20 Questions (and some Answers) about Nairn Parking Charges

New ‘charging infrastructure’ on Nairn Links

In Spring 2021 Nairn River Community Council were surprised to notice parking charges machines being installed at 3 car parks at the Harbour, the Links and the Maggot.

We were surprised because there has been no consultation with either of Nairn’s ‘town’ community councils or local residents about this, which must happen by law before any changes can be made to Nairn Common Good Assets.

Even without these legal requirements, the land where these car parks are is located in Nairn River Community Council’s territory, so as a matter of courtesy and transparency we would have expected Nairn’s Highland Councillors to have briefed us in advance that they were considering this action, before they approved it, and taken account of community views as part of their role as local elected representatives.

In 2020 a consultation on a new Parking policy for Highland, delayed from 2018, when Nairn community and business groups universally rejected charges for Nairn, was put ‘on hold’ again due to COVID lockdown.

In late summer 2020 representatives of Nairn River CC, West and Suburban CC, Nairn BID, and NICE (Nairn’s Community Development Trust) attended two meetings with Highland Councillors and Officers where Nairn’s ‘visitor management’ needs for 2021 were discussed.

We were assured that more information on public funding sources to improve toilets, camper van facilities and other visitor welcome resources would be shared by Highland Council with all parties present for further community discussion before anything would be taken forward.

It was also agreed (or so we thought) that full public consultation would take place before any decision would be taken on charging for Common Good land car parks.

At that time Nairn River CC did some informal consultation via our website with local residents. (see our blog archive from September 2020)

Many residents agreed that improved public toilets, camper van facilities and a better visitor welcome were urgently needed for Nairn. However, as in 2018, most locals did not want to pay for parking, particularly on the Links, and did not see this as a suitable source of funding for improvements mentioned above, when significant Visitor Management funding was being invested by Highland Council in other Highland towns to provide public toilets and other facilities.

Local residents also pointed out that imposing charges around the seafront would add congestion to Fishertown’s narrow streets where parking is already in short supply.

Links Parking Summer 2021

This has come to pass this summer, along with more cars routinely parking on grass at the Links than ever before, causing significant local concerns about long term environmental damage, and detrimental effects on use of these ‘green spaces’ for ‘recreation’ such as football and cricket, their original purpose when they were gifted to the town for the Common Good of the people of the Burgh.

We have read about local shops and businesses suffering in towns like Forfar and Montrose because parking charges were imposed by the local Angus Council in 2018 without proper community consultation or consideration of negative impacts.

Actual revenue raised by this ill fated and damaging scheme also turned out to be less than half of Angus Council’s projections.

Parking in Angus is now free as charges have been suspended completely till at least 2022. The Nairn situation is also more complex due to car parks being on Common Good land.

Why doesn’t Highland Council learn from this and carry out proper ‘impact assessments’ so that a transparent and financially viable business case can be presented to the public before implementation, to demonstrate that all local ‘costs’ (social and environmental as well as economic) are factored in and do not outweigh benefits?

In Nairn this summer we have had ‘voluntary’ charges on the Links, Maggot and Harbour Car Parks since June, and thanks to good weather and a boom in UK tourists on ‘staycation’ and daytrippers to Nairn beach, Shane Manning Highland Council’s Parking Service Manager has been posting regularly on local Facebook pages that charging in Nairn is paying well.

However no detailed financial business case or income projections for this ‘pilot project’ have been made available to the public to provide a context for Shane’s Facebook posts. We do not know how much public money has already been spent to set up ‘charging infrastructure’, or what it will cost to run and enforce a charging scheme in the longer term all year round. Most importantly we have no idea how much income, if any, will be left for our Common Good Fund once Highland Council’s various costs are covered, and we are told that THC are to take half the profit too.

What we do know is that in April 2021, Nairn’s four Highland Councillors, who are also ‘Common Good Trustees’ for Nairn, agreed at the Nairnshire Local Area Committee for ‘charging infrastructure’ to be installed and activated from June.

You can read an extract of the minute of 20 April 2021 Nairnshire Committee here

This reports that the charging scheme was given the go ahead, in spite of Councillors querying the ‘legality’ of Highland Council splitting the ‘profits’ from Nairn parking charges 50/50 with Nairn Common Good fund. There is no record of any Councillor/Common Good Trustee present querying the lack of prior public consultation on this Common Good matter.

Our understanding of the 2015 Community Empowerment Act is that 100% of net revenue raised from Common Good Assets must return to that Common Good fund. This means that it would be illegal for Highland Council to profit from use of this land.

We have been told that there will be consultation in the autumn, after this charging scheme has been running for several months.

This is entirely at odds with the principle of ‘prior’ consultation as laid down in the Community Empowerment Act 2015, which is supposed to make sure that a local authority takes time to present options to the public, assess local impacts and seek approval of the local community, before decisions are taken to make any change to the use of Common Good Land.

Instead Highland Council has already invested significant public funds in charging infrastructure which clearly they plan to use, without consulting the public.

To clarify this unsatisfactory situation Nairn River Community Council decided in June 2021 to ask the following questions of Highland Council Officers and elected Councillors.

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

Context

Councillor Heggie requested some ‘focussed questions’ at NRCC meeting on 16th June when Common Good parking charges were discussed and diverse concerns were raised by community councillors and public present.

There are 20 questions here. We expect that  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 Nairnshire Area Committee 20th April 2021.

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

Motorhome facilities

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( Caravan Site) 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?

Responses from Highland Council to Nairn River’s 20 questions

Nairn River CC Chair received the following response on 22nd July from Emma Tayler the interim Ward Manager for Nairn.

Note that the response to question 6 that ‘ Shane(Manning, Highland’s Parking Services manager) attended the NWSCC online meeting to brief and answer any questions (3 hours), but despite the offer being made, no similar invite from NRCC has been received. ‘ is misleading. In fact several Nairn River CC members sat in on the above mentioned ‘Westies’ CC meeting and listened to Shane Manning- but were not satisfied that the Parking Service Manager provided sufficient detail about financial arrangements for the current pilot and he made clear that Common Good matters were outside his area of expertise, so we decided to send written questions to Highland Council as detailed above. Nairn River CC had only one remaining public meeting scheduled in June before the summer break – our AGM – and we were not able to accommodate Shane on that Agenda.

One of our members did ask Shane Manning directly via Facebook, to share a detailed ‘business case’ for this pilot with Nairn River CC and the public, but he has not done so.

We plan to continue dialogue on this matter and look forward to participating in the promised public consultation process on the current pilot parking charges scheme.

Letter received from Emma Tayler Ward Manager 22nd July 2021 (NRCC questions in italics)

Dear Mr Bain

Thank you for your enquiry.  Please find outlined responses to your questions below.  I trust this is helpful in clarifying the points that you make.  

I do think it is important to highlight that there seems to be a misunderstanding underpinning a number of these questions.  To be clear, what has been introduced in Nairn, for the 2021 summer season only, is a voluntary charging scheme.  People are invited to pay for parking and there is no enforcement of parking charges.  

As noted in the agenda note to the Nairnshire Committee where the voluntary scheme was agreed, a consultation will take place later in 2021 to determine the approach going forward.  This would consider whether a voluntary scheme of charging is continued, charging with enforcement is introduced or whether no changing is introduced.  This is in line with the Council’s car parking policy agreed in October 2019 and in line with Community Empowerment legislation in relation to change of use for Common Good assets.

As offered previously, the Parking Services Manager – Shane Manning – is very happy to attend a meeting of Nairn River Community Council, as he has already done for Nairn West and Suburban Community Council.

Your sincerely

Emma Tayler

Acting Ward Manager

Ward 18 – Nairn & Cawdor

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?  

The validity of the Invitation to pay (ITP) was discussed with the Common Good Officer who was content that as the charges are voluntary and lie within current regulations regarding regulation of Off-Street Car Parks, this was not a material change in circumstances.

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?

The Community Empowerment Act provides the circumstances when consultations must be undertaken. The current voluntary payment scheme does not constitute a disposal or a change of use, therefore does not trigger the requirement to consult.

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

There is a longstanding arrangement for use of the Town House car park in Inverness where a “rental” payment is made for use and any income earned above that by charging is retained by the operating service.

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 history of Common Good in brief terms is that the land that came with the Charter was to be used for advancing the prosperity of the Burgh with any revenue received being used for the “common good” of the Burgh. When the Burghs were abolished in 1975 ownership passed to the District and Island Councils under the provision that such property was to be administered having regard to the interests of the inhabitants of the former Burgh. This provision was further confirmed in the subsequent reorganisation under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994.

The fact the car parks are on Common Good land does not automatically mean residents should continue to park for nothing. If anything, making use of such Common Good land to raise revenue is, in itself, an example of administering such property in the interests of the inhabitants.

Please note, as highlighted above, residents still do not currently have to pay for parking as the current scheme is voluntary.  However, there is nothing to prevent such a scheme being introduced on Common Good land subject to the appropriate consultation processes being undertaken.

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.

The Community Empowerment Act provides the circumstances when consultations – including with Community Councils – must be undertaken.  However, as noted above, the current voluntary payment scheme does not constitute a disposal or a change of use, therefore does not trigger the requirement to consult.  There has therefore been no breach of Community Empowerment legislation.  

As noted in the agenda note to the Nairnshire Committee where the voluntary scheme was agreed, a consultation will take place later in 2021 to determine the approach going forward.  This would consider whether a voluntary scheme of charging is continued, charging with enforcement is introduced or whether no changing is introduced.  

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?

See above

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.

Shane Manning is the responsible officer for the service delivering the scheme.  Shane therefore has the expertise and the knowledge to engage on this issue.   Shane attended the NWSCC online meeting to brief and answer any questions (3 hours), but despite the offer being made, no similar invite from NRCC has been received.  Furthermore, sharing information online helps to increase transparency with the whole community.

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.

As noted above, a consultation will take place later in 2021 to determine the approach going forward.  This would consider whether a voluntary scheme of charging is continued, charging with enforcement is introduced or whether no changing is introduced.  This is in line with the Council’s car parking policy agreed in October 2019 and in line with Community Empowerment legislation in relation to change of use for Common Good assets.  This will be the opportunity for the community to have a say on potential charging.

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.

None of the money has come from Scottish Government Visitor Management Funds. Installation of meters has been funded by The Highland Council Visitor Management funds allocated for 2021 (£1.5m across services – £250k Parking).

Q9 If the Nairn Community vote to remove parking charges in future, who will remove the equipment and who will pay for this?

If, following any consultation, a decision is taken not to introduce charging on an enforcement basis or not to continue with a voluntary scheme for charging, the removal of the meters will be undertaken at the Council’s expense.  

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?

The 50/50 split has been agreed by Members as part of the process agreed in October 2019.  This applies to the voluntary scheme too.

Any income received would form part of the Common Good fund for Nairn and administered as such.

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.

This is a misunderstanding of the administration and management of Common Good Funds.  Any decisions on use of Common Good funds will be made in accordance with Council governance policies and procedure. These are funds raised by use of Common Good assets held by the Council and the financial responsibility sits with the Council as custodians of the Common Good.

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?

No.  Reports on income and usage will form part of Common Good monitoring reports to the Nairn and Nairnshire committee which is responsible for the governance and administration of the Nairn Common Good Fund.  

We are particularly keen to see detail of the ‘£1Million raised for Portree’ mentioned by Shane Manning at a recent NWSCC meeting.

At the NWSCC we described the match funding THC were able to deliver on the basis of income raised being used to leverage capital borrowing in Portree – namely Bayfield Car Park Circa £700k project (£290k Capital allocated based on future Parking Income) – Storr Roadside (£75k Capital Borrowed based on future Parking Income), Storr Car Park (Circa £400k project with some Capital allocated based on Future Parking Income) – 2 pedestrian Crossings installed in Portree (£70k – funded from future Parking Income.).  

Reports on this are considered by the Isle of Skye and Raasay Area Committee and can be viewed here: www.highland.gov.uk/info/20003/committee_information/673/isle_of_skye_and_raasay_committee 

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)

This will be reported to Members and to the general public online through reports to the Nairn and Nairnshire Area Committee to ensure transparency.

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)

At the NWSCC one day’s income for Cumming Street was analysed and discussed. This showed that the available amount of time for sale and the actual time sold via the Ticket Machines equated to 40%.

There were no inconsistencies in the income figures quoted.  What is quoted above is a misunderstanding of data relayed to the CC in the meeting:

24th May to 31st May – 8 days

177 spaces available for “sale” across 3 sites

Bank Holiday Monday 31st May

Cumming Street

2124 hours per day available

845 hours purchased (31/5/21) 40%

First 8 days across 3 Car Parks

873 individual transactions

£1252 income

The service has invested £27,000 (Ticket machines, civils and signage) to date.

The ‘business case’ and financial arrangements for this ‘pilot’

Q13 Please confirm actual costs of charging set up and implementation to date.

£27000: Ticket Issuing Machines, installation costs and signing and lining.

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.  

All income after VAT payments – (50% Gross to CGF – 50% remaining split 20% running costs, 30% service)

INCOME collected to date 24th May to 12th July 2021

7 calendar weeks – 6938 transactions

£9646.50 Gross Income

£8038.75 after VAT

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.

2018 relates to the introduction of the Parking Management Policy and a proposal to impose enforceable parking charges, which was further amended in 2019 – This scheme was paused due to Covid 19 as statutory consultations were very difficult to deliver.

Current general Car Park operational costs funded by service and not charged back to CGF to date.

1.        Rateable Value – £100 per bay

2.        Water Rates – £120 per year per Car Park

3.        Average Annualised Service cost over 40-year lifespan of a Car Park – Surfacing, lining, signage, lighting, waste & amenity costs. £53 per bay per year

2021 ITP scheme costs

4.        Ticket Machines £4500 each (6No.) – Running cost – £400 per year per machine

5.        Manpower funded by service

6.        Cash collection and admin funded by service

Q16 Please provide evidence of other car parks in Highland where Rates are being paid for routinely by the Council, as suggested here.

 Rates paid 2018/2019B&SCaithInvLochNairnR&CSkyeSuthTotal
Water Rates                 557            498         14,895       1,696           357     10,707           781               258£29,749
Business Rates             9,576      12,144      159,412     66,528     13,152     53,832     17,472         17,112£349,228

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.

The base calculation for car park income is £417 (after VAT) per bay per year. Calculated from average income per bay achieved at all existing car parks.

There are 177 bays across the 3 car parks.

Potential income based on enforceable parking charges on £417 per pay per annum £73,809 per annum

Income to date £8038.75 for 7 weeks if extrapolated to 12 months 52 weeks = £59716.43

This figure would need to be reduced to reflect seasonal variation.

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

This has not been discussed.

Motorhome facilities

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

Signs have been ordered to inform drivers of availability of Parking at East beach. No scheme to signpost camping facilities as yet.

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?

No.  It is widely understood that many campervans do not wish to park in designated camping sites and that even those who may wish to, are unable to because there is no capacity.  The Council’s Tourism Committee has agreed to allow the option for motorhomes to stay in Council car parks for a maximum 24hrs, all activity to be contained within vehicle and prices range from £5 to £10 dependent on facilities made available.  This is to support management of the current challenge and issue of campervan parking across the Highlands.

The potential use of the Maggot is a suggestion only at this stage – utilising any of the grassed area would require preparation of a proposal which could form the basis of a Common Good consultation as it would be a change of use. A court application for authority would also be required as the Maggot is considered to be inalienable land.

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