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

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