2022 has so far been very busy on the Common Good front for both of Nairn’s (former Royal Burgh) community councils. We hope that this year we will see long awaited progress on an improved ‘governance’ structure for these valuable Nairn assets with the local oversight we have been asking for for 25 years since we lost Nairn District Council.
Its not just Nairn !
We’ve heard from Wick Community Council that we are not alone in having concerns about the way Highland Council is imposing parking charges on Common Good land without proper prior public consultation. It is happening in Caithness too. We will be meeting soon online with Wick CC members to compare notes, and interesting to hear that a Council Officer told them how well the new parking ‘scheme’ was working in Nairn!
Research by our colleagues at Nairn West and Suburban CC has also revealed that Nairn seems to be the only town in Highland whose Common Good Fund is being charged by Highland Council for maintenance of Common Good land in regular use for public recreation, as in other places the Council looks after such assets in lieu of rent.
Accounting anomaly leads to double charging
NWSCC have also spotted two significant accounting anomalies in Nairn’s Common Good ‘accounts’, with Highland Council apparently ‘double charging’ Nairn Common Good Fund since 2011 for maintenance of the paddling pool area at the Links (where the new Splashpad is now), when these fees (amounting to around £70,000) were already paid to HighLife Highland(HLH) by Highland Council as part of the HLH service delivery contract.
Additionally it was noticed that Highland Council had billed Nairn Common Good £25,000 for internal project costs for the new Splashpad which the Council had already agreed to contribute to the project. We understand that this will be repaid to Nairn Common Good Fund.
When these anomalies were pointed out the Highland Council said it was a ‘miscoding’ error. It is concerning that none of our 4 elected Councillors as Common Good Trustees had noticed it.
More information here in letters sent to the Council from NWSCC.
NWSCC letter re Splashpad Maintenance Dec 2021
NWSCC letter re Splashpad Maintenance Jan 2022
This story was also covered by Inverness Courier’s Nairnshire Edition
Parking Charges on Common Good land with Council taking 50% are likely to be illegal
Legal advice has been taken by NWSCC on the current ‘voluntary’ parking charges imposed without any prior consultation with Nairn residents by Highland Council. It has emerged that there is no record of a Traffic Regulation Order in place to permit the Links/Cumming Street and Maggot Common Good recreation areas to be ‘managed’ as car parks by Highland Council. A senior Scottish lawyer ( an expert on Common Good Law) has identified the introduction of charges for parking on Nairn Common Good land as a ‘change of use’ requiring prior public consultation and has also advised that the ‘top slicing’ by Highland Council traffic department, of 50% of parking income to cover THC ‘operating costs’ is likely illegal under current Scottish legislation which says that 100% of revenue raised from Common Good Assets should be paid directly into that Common Good Fund.
These concerns are detailed in this joint letter sent by Nairn River CC and NWSCC to Highland Council in January 2022
Here also is a reminder from our blog of the questions we raised last summer with Highland Council when this dubious charging scheme was first imposed by Shane Manning Highland’s Traffic Manage. It includes a link to an example from Angus Council area of the economic damage charging for parking can do to footfall and local businesses in small towns
Camper Vans at the Maggot ? And still no Harbour Street public toilets?
A Planning Application was lodged during the Xmas holidays by Highland Council to erect a ‘Camper Van Waste Disposal facility’ on the Maggot (Common Good) Car Park. We were given between 22nd December and 6th January to note interest as a CC in responding as Statutory Consultee and we just made it in time to request for an extension till after our first meeting of the year on 19th January. Objections were raised by both Nairn CC’s to this premature Application as it represents yet another ‘change of use’ on Common Good Land without the required prior community consultation, and also presents public health and environmental implications due to pollution risk in a fragile area. The Maggot location is also unsuitable with camper van facilities ‘next door’ at Parkdean, whose profit margins are already vulnerable post COVID, without publicly subsidised competition undermining business.
We understand that Parkdean management (who pay rent to Nairn Common Good Fund) were not consulted by Highland Council prior to this Planning Application being lodged.
Nairn River CC are of the view that any Highland Council spend on ‘visitor provision’ should prioritise the urgent need for flood proof public toilets at the Harbour which could include camper van waste facilities and cater also for the sailing community.
Here are the submissions sent to Planning by the two Nairn Community Councils.
We continue to push for improved public toilet and other visitor facilities in Nairn.
Nairn West and Suburban CC submission
Shortly after these and other letters from Nairn CC’s highlighting a range of concerns about Nairn Common Good management, were submitted to Highland Council, this Planning Application for a camper van waste disposal point at the Maggot was withdrawn and all documents including the application and public comments were removed from the Highland Council planning portal.