Business Improvement District Proposals

This is a discussion paper that looks to the possible development of a Nairnshire BID. It can only proceed with the agreement and participation of local businesses. It may take 15 months to define the terms of the BID and engage in consultation.

Introduction

NAIRN & NAIRNSHIRE
Business Improvement District Proposals

Nairnshire is a compact area covering 200 square miles with a population of 14,500 people. Within the county there is a wealth of natural assets which must be nurtured and developed in a strategic way. There is a proud tradition of civic involvement. This paper looks at Nairnshire in the round emphasising the interconnectedness of its major assets and highlighting the key issues that need to be addressed.

BACKGROUND

The new Scottish Government approach to Business Improvement Districts is an exciting opportunity for Nairnshire to develop a new way of working to harness the community spirit and involvement the community already has, and to facilitate delivery of projects that have already been identified.

This paper is an attempt to show how a BID for Nairnshire (including a Marine Bid) will benefit all of Nairnshire with both environmental and sustainable developments. A main objective would be to use Nairnshire’s historic great natural assets to produce more jobs in Nairnshire by means of properly funded developments which must include the right infrastructure.

NICE would want to see flow from this new Nairnshire BID, a vision to create as many sustainable jobs in Nairnshire as possible, generated principally by increasing the visitor footfall in the context that:

  1. a)  Nairnshire is a great place to stay and visit;
  2. b)  Nairnshire is a great place to work and an ideal place for an active retirement.
  3. c)  Nairnshire is a great place to come on holiday;
  4. d)  An increased footfall will increase local spend.

This paper deliberately sets out a strategy for all Nairnshire. The purpose of this new style BID is to ensure that all partners work together to deliver the various component parts.

As with the recent Charrette, our plans are to be seen within the context of a Nairn by-pass that is clearly needed as soon as possible.

We have sought to draw together numerous proposals arising from within the community of Nairnshire, and one of NICE’s ambitions is to avoid the typically long delays that might arise in delivering them. The approach must be clearly underpinned by collaborative partnership working which places the community at the centre and is determined to avoid piecemeal short term solutions. It is an approach that recognises Nairnshire as a vibrant community that wishes to be involved, to be accountable, and above all, a community that is prepared to accept responsibility for the wider community’s well being.

The paper explores what is in the Common Good, taking the view that this includes all assets effectively owned by the community, and not necessarily just the assets held by the Common Good Fund registered and held by Highland Council.

The paper is predicated on a Local Authority responsible for Nairnshire that has a commitment to meaningful consultation on Locality Planning, Community Empowerment and an increasing Locality Capacity. Nairnshire has excellent and active Community Councils; NICE as a Social Enterprise with over 1,000 members, as a Scottish Charity, and as a Community Body with the “Right to Buy” is an essential partner alongside the statutory bodies and, in particular, as the vehicle for consultation and delivery. This has already been recognised in the recently published Town Centre Charrette document, and NICE is now actively working with Highland Council and the Association of Nairn Businesses to take forward the Town Centre Plan.

Nairnshire is therefore starting from a very strong position.

In highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of all the various proposals we are identifying the opportunities whilst being aware of the historic weaknesses. It is clearly in Nairnshire’s interests that genuine Partnership working and understanding develops. This can only be achieved on the basis of mutual respect, allowing everyone to pool their expertise and experience in good faith.

This paper takes a geographical look at Nairnshire from the coast to the Dava Moor.

1. BEACHES

Nairnshire has wonderful beaches stretching naturally from Findhorn Bay to Fort George with unrivalled views of the Sutors of Cromarty and the whole Sutherland coast. The area encompasses Culbin Forest, Hilton and Whiteness Head as Sites of SSI for wetlands and forests. However access and signage are poor and in order to take full advantage of the outstanding view, Nairn requires a “View Point”.

A proper coastal path is needed to link Findhorn Bay and the Moray coastal path to Fort George and then Inverness. Nairn’s beaches are regularly reviewed as ranking among of the best in the world.

Current ideas for the Beach area include a Lido/Thermae Spa complex in association with the swimming pool; extending the central beach towards the West by installing Groynes to retain the sand; the provision of ramps to enable disabled access and launching for smaller craft; a strategic plan for children’s play areas; and closer attention to beach cleanliness. The area must offer better parking preferably with sea views.

The biggest risk to enjoyment of the beaches is the pollution by sewage. The Sewerage system in Nairn is under pressure from an increasing population and changing weather conditions. Discussions are ongoing with the relevant authorities to ensure that positive measures are introduced.

Key Issue – Sort out sewage works and drainage system with Scottish Water, Environmental Health Department and SEPA, and to ensure adequate capacity for future developments

2. HARBOUR

The waters in the Inner Moray Firth are ideal for sailing and as a result the Nairn Harbour basin is full. There is presently a waiting list of 35 boat owners. The existing structure is in reasonable condition and is structurally in good order but the existing basin is in need of dredging. The West Pier is in need of strengthening where the metal sheet piles are showing signs of decay.

Nairn benefits form a “Western Drift” of sand which has provided Nairn with wonderful sandy beaches. Unfortunately the East Beach is now so full of sand that the beach extends to the mouth of the Harbour. Only the flow of water in the river keeps the channel open. Exit and entry to the harbour is only possible two hours either side of the high tide. This situation will continue to deteriorate as the drifting sand continues to build up. Nairn needs a bigger and deeper Harbour.

The construction of an outer harbour in deep water would resolve all of the above problems. This would also enable larger yachts to berth and also attract large boats from Scandinavia and Germany to visit.

Nairn has a very active Sailing club and Kayak club who both wish to have better and expanded facilities. They would in particular like to develop more active junior membership and become a regional centre for training.

Key Issue – Develop a new harbour with modern facilities

3. THE RIVER NAIRN

This is another key natural asset of Nairnshire, extending inland the “wilderness feel“of the beaches. The aim should be to preserve that feeling of wilderness along the Nairn valley. The river is a fantastic salmon river but is a spate river and needs careful local input and management.

Key Issue – Construction of well maintained paths from Nairn to Cawdor preserving the wilderness factor.

4. FISHERTOWN and FLOODING

Fishertown is again a unique part of Nairn’s heritage and deserves its conservation status and protection. With increased Harbour usage, parking capacity, road access and enhanced tourist attractions will need to be addressed in the context of a comprehensive plan for The Links and The Maggot – both of which require care and attention.

Key Issue – Flood alleviation plans for Fishertown.

5. CARAVANS, MOTORHOMES, CAMPING and BACKPACKERS

Nairn’s major caravan site sits behind the East Beach at the river’s mouth and harbour entrance, and its location demonstrates how important natural assets are to the tourist trade. There is a case for increasing the size of the caravan site, providing much better and bigger motor home accommodation, and possibly diversifying into alternative smaller sites.

The big downside is the sewage works and the smell at the end of the caravan site.

Nairn’s very many outdoor attractions and the likelihood of a coastal path extension would suggest that backpacker / hostel accommodation would attract a different and large group of active tourists.

Key Issue– to provide much better facilities for motor homes, campers and backpackers.

6. GOLF

Nairn’s two golf courses are both of championship standard, and are two of Nairn’s greatest assets. The Nairn Golf Club is in a very strong alliance with clubs at Castle Stuart and Dornoch. The Nairn Dunbar Club has a good local membership and attracts many visitors who really enjoy it.

Key Issue – to continue to develop the golf tourist potential.

7. HOTELS

Nairn’s two largest hotels sit close to the beach (the Golf View) and to the golf course (the Newton), again showing how important the environment is to Nairn’s tourist trade. The Newton is a major conference centre as well.

Key Issue – to develop the tourist trade, involving all local hotels, Guest Houses, B&B’s, Self Catering; bars and restaurants in this BID

8. TOWN CENTRE

Redevelopment of Nairn Town Centre is the next major piece of work to be done. Whilst there has historically been much talking but very little action, the outcome of the Town Centre Charrette led by Highland Council has gained strong community support, and NICE, the ANB and Highland Council are currently collaborating to establish the framework for working together to deliver the identified outcomes. The aim is to develop the town centre to make it attractive for locals and tourists and thereby create an enlarged footfall from which will flow more income and jobs in retail trades and tourism. Part of the plan is to bring the “King Street Building” which houses the old Police Cells into use as a “gateway” to the town centre. The town centre and High Street have also been identified as having capacity to provide more housing by the use in particular of empty buildings.

Key Issue – to use BID to support redevelopment of the town centre by involving local businesses.

9. INLAND SITES

Viewfield is an area that includes Viewfield House (which houses Nairn’s Museum), the Sports Club, a Bowling Green, the Community & Arts Centre, and the original Stable Block to Viewfield House that is effectively empty and available for community use. The area is very close to the town centre and provides a natural link through a lightly wooded area down to the Links and Beaches.

The Farmers’ Show Field is a valuable open space close to the town centre that is under-utilised and capable of enhancement now that the Farmers’ Show has outgrown the site.

Lochloy – Nairn’s newest housing development is badly in need of remedial action to enforce planning conditions not met. There is in particular the need for a road bridge onto the A96 at the eastern end, and need for play/open spaces.

Key Issues– to develop the Stables Block as a Men’s Shed and deliver funding to improve the fabric and facilities of the Museum with BID input.

10. SANDOWN

Sandown sits on the western approach to Nairn on the A96, and with its open views across the Moray Firth is seen as essential to welcoming tourists when the by-pass is in place. This fits well with the Wetlands Visitor Centre plans to encourage especially winter visitors to observe the geese and waders on the wonderful beaches and wetlands. This would help to extend the tourist season and create much needed employment through the winter months in addition to providing community meeting and green space facilities for residents of the Tradespark area. Visitor figures for example at Chanonry Point of 150,000,Culbin Forest and Spey Bay – both 90-100,000 highlight the importance of Nairn developing its great natural assets to build this year round market.

Sandown provides an interesting opportunity to use a Common Good asset in this BID way forward.

Nairn Woodlands and Wetlands Association working with Nairn Suburban Community Council have worked up proposals that include building council houses to meet local need, making house sites for sale available for self build or small local developers, and (in the Southern field) a zoned area developed as a Wetlands Park with a Visitor Centre doubling as a community building with play facilities.

Key Issue – to use this BID process to develop Sandown for multi-purpose use.

11. FARMING and FORESTRY

Historically, Nairnshire’s key industries were farming and forestry. The BID must be used to assist Gordon’s and Tulloch’s sawmills as major employers along with all the land owners and forestry workers.

Developments must not prejudice Nairn’s major employers and must support as appropriate the forestry and farming community.

Key Issue – to use BID to help Nairnshire’s traditional industries

12. The INFRASTRUCTURE

Inverness Airport has announced plans to provide an expanded terminal and additional daily flights to UK and Europe. Scotrail is to begin an upgrade to the Inverness / Aberdeen railway line that will include a stop at Dalcross.

These developments are welcome however it is worth noting that roads and bridges are not coping at present and must be provided as vital links between the town and wider Nairnshire as well as routes out and into Nairnshire.

Key issue – to provide proper roads and bridges in Nairnshire

13. TOURISM

Tourist potential is massive with Cawdor Castle, Fort George, Clava Stones, Culloden, Kilravock Castle, Logie Steading, Brodie Countryfare and Brodie Castle all close by.

Nairnshire is also ideal for Activity-based Holidays: walking, cycling, hill climbing, boating, bowling, fishing, bird watching, golfing at all levels – not to mention the opportunities for dolphin and seal watching.

Last but not least, the Dava and Lochindorb must be protected as real wilderness with the Wolf of Badenoch in his historic lair.

As described above, this southern approach to Nairn also offers wonderful views across the Moray Firth, and makes the statement that you are arriving at a seaside destination.

Key Issue – Use BID to maximise tourist potential in Nairnshire

Action Plan to implement Nairnshire BID.

In writing this strategic paper, NICE underlines its commitment, to working in a genuine collaborative partnership for the common good of Nairnshire. The detailed planning and finance will follow if the BID proposal is sound and all parties in the community work together to make it happen.

It is acknowledged by all that Nairn needs capacity to deliver all these plans and developments. This means:

(a) A BID project manager and a BID finance manager to move this forward in fully professional manner. These would start as short term contracts of say £50,000 each per year for 3 years.
(b) A contribution from HIE is needed along the same lines as the support provided in Inverness and Forres. One million pounds a year for 3 years in Nairn would be a good start.

If this BID process is used properly, a significant return on investment in Nairnshire can be achieved. This would be an exciting whole area use of BID, and the considerable collective local knowledge and experience base with true partnership working involving all the agencies will deliver the future that Nairnshire wants and deserves.

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