NICE welcomed the willingness of Council officials to engage in dialogue with the local community and to take on board the ideas that emerged during the consultation period. We recognise the need for the Council to have some interim guidance in place to enable them to discuss the future of the site with the Co-op and others – and we hope that the Co-op will be responsive to local concerns when considering what to do about the properties it owns [such as the Regal and the derelict filling station].
NICE is pleased that the revised development brief accepts that town centre development should result in diverse “mixed” use, and not be dedicated to housing. Regenerating the area and making it more attractive is the principal objective. The brief usefully incorporates other new elements – such as the provision of some “civic space” – which NICE members felt were important. It makes sense for the provision of parking to be looked at not just on this site, but in the context of the overall development plan for the town. It is reassuring that the Council has agreed that this interim development brief should not close off any options and should be linked to, and integrated with, the forthcoming new draft Local Development Plan for the town (the Inner Moray Firth Plan) which will be put out for consultation in the next few months.
The interim development brief did not pick up on NICE’s proposals for simplifying access and junctions in the town centre, so the challenge remains of how to ease congestion and improve the problems of the A96/King Street. There is growing concern about the impact of the four additional sets of traffic lights along the A96 which the authorities have specified as part of the Sainsburys-funded contribution to the development of the town. NICE looks forward to further discussions with the Council and Transport Scotland about these and related transport issues which could have a significant effect on the town centre.