NAIRN TOWN CENTRE DEVELOPMENT PLANS:
Community mobilises to consider alternative options
- Local organisation formed: all residents invited to participate
Following Highland Council’s publication of a draft Development Brief for that part of the town centre site for which the Council is responsible adjacent to the properties now owned by the Co-op, local Nairn residents have formed a group to look at options for the redevelopment of this King Street town centre site. At a meeting on Thursday 28 October some thirty concerned residents of Nairn, including representatives of all three Community Councils, the Association of Nairn Businesses, Visit Nairn Tourism Association and a number of interested individuals, decided to establish a Company Limited by Guarantee entitled “Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise” (NICE). Three volunteer founder-directors** have been appointed, and all residents of the town of Nairn are invited to join.
- Existing Council proposals “do not reflect local views”
The group came together after a public Ward Forum meeting at which the Council’s draft plan to have the site redeveloped for housing and car parking were robustly rejected as lacking in imagination and inappropriate for this key location. The new organisation, which includes professional town planners and architects as well as members with legal and business experience, has already formed working groups to collate ideas and examine the feasibility of all suggestions.
- A proper town centre, not a housing estate: public views invited
At their second working meeting on Thursday 4 November the group identified a number of key elements that might be incorporated in the planning, including retail provision, business facilities and “green space” as well as improved access from the A96 and to the adjacent High Street. There was a clear consensus that the site – which is the public face of the town – should offer a prospect which appeals to visitors and serves the needs of the community. The new enterprise will be seeking views from the people of the town on how best to make this long-neglected area a more diverse and welcoming part of the Nairn town centre. The group also hopes to make contact with the management of the Co-op and the owners of other adjacent sites in order to discuss and co-ordinate the planning.
- After ten years of inaction, ten weeks for decision is “unacceptable”
Meanwhile in a letter to the Convener of Highland Council Sandy Park (who is also a Councillor for Nairn), the three volunteer founder-directors of the new organisation have called for the period of consultation on the development proposals to be extended by at least 3-4 months, in order to allow sufficient time for other options for the redevelopment of the site to be explored, and for the outcome of a design workshop which is to be held by the Council in late November to be properly assessed and evaluated. In their letter to the Convener, the group seeks to co-operate closely with the Council planners, “to assist in bringing forward achievable options, phased or otherwise, which meet the aspirations of the people of Nairn.”
- Concern about Council’s intentions: there is “no pressure” for sale
Concerns remain about the tight timescale and restrictions which Council officials had sought to impose on public consultation. This has given rise to suspicions that the Council is in a hurry to offer the site for sale. The newly-formed group has reminded Convener Sandy Park of his public confirmation that there was “no pressure” to sell off the site. NICE also points out that the value of the site is unlikely to be realised if offered for sale in current economic and property-market conditions. The group strongly believes that the development of this town centre site needs to be integrated with the wider urban planning for Nairn’s future, which is to be considered during the coming months in the context of the Council’s own draft regional and urban development plans for the Inner Moray Firth.
- Constructive dialogue and partnership
In commenting on this initiative Mr Jimmy Ferguson, a Director and acting Chair of the group, said, “We share with the Highland Council the aim of ensuring that the future development of this crucial part of Nairn reflects the wishes of the local community and contributes to the revival and regeneration of the town. We are therefore keen to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Highland Council and to work in partnership with them. We hope for a positive response to our initiative”.
4 November 2010
1. Directors of NICE are: Mike Barnett (contact tel 01667 456657)
Jimmy Ferguson (contact 01667 455875)
Matthew Hilton (contact email@example.com)
2. The next step in the consideration of the future of the Nairn Town Centre site is to be a design workshop convened by Highland Council at the Courthouse in Nairn. The provisional date – still to be confirmed – is 22 November.