Decision Time for Nairn’s 4 Councillors Nairnshire Committee preview

By the time that Nairn River Community Council meets next Wednesday night in public the Nairnshire ‘Local Area’ Committee ( Nairn’s 4 Highland Councillors) will have made some big decisions affecting Nairn and Cawdor Ward at their quarterly meeting. The agenda published on the Highland Council website a week ahead of this meeting is below

Nairnshire Committee 15th September Agenda

In addition to reviewing regular reports from Housing and Police, plus the Winter Maintenance Plan we want to draw your attention to three key items of public interest which are about to be decided upon by Nairn’s 4 Highland Councillors.

Nairn Common Good Assets latest Quarterly Report

Update on the Sandown Lands( Nairn Common Good) ‘Disposal for Development consultation and proposal for further public consultation

Proposals for spending of £100, 000 Place Based Investment Funding allocated to the Nairn and Cawdor Ward for 2021/22

Nairn Common Good Assets latest Quarterly Report

This report presented by David Haas, Inverness City Area Manager, reveals

a balance of £681,861 usable reserves in the Nairn Common Good fund

a deficit in lettings income of around £12,000 by the year end ( chiefly due to cancellation of Nairn Games ) contributing to a reduced annual surplus of around £35,000

of this it is proposed to allocate £15,000 to annual running costs of the new Splashpad

Councillors are asked as CG Trustees to ‘homologate’ (retrospectively approve) waiving

£ 9464 fees for the Nairn Showies this August (a decision made with no reference to the people of Nairn), and unforeseen spending of around £1800 for removable of dead trees, a vermin cull (Viewfield), repairs to Links Flagpole and Harbour Street toilets.

The rest of the report deals with a condition report for Harbour Street toilets and costings of £12,500 for reinstatement and reopening for remaining 7 weeks of 2021 before winter shut down and future running costs for 2022 (£31,000)

The proposal on the table is to defer a decision on repairing and reopening Harbour Street toilets till early 2022 and ‘save’ £12,000 of Nairn Common Good funds by not reopening them before winter. This makes a key assumption that all costs of repairing and running these toilets ( built on CG land without due legal process by Highland Regional Council and maintained by them for decades) should be met by Nairn Common Good Fund, using almost the entire annual ‘surplus’. Whoever pays, is this a prudent investment, when years of neglect by the Council have left these loos in such disrepair, in a location now highly prone to flooding?

This is all the more surprising in a context where £2.4 million Visitor Management funding has already been spent across Highland this year ( everywhere it seems except Nairn) on improving public toilet facilities, with another £1.5 million available for next year. Here in Nairn the only spending from the Visitor Management fund we have seen has been £25,000 on controversial ‘Charging Infrastructure’ for 3 Common Good car parks.

At Nairn River our reading of the Community Empowerment Act makes clear that neither public toilets not parking arrangements on Nairn Common Good Land are appropriate matters for Highland Councillors or Officers to decide on in private.

Any changes or investment of public funds under consideration in these locations should be open for public consultation, before costly decisions are made, to ensure that all our CG Assets are properly utilised and maintained for the benefit of the people of Nairn and future generations.

Update on the Sandown Lands( Nairn Common Good) ‘Disposal for Development consultation and proposal for further public consultation

In summary Highland Council have looked at the consultation responses from 98 members of the public, 3 completely in favour, 10 with mixed views and the other 85 completely against disposal of Sandown Lands at this time, including Nairn’s two ‘burgh’ community councils, and decided that after such a clear NO from the Nairn public

1/these responses don’t reflect the local community

2/some people from some parts of the community didn’t respond

3/the previous respondents didn’t understand what was proposed

4/More and different questions need to be asked of more people

So an additional consultation period is proposed with a new set of questions

Based on the above reasoning – the new questions and a clarified development brief are designed to get more ‘satisfactory’ answers from more people, in the hope of ‘offsetting’ or even outnumbering the previous responses which opposed disposal of Sandown Lands.

Whether you responded to the first consultation before or not, and whether you support or object to disposal of Sandown Lands- the proposed questions for the second consultation will ask all respondents to provide ‘hypothetical’ answers about what could be developed there if the land were to be sold off for development….

It is also proposed to the Nairnshire Committee that since a review of the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan is also underway (with Sandown identified as the only ‘preferred’ site for housing development in Nairn) that the Sandown Lands remain included as a potential development site until this second consultation process is concluded.

That is what our 4 Nairn Councillors will be asked to approve next Wednesday.

If you don’t approve let them know before then.

Proposals for spending of £100, 000 Place Based Investment Funding allocated to the Nairn and Cawdor Ward for 2021/22

The proposals in this paper indicate that 100% of Nairn’s allocation of this fund for ‘community led’ place based investment spending has already been earmarked by Nairn’s Councillors (pending a formal decision at this Committee), as follows

  1. £25,000 direct funding to Green Hive to support the development of ‘the Seaman’s Hall Community Hub Project’
  2. £10,000 Towards ‘play area provision’ -(not specified)
  3. £10,000 for accessibility projects within the ward led by the Nairn Access Panel
  4. £5000 towards projects to improve health and wellbeing, to be led by the Community Partnership
  5. The remaining £50,000 is earmarked for ‘ the development of ‘motorhome infrastructure’ and ‘Town Centre projects’ with proposals to be brought to future Nairnshire Committees for consideration.

£100, 000 was allocated to each Ward in Highland from this new Scottish Government funding stream for this year. However there has been no ‘public’ notification from Ward Councillors that this funding was ‘open for bids’ and we are not aware of any opportunity at Nairnshire level for the public or local community groups to participate in any collaborative dialogue about how this ‘community led’ funding might be spent.

We congratulate Green Hive on securing 25% of the fund for their new venture with the Seaman’s Hall Trustees and we look forward to supporting and participating in collaborative and open public dialogue on how the rest of the funding is invested for the benefit of the wider community.

The Place Based Investment Fund (PBIF)is available for the next 3 years to support the shift from top down planning to ‘Local Place Planning’ by resourcing locally led initiatives

We understand that Highland Council has chosen to focus the first year’s allocation of this funding to tackle the 4 ‘COVID harms’ direct and indirect health impacts, societal and economic impacts.

In other parts of Scotland such as Stirling, the PBIF has been open for ‘local’ bids to ‘support place policy ambitions such as town centre revitalisation, community led regeneration, 20 minute neighbourhoods and community wealth building’ In Aberdeenshire over 2 million pounds will be spent on 14 local projects to ‘transform their localities’ selected by a panel. In Moray Council funding has been targeted on a major infrastructure project to improve Buckie Harbour.

We hope that in future our local Highland Council representatives and Officers charged with supporting the interests of Nairn and Cawdor Ward will take a more transparent approach to allocation of national funding streams by opening them up to the wider community.

Nairn River CC also looks forward to working collaboratively with other Nairnshire community councils under the ‘community friendly’ leadership of our Community Partnership’s new Chair Chief Inspector Jenny Valentine.

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