We think this could be our most important and significant AGM ever. A whole series of national and local policy decisions, such as the rebirth of a Nairnshire Committee, community planning, community empowerment, town centre regeneration and new Community Councils with increasing roles, in conjunction with our own experiences and hard work, allow us to propose an exciting and deliverable way forward for Nairnshire to benefit from all the opportunities that are available. NICE has already made a contribution in the following ways:
- We participated in the two Town Centre Charrettes, and conducted a survey of the community in preparation. This led to the recognition by Highlands & Islands Enterprise (“HIE”) and Highland Council (“HC”) that NICE should be the key social enterprise to take the project forward in Nairn.
- NICE played a pivotal role in facilitating an initial Business Improvement District (“BID”) meeting in November with Ian Davison Porter, the chief executive of Business Improvement Scotland, The briefing document that we prepared for him is on our website. This is now being driven forward by Councillor Michael Green and the Association of Nairn Businesses (“ANB”), and it is anticipated that NICE will have an ongoing role to play.
- NICE has been engaged in a series of consultative discussions about Nairn’s harbour, with an emphasis on how the harbour can be sustained in its current form, and looking also at more ambitious plans for extension and new build.
- In November NICE in collaboration with Nairn Mens’ Shed made an offer to Highland Council for a long lease on the Viewfield Stables.
There have of course been setbacks, and we have learnt that building relationships and alliances takes time and patience – sometimes it has felt like three steps forward and two steps back. In this very complex world we must ensure that MPs, MSPs, Councillors and official bodies make the best decisions for individuals and their localities. To enable them to achieve good decision making, they must be briefed and advised using current best information, datasets and outcomes available. Consultation must result in the delivery of what is in the best interest of an individual or locality. We must surely all want consistent use of reliable local and national data coupled with common sense to underpin local decisions with sustainable solutions.
Fair share allocation of resources from all official bodies and agencies is our right as taxpayers and a very good and democratic way of ensuring value for money. This will be very important around the Inverness and Region ‘City Bid’.
What then are the directors of NICE proposing as a way forward to ensure that we in Nairnshire benefit from the emerging opportunities that are now presenting? We face stark choices and we must not act in a fragmented way. We will only make progress if we establish ways of working together. By developing a working partnership model that allows us all to play our respective roles then we can look forward to a very good future for Nairnshire
We are proposing that the Councillors, Community Councillors, the Social Enterprise (NICE), the official bodies and the proposed BID team, all work in partnership. We are convinced that unless we get such a partnership model working, Nairnshire will not be able to benefit from its massive potential. All our discussions with many interested groups over these last few years have reinforced the latent capacity of Nairnshire as a great place to stay, work and come on holiday. We are moving towards a very strong position. How then do we deliver?
We now propose to expand the Board of Directors of NICE by inviting local representative groups to nominate additional directors to join the NICE Board so that all the different groups can work together to deliver the new Nairnshire. The proposed BID for example would be led by current business leaders and owners. They would nominate a director to sit on the NICE Board and ensure that we cover everything necessary to deliver difficult and complex outcomes. This model, as set out clearly in our Governance and Appointment of Directors paper will apply to all the other groups we might work with in the future, such as Men’s Shed, play-parks, time bank, town centre, harbour, Sandown, wetland visitor centre, bird centre, lido, Visit Nairn, tourism groups etc. They will each develop their own policies and chart their own future but importantly, they will enjoy the consistent back-up and governance support from the umbrella group of the NICE board of directors. These special interest groups can choose a relationship with NICE that best suits their needs – several possible examples are given in our Governance paper. We will also look at how best we build on the really solid work our Community Councils are doing and develop our governance arrangements with them.
Our initial work on facilitating the proposed BID in conjunction with the ANB and HC has shown us how powerful this model could be. We recently worked jointly with HC and Colin Macaulay and applied for £150,000 from the Town Centre Communities Fund to try and ensure that the Old Social Work Building remains in community use as the gateway to our new town centre, whether as part of a new distillery or other facility. However, whilst the application did meet the required criteria, competition was fierce and we were not successful.
Recently NICE received a town centre grant of £10,000 to help move forward the regeneration of the town centre Charrette plans, and we are in the processing of hiring an independent specialist from Ernst & Young to advise how to go about the regeneration project and take it to the next level. We are also exploring how best to work with HIE, Highlands & Islands Social Economy Zone (“HISEZ”) and the University of the Highlands and Islands.
We are convinced that the hard work being done by the special interest groups will come together this year and allow us to develop the professional staff teams needed to deliver these projects in Nairnshire for everybody’s benefit and will provide more jobs and footfall for all of Nairn’s businesses.
I repeat therefore that we face stark choices. We must not be fragmented and competitive – that will achieve nothing. By developing a working partnership model that allows us all to play our respective roles then we can look forward to a very good future for Nairnshire.
Chairman of NICE