The Gurn has received a copy of an e-mail that Hamish Bain, Chair of Nairn River Community Council, has written to local Highland Councillors and officials concerning parking charges issues on Common Good Land. The e-mail reads:
Please find attached several questions, as requested by Councillor Heggie at a recent Nairn River Community Council meeting, for your attention. We, Nairn River Community Council, would appreciate a reply as soon as possible.
I have included the Nairnshire Committee special meeting minutes of 20th April 2021 for convenience and the Nairnshire Area Committee - Special Meeting 20th April 2021 agenda where you will also find our questions.
Thank you for your time on this matter."
The text of the attached document to the Council below, you will have to scroll down quite a bit to reach the questions:
"Nairnshire Area Committee -Special Meeting 20th April 2021
Decision by Nairn Councillors to approve installation of ‘ parking charge machines’ on 3 Common Good car parks for initial ‘voluntary’ pilot
The following was tabled on a Supplementary Agenda at a Special Meeting of NAC on 20th April 2021 for approval of Nairn’s 4 Highland Councillors. .
Agenda Item 4 (Nairnshire Area Committee 20th April 2021) ‘Supplementary Agenda’ (Single Item)
Nairn Visitor Management Car Parking ( Proposal for Agreement)
In October 2019, the Council agreed a new approach to considering the introduction of car parking across the area. The approach was paused at the start of the pandemic and it has not yet been possible to re-start.
However, over the summer season 2020, many communities including Nairn experienced significant traffic management challenges as a result of an influx of visitors. It is predicted that the increase in car parking pressures in Nairn with the lifting of lock down measures and increase in staycations will continue for the 2021 season.
To support traffic management during the 2021 season, it is proposed to install charging machines at three sites in Nairn on a voluntary basis. Charges would not be enforced, and signs would be erected to confirm payment was being sought on a voluntary basis to support infrastructure.
The three sites proposed are:
• The Harbour
• Cumming Street
• The Maggot
Officers would implement a tariff structure consistent with the rest of the Local Authority area.
All three sites are Common Good properties therefore the Common Good would be the beneficiary of income as a result of this proposal and this could mirror the arrangements already in place elsewhere in Highland.
It is proposed that this approach is adopted for the summer season 2021 and a consultation would take place later in 2021 to determine the approach going forward. This could consider whether a voluntary scheme of charging is introduced, charging with enforcement is introduced or whether no charging is introduced. Learning from the 2021 season could inform this consultation.
Members are asked to agree to the installation of parking charge machines at Cumming Street, the Harbour and The Maggot in Nairn for voluntary payment only for the 2021 season to support more effective traffic management in the area.
Head of Corporate Governance
We understand that no other supporting papers were presented at this meeting apart from the proposal above.
It is unclear whether Highland Councillors were being asked to approve this in their capacity as Nairn Common Good Trustees which is a role which carries additional and spotentially conflicting responsibilities to the role of elected Highland Councillors.
The proposal was passed and an extract from the Minutes( attached) of discussion points at the meeting is copied below. After this decision, work began immediately for Transport officers to instal ‘charging infrastructure’ on Links, Maggot and Harbour Car Parks which was operational by early June 2021.
At no point prior to the 20th April meeting or before voluntary parking charges were implemented in these 3 Nairn Common Good car parks in June, have Highland Councillors or the Highland Council Common Good Officer provided any briefing information about this decision or its implications to either of Nairn’s Community Councils. The 3 car parks in question are in ‘Nairn River’ community council territory.
This represents a serious breach of the terms of the Community Empowerment Act which requires prior (not subsequent) public consultation on all changes of use or disposal of Common Good Assets.
It seems that Highland Council would have us believe that installing tens of thousands of pounds worth of charging infrastructure is not a ‘change of use’ for Common Good land by citing the ‘loophole’ that charging is not (yet) compulsory.
We understand that Highland Council has also used Scottish Government ‘Visitor Management’ funds to pay for charging infrastructure to be installed on Nairn on Common Good Land. This could have paid for other urgently needed visitor resources but spending has been decided without any local community consultation.
An extract from the minute of the 20 April NAC meeting follows, with a number of focussed ‘public interest’ questions for Councillors and Highland Officers, as requested by Cllr Heggie at our last NRCC meeting on 16th June.
Extract from Minute of Special Nairnshire Area Committee meeting 20 April 21
( full minute also attached)
Bullet point 1
It was indicated that the Council could not legally profit from the Common Good Fund and further information was requested on the legality of Council and the Nairn Common Good Fund equally sharing the income generated from car parking.
Bullet point 2
Confirmation was provided that the purchase and installation costs for the charging machines would be paid by the Council and an indication was provided of the sort of investment costs involved’ It was requested that more detailed information be provided on the costs that would be incurred by the Council.
Bullet point 3
With regard to the tariff structure it was explained that signage would indicate that this is an invite to pay to support local investment. It was indicated that similar systems are operated in other local authority areas and the guide on suggested level of tariff/donation was helpful to visitors.
Bullet point 4
It was suggested that a proactive approach should be adopted to informing community councils of the rationale for implementing the voluntary payment system and the benefits that could be achieved for the local area ie higher income levels for the Common Good Fund and investment in local infrastructure ( eg CCTV)
Bullet point 5
Confirmation was provided that the machines were adaptable in terms of amending tariffs and key data on usage and compliance could be extracted.
Bullet point 6
Confirmation was also provided that Rates were payable on the car parks and these costs were paid for by the Council.
Bullet point 7
In terms of the grassed area of the Links, mixed views were expressed. There was a view that parking on the grassed area was better as it stopped visitors from parking in residential streets. However if the voluntary charging progressed to a compulsory system there was a need to ensure that the traffic order was either extended to include the grassed area, or access to this area was blocked.
Bullet point 8
With regard to motor homes it was reported that early investigations were being undertaken on installing campervan facilities at the Maggot, but it was very unlikely that these would be completed for the current season.
In regard to Cumming Street although it was recognised that no specific problems have been encountered, Members welcomed continuation of the Council’s policy of prohibiting overnight parking for motorhomes and their proactive approach to visitor management. It was highlighted that Nairn was supported by a number of campsites and motorhomes should be directed to these dedicated areas. It was also highlighted that income could be reduced if carparking bays were being used for longer periods by motorhomes
Bullet point 9
It was important that Members received regular updates on the ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness of the traffic management measures and if necessary the arrangements could be reconsidered. It was indicated that this should comprise of factual data/evidence of usage which could then be used to inform future policy
20 Questions for Nairn Councillors, Shane Manning Parking Manager, and Sara Murdoch Common Good Manager Highland Council
From Nairn River Community Council on behalf of the local community
Councillor Heggie requested some ‘focussed questions’ on this matter at NRCC meeting on 16th June when Common Good parking charges were discussed and diverse concerns raised by members and public present.
There are 20 questions here.
We expect that once this is in the public domain the people of Nairn will have more questions of their own about why they have been ‘bypassed’ in this manner.
The legality of this decision by Councillors at NAC on 20th April.
Q1 Why have Nairn Councillors made a decision with such significant implications for Nairn Common Good assets without first verifying the legality of what is proposed?
Q2 Why have Nairn Councillors ignored their ‘Common Good Trustee’ legal responsibilities by taking a decision affecting Common Good Assets without any prior public consultation?
Q3 Can you provide details of any other parking scheme on Common Good Land where less than 100% of net revenue is returned to the local Common Good Fund
Q4 Will Nairn(shire) residents (who already pay Council Tax to Highland Council) be exempt from paying parking charges on Common Good Land which was gifted to the town for their sole benefit?
The use of Common Good Land is of concern to all the people of Nairn.
To ‘suggest’ that Community Councils are informed after the charging scheme is operational, and infrastructure has been installed on the site, as this minute notes, is in clear breach of Community Empowerment legislation.
Engaging with community councils is not a ‘suggestion’. It is a legal requirement.
Transparency and the requirement for public consultation
Q5 Who decided to adopt a ‘policy’ of non engagement with the local community until after this parking scheme was operational?
Q6 Who decided to ‘delegate’ public engagement on this matter to Shane Manning the Parking Manager, rather than Councillors or the Common Good Officer communicating directly with Community Councils.
Q7 Please confirm what arrangements are in place to give the community a full say in all future decisions on how this charging scheme operates and how income is used if it goes forward
Q8 Why has there also been no prior public consultation on how Scottish Government ‘visitor management’ funds were to be invested in Nairn? ‘Charging infrastructure’ was certainly not the only option with local public toilets in disrepair.
Q9 If the Nairn Community vote to remove parking charges in future, who will remove the equipment and who will pay for this?
Q10 Why are HC already proposing ways to spend revenue from parking charges on CG land not yet consulted upon by the local community, never mind agreed?
If the community agree to parking charges on their land, it is for them to decide how the money is used. CCTV may benefit THC but may not be what local people want.
Q11 Will Nairn Community Councils from now on receive regular written reports on income and usage data along with comparative data from other Highland sites?
We are particularly keen to see detail of the ‘£1Million raised for Portree’ mentioned by Shane Manning at a recent NWSCC meeting.
Q12 Please provide full detail of how this ‘pilot scheme’ is being monitored, what defines ‘effectiveness’ and what data will be shared routinely as part of proactive information sharing with Community Councils (as mentioned in the minute above)
We note inconsistencies in income figures quoted so far in public (on social media and at recent CC meeting). Shane Manning has stated that a single day’s income of £1252 represented a 40% uptake of paid parking. Then he reported that the total income for the first 5 weeks was £5300 for all 3 car parks which is closer to 7%.
That represents £25 income per car park per day for Nairn Common Good as a 50% share of total revenue, and will likely drop once summer is over. This does not sound like ‘best value’ for either HC or Nairn CG if initial outlay on infrastructure to implement charging has already cost around £75000. (according to Cllr Saggers)
The ‘business case’ and financial arrangements for this ‘pilot’
Q13 Please confirm actual costs of charging set up and implementation to date.
Q 14 Please provide full detail to Community Councils and the public of the 50/50 ‘split’ of revenue between THC and Nairn Common Good which was agreed to by Nairn’s Councillors on 20 April for these 3 car parks.
Q15 As previously requested in 2018, for public transparency, please supply a full ‘business case’ for proposed parking charges with cash flow projections to show that net income would provide a surplus for Nairn Common Good once all set up and running costs are factored in. Please also specify which running costs are to be paid for by THC and which by Nairn Common Good going forward.
Q16 Please provide evidence of other car parks in Highland where Rates are being paid for routinely by the Council, as suggested here.
Q17 Please provide detail of how revenue and usage projections for Nairn prepared for this current pilot compare with actual spend and car park income so far.
Q18 If grassed areas of Common Good land at the Links are to be fenced off with barriers to limit parking, and may need to be removed and replaced for Games Day and the Showies, can you confirm whether these extra costs will fall to the Nairn Common Good Fund or the Council
Q19 What plans are in place for signage to direct visitors with motorhomes from the seafront and Nairn Town Centre to appropriate private facilities at Parkdean and out of town
Q20 Will Highland Council have to compensate Parkdean who already pay rent for Nairn Common Good Land, for loss of motorhome income if HC is proposing to provide a rival facility at the Maggot?"