A summary of findings of a community survey of 1000 households at Lochloy, Kingsteps and Merryton is below. The subject was initial designs put forward by Highland Council for an active travel crossing over the railway to Balmakeith.
You will also find below, Nairn River Community Council’s formal submission to the Highland Council consultation on this crossing proposal. We have tried to reflect as Statutory Consultee for the area, the range of views communicated to us by local people, and included the results of the residents survey in our submission.
The Highland Council design team informed us at our emergency community meeting that preliminary crossing designs were now ‘off the table’ pending review of public responses.
PRIMARY ANALYSIS OF LOCHLOY COMMUNITY QUESTIONNAIRE
Survey conducted from 2nd – 23rd August 2021
1000 + questionnaires delivered by hand to all homes at Lochloy, Kingsteps, Merryton
No of questionnaires returned 234 – 23.4%
64 (27.4%) supported the proposal
170 (72.6%) DID NOT support the proposal
158 (67.5%) DID NOT consider the proposal was safe for children
54 of the 64 households who supported the proposals considered them safe for children.
Number who responded as being disabled – 29 (12.6%)
Number who supported another road access/exit onto the A96 – 194 (83%) and commented this was the priority for the area.
Drill down analysis – usage and purpose of a bridge to Balmakeith
Of those 64 households who supported the current proposals
17 (26.5%) would use it daily
36 (56.3%) would use it weekly
4 (6.3%) would use it monthly
7 ( 10.9%) less often
53 (82.9%) would use it to access the retail park (not for work)
7 (10.9%) would use it to access a place of work
4 (6.3%) other – walking, cycling or getting to a main bus stop.
Drill down analysis – Community Facilities
Four main suggestions emerged.
83 (36.1%) Local shop/convenience store
49 (21.3%) primary school
32 (13.9%) Post box
15 (6.5%) church/community hall
Other suggested community facilities included – GP surgery and clinics, Dentist, chemist, pub, restaurant, tennis courts, skateboard park, gym equipment
Thanks to all NRCC members who helped coordinate this, and the people of Lochloy/Merryton who assisted with distribution of the surveys and took the trouble to fill them in and return them.
Nairn River Community Council Submission to Highland Council sent 26 August 2021
- On 16th July Nairn River Community Council were invited to comment on three design concept proposals relating to a railway footbridge from the Lochloy Housing Development to Balmakeith Industrial estate. Immediate contact was made with local residents who were invited to pass their comments and concerns to the Community Council and to advise as many neighbours as possible.
- The Nairn River Community Council held a special public meeting on 28th July to listen and to take note of the views and concerns of local residents, particularly those directly impacted by the proposals. As a result of this meeting a survey questionnaire was drawn up which sought the views not only of the residents of the Lochloy Housing Development but from residents of Kingsteps, Lochloy Road/Avenue etc and Merryton areas in the light of concerns expressed about traffic congestion on Lochloy Road and at the A96 junction.
- A further special public meeting was arranged by Nairn River Community Council on 9th August 2021 to update residents and to listen to their further concerns.
- The Community Council unanimously reject the three design concept proposals.
- This response sets out detailed reasons and objections to these proposals which have been supported by the results of a 1000+ household survey of the Lochloy community (copy attached).
II. Brief Lochloy History
- Lochloy Housing Development was adopted in the Nairnshire Local Development Plan (NLDP) 2000 as follows –
As part of this initial planning consent and masterplan, came details of the community provisions detailed in the Nairnshire Plan , i.e. Shop, Primary School, Church/hall, Playparks, Cycle paths, and a Railway Halt. The railway halt was to be built on the Balmakeith Industrial Estate side and its purpose was to encourage local residents to ‘hop on the train to Inverness/Aberdeen without having to take their car’. The majority of original homeowners purchased their homes based on these community provisions and the fact that the housing development would be 350 houses.
- Dealing specifically with the proposals – a railway footbridge, it is important to note that in 2003/4 HIE sold the land which was to be the “landing stage area” at Balmakeith Industrial Estate and Highland Council, later in 2004, gave the Developer consent to build 2 additional bungalows on the land set aside for the railway halt at Sutors Park.
- 21 years later, no community facilities, except one very small playpark, have materialised. The primary school land was given to Springfield Properties for housing and local children who should have been attending the Lochloy Primary School now travel to Auldearn Primary. Highland Council has continued to consent more and more houses without any regard to infrastructure and community facilities for the Lochloy community.
- More than 1000 homes have now been built in the Lochloy Area, bounded to the north by the only access/exit road and hemmed in to the south by the railway line. A quick survey of the area has revealed that most properties have at least two cars, some have more. That means there are at minimum 2000+ vehicles using Lochloy Road. The A96 Lochloy junction is seriously congested not only at peak times but throughout the day and more so from April to October when the tourist season gets underway. Traffic congestion and air pollution along the A96 is a major concern to everyone and will only be solved when a Nairn bypass comes along. When this will happen is still a matter of conjecture with our local MSP, Fergus Ewing advising that it could be at least 2035 before any bypass is opened to traffic.
- It is against this bad planning and management background that Highland Council, out of the blue after 21 years, have brought forward their design proposals.
III. Reasons and detailed objections
- The three design concept proposals are deemed by the local residents to be
- too elaborate and large in terms of scale (approximately 750ft long ramp) and in height (over 35/40ft high);
- too obtrusive;
- unacceptable in appearance
- the wrong concrete structure in the wrong place
- trying to fit a gallon into a pint pot
- a waste of money with very few people using it
- Highland Council trying to solve the major problem of Lochloy, i.e. one access/exit road by trying to squeeze in a footbridge.
- No thought was given to the devastation such ‘off the wall’ proposals would have on the lives and mental wellbeing of local residents who will be directly affected. Their homes, a place of sanctuary and peace which they have worked so hard to build, destroyed by a structure which basically serves no purpose and lands in an industrial estate used by HGVs, other heavy plant/equipment and commercial vehicles.
- Other legitimate and worrying concerns raised were of
- daylight and night lighting,
- the ramp being used as a skate park
- security of homes
- safety of footbridge users
- a place for groups of teenagers to gather leading to anti-social behaviour
- devaluation of house prices and many others.
We understand many residents have already submitted their detailed concerns and views to Highland Council.
- Highland Council have intimated that they will maintain the built structure. However, there are no residents who believe this will happen, and based on Highland Council’s inability to provide the community facilities included in the NLDP 21 years ago, residents firmly believe Highland Council will simply abrogate its responsibility the minute it is built, citing scarce resources as the primary reason.
- The survey conducted supports the views of residents that the footbridge will be little used, is not a safe route for children, and poses serious risks to personal safety and security particularly at night and during the winter months.
IV The elephant in the room
- The issue of an alternative access/exit route has been continually sidestepped by Highland Council. While consenting to more and more houses, they have resisted every request for an alternative route despite the Lochloy area now being home to a quarter of the population of Nairn and over 2000 cars.
Cllr. Laurie Fraser did not support the granting of consent for 117 houses at Meadowlea Phase 3 because he had long considered there was an overwhelming need for an alternative route and improved infrastructure. Unfortunately, this view was not shared by Cllr. Tom Heggie who took the view there was no traffic problems along Lochloy Road/A96 junction and voted for the development.
The residents, who live in Lochloy and who day and daily have to face the congestion along Lochloy Road and at the A96 junction, overwhelmingly consider the priority for the area to be the construction of an alternative access/exit road with a suitable pedestrian/cycle footpath joining the A96 bypass junction at Auldearn. They consider this the best use of scarce funding and of Lochloy developer contributions. This solution enables a better traffic flow and an alternative access/exit route for emergency vehicles while at the same time encouraging active travel.
V. Consultation Process
- Discussions with Ward Councillors had been on going from August 2019 (Ward Business Meeting minutes obtained via FOI). It is unclear if Ward Councillors actually know or have visited the location in question. Neither the Nairnshire Chair nor any Ward Councillor made contact with any resident who would be directly impacted by the proposed structure before the decision was taken to proceed with the design proposals and incur costs. No Planning Officer contacted any resident directly affected to gauge their views and concerns prior to drawing up the design proposals, despite the area being ‘settled and developed’ for 20 years.
- The email of 16th July was the first intimation the Nairn River Community Council, the areas statutory consultee, had received of a ‘one week’ consultation on these design proposals. Only after the Chair of the NR Community Council discussed the proposal with the Design Engineer did Highland Council publish their design proposals on their website with an extended consultation date to 27 August.
- The vast majority of residents were unaware of the proposals, particularly as they appeared during the summer vacation period and published only on the Highland Council website. The majority of residents who responded said they never or very rarely visited the Highland Council website and without receipt of the survey questionnaire, would not have known anything about the proposals.
- The overwhelming majority of residents who responded were disappointed that Highland Council had not directly contacted them.
The Nairn River Community Council reaffirms their rejection of the design proposals and as a result of the survey carried out, fully support the residents of the Lochloy area to secure an alternative road route with suitable pedestrian/cycle access adjoining the proposed A96 bypass junction at Auldearn.
The Council and residents of the area formally request a meeting with Nairn’s Ward Councillors to fully discuss this matter BEFORE any further work is undertaken on any proposals.
Chair, Nairn River Community Council