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!