the property and yard in Grant Street in Fishertown, which Green Hive was  looking to take over.  In March 2019 the previous Ward manager was to pursue discussions on this, and in April the plan was apparently to arrange a ‘Licence to Occupy’ pending a possible Asset Transfer request. It is not clear what has happened since.

Also on the list is The Maggot.  This substantial area of Common Good land beside the river is used for recreation, and there is also a car park there.  The WBM meetings reveal that at their February 2020 meeting Councillors decided to dispose of land at the Maggot by a 25-year lease to the Athletics Club.  Any lease over 10 years is regarded as a disposal and so requires public consultation.  The Maggot has of course long been used as an area for sports training.  The records do not reveal what the likely terms of any lease might be, nor what rent arrangements are proposed.  The question also arises as to whether the lease would give the Athletics Club exclusive use and thus preclude wider public access.

This observer feels that Nairn is very lucky to have such extensive and potentially valuable Common Good land and property.  It is a pity that almost all the discussion so far about possible use and disposal of the Common Good has taken place in unreported Ward Business Meetings.  The people of the burgh ought perhaps to know, and have a say, in what happens to the assets from which they are supposed to benefit.

 Update 27th February 2021 - additional information from a Green Hive direction:


It says in paragraph 6 “Green Hive has occupancy of their community orchard site rent-free and lease-free”. The factual description of the position is this: The community orchard is open to all members of our community (the Common Good if you like). Green Hive, with support from a number of local groups and individuals, including your Orchard Group, Annie Stewart’s KNC and Michael Barnett’s Mens’ Shed, negotiated the conversion of the space with Highland Council, sought out funding from the Pebble Trust, commissioned a local business to erect the rabbit fence, commissioned Mens’ Shed to install wheelchair friendly picnic benches and organised volunteers to do the planting. As the sign at the unlocked gate to the orchard says, the orchard is for everyone to enjoy. Many members of the local community have enjoyed the space, attending events, volunteering to maintain it and picnicking during their lunch hour. The orchard is not occupied by Green Hive but belongs to the community . Self evidently Green Hive has enhanced a small part of the Nairn's common good.

One update to the position regarding the Grant Street Yard. Green Hive has no interest in taking on this yard which has been disused for many years. We conducted an appraisal of its potential in 2019 and concluded at the time that it would not enable us affordably to deliver the benefits to the community that our constitution requires.

 

 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"Nairnites! You still have time to have your say on the proposed sale of the entire Nairn Common Good Sandown lands for development. Closing date is now Friday 26th February 2021"

 Reproduced from Nairn West and Suburban Community Council Website.

"Nairnites! You still have time to have your say on the proposed sale of the entire Nairn Common Good Sandown lands for development. Closing date is now Friday 26th February 2021

Click here for the Sandown Lands Nairn Consultation Document.

Get involved and have your say by submitting your comments by e mail to commongood@highland.gov.uk

or post to Sara Murdoch, Highland Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX.

If you want to know what NWSCC thinks then read our submission and supporting documents below but remember your own opinion counts so even if you agree or disagree with our submission make your OWN view known to Highland Council.  This is your chance to get involved in shaping Nairn for the future."

More information here

Monday, February 15, 2021

Agenda Nairn West & Suburban Community Council Ordinary Meeting Monday 22 February 2021, at 7pm

Meeting Agenda

Virtual Zoom Meeting

Chairperson: Sheena Baker


Agenda

  1. Chairperson-Welcome,

Attendees and apologies -

Notification of meeting being recorded

Introduction of NW&S Community Councillors and Office Bearers

Declaration of Interests a requirement of personal interests in any matters being discussed tonight


  1. Chairperson-Minutes of Previous meeting – 25th January 2021circulated

only persons at the meeting can adopt

  1. Matters Arising from those minutes

Speeding restrictions –R Porteous SB

Participation Request – issued to Common Good Trustees/Councillors SB

The Sandown Land Highland Council Consultation-online veiwing request SB

  1. Treasurer’s Report WLY

Proposed by Seconded By

Zoom licence decision whether to pay for a full licence

Proposed by Seconded By


  1. Membership – Co-option  SB 

    Proposed by Seconded By


  1. Developer Contributions – accounting update per TH TH

CC next actions SB

Proposed by Seconded By


  1. IMFLDP Consultation – decision to respond

Proposed by Seconded By


  1. Request for verbal Update from Councillors – Councillor

Covid Funding/Assistance – Ward 18 – PS to advise if more uptake PS Highland Council recovery plan – update on meetings locally with CC’s & groups TH

Covid update for Nairn TH

  1. Chairperson- Questions or Contributions from Members of the Public


  1. AOCB Due to time restrictions using Zoom the Chair may add to or re-arrange the agenda on the night


Set the Date/Time of the next meeting

Monday 29th March 2021– 7pm - Zoom

For an invite & link email:

info.nwscc@gmail.com

 


Small electrical fire in a rear storeroom at Nairn Leisure Centre

Highland Council Press Release

Highland Council today confirmed that High Life Highland and Council staff were called to Nairn Leisure Centre on the afternoon of Sunday 14 February by a fire alarm activation around 2.40pm.

It has been confirmed that a burst pipe had caused damage and reached an electrical board within the building which resulted in a small electrical fire in a rear storeroom.

Water and electrical supplies have been isolated from the mains supply while the damage is assessed, and remedial work to the engineering services has now commenced on site.

Cllr Tom Heggie, Highland Council’s Chair of Nairnshire Committee who is on the Board of Directors of High Life Highland said:

“We are very grateful to Scottish Fire and Rescue Service who were on the scene within minutes and made the building safe.

“We are naturally disappointed that this has happened and would like to reassure customers that we are working hard with partners to assess the causes and extent of the damage and will initiate full reinstatement works as soon as possible.”

Friday, February 12, 2021

Some worrying Universal Credit statistics for Nairnshire

Last April there was research from the Centre for Towns organisation that suggested that Nairn was the town the most likely to suffer from Lockdown restrictions given the make up of the businesses in the local economy. We were compared with Newquay in Cornwall but not in a good way at all - that town was also predicted to take a big hit. Readers can find that article here: Nairn - Think tank suggests we are the Scottish town with the most people employed in sectors currently shut down due to Covid-19. 

We see today an indication that the contraction in the economy may have been the worst since 1709 on the BBC Business pages.   So whatever the extent that our local economy suffers it may be at the top end of an already very bad scenario.

This week's edition of the Nairnshire Courier printed  a table of movement in the take up of of Universal credit. The worst stats are in Inverness with four districts with over a 100% increase. Here in Nairn things are as follows:

The figures are December 2020 claimants as compared to March 2020

Nairn Rural up to 236 from 127 an increase of 85.83%

Nairn West up to 264 from  154 an increase of 71.43%

Nairn East  up to  440 from 270 and increase of 62.96%

At some point things will get going again but it looks like the support networks and the willingness to help others are going to be needed long after we get free of the worse effects and restrictions that Covid brought to our lives. Let's  look out for each other Gurnshire  - a strong supportive community will be very important in the months and possibly years to come!

Nairn River Community Council meeting on Wednesday night - still problems but the best one for a while as the stooshie level drops dramatically

On Wednesday night at their online meeting NRCC agreed on an honorarium of £375 to the previous secretary. They also agreed on a submission to the consultation on the Sandown Common Good Land sale (with some abstentions, notably Vice Chair Peter Gibson and Secretary Simon Noble). The document they are submitting was not available for public viewing but it would be surprising if they did not share some of the concerns of their counterparts at Nairn West and Suburban. They also agreed to give a donation of £750 to the cost of the Nairn Academy Duke of Edinburgh awards team buying a paratrekker. 

That was the first half of the meeting and the Zoom session shut down after 40 minutes and was restarted. Unfortunately this observer had a prior engagement and could not attend the second half of the meeting. 

Correspondence we have seen indicates that things didn't go too perfectly in the second half and a number of items did not reach a satisfactory conclusion. One Community Councillor has even called for  the meeting to be  declared void and no decisions of the night's meeting to be carried forward because of procedural issues.

Stooshie level assessment on a scale 1-10 - 2.5?


Highland Council trying to sell off Nairn's family silver?

 Oor Laurie quoted it the Nairnshire Courier:

"I believe what's  happening here is the council trying to to sell off Nairn's family silver."

Provost Laurie Fraser was speaking about Highland Council wishing to sell the Sandown Common Good Land for development and the ongoing consultation which he believes should be postponed until after Covid restrictions are lifted.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Gurn Sandown poster competition

Please send your posters to info@gurnnurn.com - winners will all receive a year's free subscription to the Gurn. Here's our first attempt.



Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Sandown sale of the Century in trouble now - Oor Laurie speaks out !

Oor Laurie speaking about Sandown Common Good Fund in today's Nairnshire Courier

The Provost said this would be the third time that officials from Inverness have tried to have the fields sold and and developed.

“On each occasion it has ended in failure, and sometimes at great cost to the Nairn Common Good Fund or the Council's finances,” he said.

A must read, get yourself a copy!

Finnie celebrates Swanson’s Food in Parliament

Green MSP John Finnie has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament celebrating the transfer of Inverness based food wholesaler Swanson’s into employee ownership.

Operating since 1991, Swanson’s supplies fresh locally grown produce throughout the Highlands and now also has depots in Nairn and Elgin.

Despite receiving an offer from a larger wholesaler, managing director Magnus Swanson decided to pursue employee ownership and more than 40 staff now have a stake in the business.

John Finnie said: “The transfer of an established and successful Highland business to employee ownership is to be celebrated and I congratulate everyone at Swanson’s on the momentous occasion for the company.

“Employee ownership can provide secure jobs and contribute to a fairer, more sustainable, economy by ensuring that every worker has a stake in their business and share in it’s successes.

“The fact that Swanson’s works with local producers and sells to independent Highland businesses means this is good news for the entire region.

“I sincerely hope that other businesses in the Highlands follow in the footsteps of Swanson’s, and that Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Government are willing to support them in that journey.”

Rushing out to buy the Nairnshire Courier - Looks like Oor Laurie breaks ranks from three other Highland Councillors in Nairn who wish to sell Nairn Common Good Land to a developer

Nice one Provost! 



Monday, February 08, 2021

It's nearly that time again - Oor Fergus launches re-election campaign website

Holyrood elections only three months away and the incumbent Fergus Ewing has a campaign website up and running. Realistically it will be very hard to see anyone serious challenger from the other parties threatening his seat so will it all simply be about the size of his majority? 

 Results in this constituency in 2016 were:

"The turnout for the Inverness and Nairn constituency was 57.8%. Votes given were as follows:

  • Carolyn Ann Caddick - Scottish Liberal Democrats (5,445)
  • Fergus Ewing - Scottish National Party (SNP) (18,505)
  • Edward Mountain - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (7,648)
  • David Stewart - Scottish Labour Party (6,719)" 
  • More on this Highland Council page. 

Perhaps more interesting for election geeks will be what happens on the list with the second vote if the former Scottish Green Party MSP Andy Wightman stands as an independent. 



High Street Takeover - fingers crossed for Nairn Festival's ambition?

This sounds like fun, here's hoping we are at the stage where this can happen in September:

"Imagine Nairn High Street transformed.

Live music, street art, pop-up exhibitions, immersive theatre, dance performances and spoken word.

All taking place on one day - Saturday 4 September - and all unified by one pressing concern: the environment.

Across the UK, community-led creative projects are helping to revitalise high streets and give them a new sense of purpose.

Nairn High Street has a long and proud history of serving the local community - a tradition it still upholds today.

But in recent years, changing shopping habits, economic pressures and now Covid-19 have all had a significant impact on our high streets. Nairn is no exception.

We want to support Nairn’s local businesses through finding creative and innovative ways to bring people back to the high street.

We want to celebrate Nairn’s history as a thriving fishing port and market town, while looking towards a positive future.

We want to take the art out of the gallery and out to the community. " More here.


This observer thinks back to the buzz around town when Symon MacIntyre and colleagues staged "The Big Shop" in 1999 which had a series of plays in empty shop mini-venues. And this millennium we had Tilda's Cinema of Dreams too which brought a lot of activity to the town centre.

Nairn High Street certainly has had a few knocks in recent years but we still have quite a lot really compared with towns of a similar size and who knows what for the bigger shopping centres too - can you really imagine Eastgate2 without Debenhams? The world is changing exponentially before our eyes with Covid giving extra super-fast impetus to changing that were already materialising.

Our town centre in the future will be what we make of it folks, be that for retail or whatever. Perhaps the downfall of the major retailers elsewhere will even benefit us here with people looking for meaningful things to do after they have done their online shopping. If we want the town centre to be lively then we have to think out of the box and start creating events - well done the Festival team for this initiative.

Anyone up for a festival fringe Loony Green apple enthusiast store on the days mentioned? Apple trees are good for you and fun to hang out with - we should listen to them more often. Maybe we could even go out and plant one or two? If anyone has a suitable spot? And then there's the Gàidhlig, anyone up for drinking coffee, eating cake and learning and speaking Gaelic for a day or two in September - we can only dream that such things will be possible by then again of course.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Communities recovery fund - for voluntary or community organisations, registered charities and Community Council

Applications have to be in by 12th of February, and applicants had to have been established and operating before 1st January 2020.

Details over on this Nairn our town, our views social media page.

A giftcard for Nairn? BID survey ongoing for businesses and residents can participate too

 Here at the Gurn we've heard about the interesting idea being canvassed by Nairn BID with local businesses just now. Obviously every penny we spend in local businesses helps local jobs going and the more we circulate our own cash amongst ourselves the more we all benefit - the BID are discussing taking that a step up and offerning the opportunity to do it digitally with a gift card.  

Could a Nairn giftcard look that this? 

A BID survey page for local businesses reads: "Town-specific gift cards are a popular option for organisations like Business Improvement Districts as they allow a gift card to be bought for residents of a town, which enables the money to stay in the town. They have the advantage over store specific gift cards as if one shop or chain ceases to trade, the card can always be spent elsewhere in the town.

The card is free for retailers to accept and the registration process takes a couple of minutes, using the existing Mastercard network. So, put simply, if you accept Mastercard, you can accept the gift card" 

Apparently the Elgin version went down well in the run up to Christmas, P&J article here.

 Peter Gibson, BID Chair, tells the Gurn that residents can participate in the survey too here on this webpage. 


Thursday, February 04, 2021

Nairn River Community Council meeting Wednesday 10th February 7pm - third time lucky?

After two-headline grabbing stushies on Zoom NRCC meet again with a changed line up of office bearers. Best of luck to them, there's a lot of important stuff for them to discuss. Here's hoping for a serious outbreak of peace and love.  The meeting will be open to the public. Details of how to attend over on the NRCC website. 

Agenda also reproduced below:

Andy Wightman an MSP representing Nairn? An ideal second vote choice?

Lands Rights campaigner Andy Wightman is moving to the Highlands and he is canvassing views online as to whether he should stand here for the Holyrood election.

Here at the Gurn we say please do Andy and thank you once again for your support during the Ship to Ship oil transfers campaign and also for you ongoing interest in our Common Good Land situation. He may not be the ideal cup of tea for some Gurnshire voters but we would urge all those that would agree with our sentiments to consider contacting him to encourage him to stand. On the Highland list he should be able to succeed in becoming our representative .


Image: May 2017 and Andy Wightman speaks to Cllrs Liz MacDonald and Michael Green outside Holyrood before the Ship to Ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth debate.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

The Sandown Sale Saga – a Community Council makes a submission

Regular readers that have been following the Sandown issue may wish to make themselves a cuppa or pour a dram and have a read of the submission from Nairn West and Suburban Community Council. The document is available here on its own web page and other documents that were sent to the consultation with it are also all available on their own pages via this list on the NWSCC website.

Readers may wish to head over to the NWSCC site and read the document and then return here for our thoughts or read what follows first.

A covering letter to the submission, signed by the Chair, Sheena Baker states:

“I note that the Consultation date has been extended to 26th February. My personal and my Community Councils original point still stands, that this is not the right time to be conducting such an important process when public meetings and such like are illegal under Covid regulations. We believe the Consultation should be shelved until a more normal life resumes and we can legally hold public meetings and have full transparency with the residents of Nairn.

It would be helpful if you could give guidance as to how the responses received can be viewed. Presumably like planning responses they will be available by an e portal for anyone to see and read.”

It is obvious that every step of this process and every move made by Highland Council is going to undergo extreme scrutiny and given the controversial nature of the desire of the local authority to sell the land then it surely will be hard for Highland Council not to agree with the request for all the submissions to eventually appear in the public domain.

Incidentally, readers may be inclined to return to this thread on a previous Gurn article which is attracting considerable comment on both the sale issue and the Highland Council planning department putting forward Sandown as a preferred development area. This observer is inclined to think that, in an ideal world, we have the genesis of a compromise where development (preferably for badly needed social housing) goes ahead on part of Sandown with Highland Council dropping the desire to sell all of Sandown. That would create an opportunity for debate across the Community on how we could best utilise Sandown and other Common Good resources.

Looking into the submission itself at the top of the summary of sections you wil read “There is apparently no disposal being contemplated at this time”. The document goes on: “Ward Business Minutes over the last year seem to suggest the contrary” . The community council has attached to the submission a document entitled “Extract from Ward Business Meetings re Sandown” and it is a remarkable read and shows that inquiries from developers had been discussed and marketing Sandown had also been mentioned.” Readers can find that document on the NWSCC pages here.

We then have some comments about consultation. “Consultation” has been a four letter word for many years in Nairn, here at the Gurn we often commented that you get consulted and then you get what out of town organisations and businesses think is good for your community. Have things changed any in recent years as we are now supposed to be in an era of Community Empowerment etc? I suppose if all the submissions to this sale consultation are considered and evaluated as the true will of the community with subsequent publication then we will know if the eventual decision of Highland Council is in line with what the people of Nairn wish. This observer waits the eventual outcome with interest.

The following points outlined by NWSCC are:

Purposes and Alternatives not studied or costed.
Community Owned Land Use and Projects not considered.
Developer Contributions issue not costed or included.
Economic Meltdown in next few years not taken into consideration.
Trustees Duties neither considered nor adhered to.
Disputed Appropriation of Land by HC.
Legality of Title.
Need for volume housing on this site not established.
Use of the CG fund if this land was sold.
Democratic Deficit in CG Management.

So a remarkable list for officials and all 80 members of Highland Council that are Trustees of the Nairn Common Good Fund to consider. If the Council decides to press ahead with the sale and an application eventually goes to the Sheriff Court then presumably all these issues would receive a further airing there by some procedure or other?  Readers will have come across some or all of this material in recent times elsewhere but can bring themselves back up to speed with a lot of the debate by reading the submission.

And so, after a five page read you come to the conclusion. We copy and paste here the final paragraph of that conclusion:

“We trust that sense will prevail and this ill-judged proposal be withdrawn until proper partnership with the community is established and all the alternatives considered in the true spirit of the Common Good of our community.”

Here at the Gurn we tend to agree with that and hope that there can be more extensive discussion about alternatives, including badly needed social housing that wouldn't rely on the sale of all of the land to a private developer. 

Important documents, important decisions to be made, have your say Gurnshire and encourage your friends and neighbours to do the same!

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Sandown Allotments in danger from Local Development Plan?

The Gurnmeister is a plotter at Sandown and this is just a personal view although this observer understands that the Nairn Allotment Society committee is urgently looking at this issue too.


Here at the Gurn we are shocked to see that the Sandown Allotments comes within the mapped area for preferred development at Sandown. If the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan is approved as it is this means the allotments will be included as a development area. This is deeply concerning. 


If the inclusion is a mistake then Highland Council should put their hands up and amend the document accordingly. Why were the allotments included? Would any of the four local members for Nairn on Highland Council like to contact the Gurn and explain please? 


UPDATE: Communication from Tom Heggie which states Allotments not for development. He is contacting a senior planning official. More later perhaps

 

Section from map on page 197 of local development plan that shows Highland Councils preferred development site of Sandown, including the allotments site

A rose for the last day in January!

Jane Milne tells the Gurn: "On the last day of January I was walking my dog at Viewfield and in the flower border in front of the Nairn museum I saw this flower in full bloom."  



Sandown - "The Sale of the Century"? - and thoughts on development - Comments on a previous article worthy of a read

 Not all readers keep up with comments that come in, sometimes we turn them off if people get a bit heated or there is imformation that we are unable or don't posses the time or resources to confirm but here are the comments so far from this article - Gurnites may find them very interesting at a time when we have two ongoing consultations concerning the Local Development Plan and the Highland Council desire to sell the Sandown Lands:

Anonymous said...

Nairn is already overcrowded enough with the current infrasctructure.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of all the sites in Nairn for a large scale housing development, built over the next 10 years, Sandown (NA03) is the only natural site for this use. The land at Sundown has arrived at this status party because of the development of housing at Wyvis Road, Moss-side Road and Moss-side Drive. It is highly unlike that these house would be even allowed now as they are essentially ribbon development in hinterland setting which is considered very bad planning. Therefore, if these house had not been built these field would not be as open to development. However, the current layout of roads and development make the Sundown the ideal place to build many houses and round of the town to the West. This would help balance the distribution of people as all recent development has extended the town East. The fact the the High Street, all schools and the majority of services are West of the river makes active travel etc. much more achievable. The town centre lends itself to development of 1/2 bedroom flats but not family homes for both the social/private sector. The history of Nairn, especially since the Victorian period, is one of steady consistent growth and this trend must continue to ensure the long term sustainability of the town. The fact the house prices are above average and Lochloy is almost built out shows that demand is their. Nairn folk should be delighted that many people wish to base themselves here and join our vibrant community!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

10.27pm
I believe that you are correct and that'll be why developers are keen to purchase the ground - even if it does have a long-blocked field drain.
If the price is right and if the planning process ensures a good standard of housing, then the Nairn Common Good fund would be well-placed to puchase and develop some of the less attractive buildings in the town centre.
The more economically active young people and families that are able to settle in Nairn the better the future will be for all of us.
Hundreds are on the waiting list for Council Housing. Sandown could help to rebalance Nairn's footprint.

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Anonymous Stop the sale of the Century said...

Well Anon, there is indeed a large housing waiting list but is in not the case that the largest number on that list are those wishing single person's accommodation? How much of that do you see developers and Councils building? How many on the waiting list live in Nairn too? Sandown is the only new large site that the Council wishes zoned for development - that would be a happy coincidence for anyone contemplating the sale of the land wouldn't it? I'm sure most people have no objection to a start on social housing being built on that land but don't wish to piss the asset away to a single developer in the "Sale of the Century" just now. How about letting some of the people that are living in this town in considerably less than "vibrant" conditions at the moment get some housing before we indulge the private developers again!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Sandown not the only site left because every other proposed site has been objected to? Maybe I missed the others that you are thinking of?
I like the look of Tornagrain and a development of that kind on Sandown and out to the Arderseir turn off makes sense.
Otherwise we'll not be the Brighton of the North, we'll be the elderly care capital of the North.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said "Stop the sale of the Century" There are any number of empty first floor properties in the centre of town that HC could buy, renovate and allocate to either single folks or couples to occupy. . They can do it in Inverness but strangely not in Nairn. Our Councillors say it is because folks either will not sell or want too much money for them. There is always compulsory purchase available to HC if all else failed but then they would need to be determined to make it happen!

Surely the Sandown question is - should the town hand over, in one fell stroke, permission for HC to sell off Sandown or heaven forbid - allow HC to buy it themselves and landbank it....! Our Councillors are also the Trustees of the Common Good and could easily say no to this consultation but are they independent of the Council enough to do so? Or are they conflicted?

Why plan to put housing in a known water prone area.Would you want to live on an land known to have serious drainage problems after all there is a natural spring in the field!

If there is a housing need and folks want more building there could be a sale or lease of a small proportion of the land on the field next to the allotments, makes perfect sense as it is sandy and well drained BUT if that is to be the final outcome please, please do ensure it is done in a way which maximises income for the Common Good long term. Please do think it through.

The Sandown Consultation is about very much more than housing and folks who think it isn't need to do some serious reading. The towns heritage could be up for sale once gone that would be it!

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Anonymous toon loon said...

Well, Anon of 10:27 pm makes some thoughtful observations. But many of the comments are misguided.

It is not axiomatic that "large scale development" is the priority requirement or the right way forward for the Sandown land. Much local evidence suggests that the demand for smaller-scale, smaller-size housing and flats closer to the town centre is far greater than the need for standard-design identikit developer-housing in suburban estates on the periphery. That developer-led pattern is lucrative (for the developer) but now discredited as a planning approach. The placemaking philosophy, changing lifestyles, and greater awareness of the need for modal shift towards more energy-efficient travel, all make uniform large-scale housing estates - as seen south and east of Inverness, and indeed at Lochloy/Kingsteps, obsolete.

Local evidence has underlined that adequate infrastructure is critical. It is not enough to say that Sandown is "ideal" for access into the town. There are major challenges over water supply and especially drainage and sewage (which will have to be piped to Ardersier). Lochloy is already suffering from access and infrastructure issues. We are all familiar with the traffic congestion on the A96 through town, and the Riverside/Fishertown flood risks. It will do Nairn no good to have that replicated on the west side of town.

The arguments of "balancing" East and West and "rounding off" the town are superficially attractive but totally spurious. There is no urban-planning logic in building an extensive housing estate on the west side of town simply because there is already a massive (near 1000 units) development at Lochloy/Kingsteps. Two bad planning decisions don't add up to one good one. There is a major urban-design debate still to be had about the future shape of the town, whose centre of gravity is already being shifted by the consent to retail activity at Balmakeith. The (eventual!) delivery of the A96 bypass will radically alter the way the town functions and have a significant effect on development-thinking.

These points underline how the Sandown-sale proposal is skewing the debate. The issue is not "large-scale housing or nothing". Nor is it a matter of being pro-or anti-development. The problem is that there has been no proper discussion. There has been no local, public, community debate about what the best use of the Common Good land might be, and how best to make use of this hugely valuable asset. There are very many ways in which Sandown could be "developed" for the benefit of the local community. But no menu of alternative options is on the table.

When so much is at stake (and not just in a financial sense, but in terms of the future character and viability of the town) simply selling Sandown off on the grounds that housing is needed and that is the most convenient site does the town a grave disservice. What happens to Sandown will determine how Nairn will evolve in the next 20-30 years. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly or without careful contemplation of all possible alternatives.

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