Nairn’s natural environment on the Moray Firth coast, with clean air, beaches and river, green spaces, and wildlife, is a big attraction for visitors and the reason why so many people choose to make their home here. It is a great place for kids to grow up, for older folks to retire to, and for all those who love the great outdoors, walking, cycling, swimming, gardening or enjoy a game of golf or a day’s fishing or sailing.
The modern word is ‘wellbeing’ but since Victorian times, sea bathing, clean Highland air and spending time in Nature has been regarded as good for the body, mind and spirit.
We cannot take Nature for granted however.
Our clean air is under threat from traffic pollution on our increasing congested A96, with particular hotspots at Merryton junction, St Ninian Road, Balmakeith junction A96/A939 and Leopold Street junction close to Rosebank Primary.
Our seawater quality depends on our sewerage infrastructure being efficient and Nairn still has a Victorian ‘combined’ sewage and drainage system in older parts of town like High Street and Fishertown which are prone to ‘mixing’ in rainy weather, when overflow is discharged into the River Nairn, out to sea and back onto the beach.
Our green spaces and beaches are vulnerable to litter and flytipping, and air and water pollution
Our rivers and coasts are increasingly prone to flooding and ‘storm surges’ due to higher rainfall and more extreme weather in Highland – a feature of global climate change and the impact of fossil fuel emissions
Our wildlife, including insects and birds, are vulnerable to modern land management practices, including housing development, and intensive agriculture which damage their habitats by removing trees and ground cover and poisoning weeds and soil with toxic glyphosate (still used as a weedkiller in Nairn’s public green spaces by Highland Council) .
The Moray Firth provides a home for many marine creatures such as dolphins but it is a fragile eco system. Moray Firth communities recently saw off the threat of ‘ship to ship’ oil transfer proposed for Cromarty Firth, by lobbying local and national governments, but we continue to face threats to marine life from the declining oil industry (with outline plans for oil rig ‘scrapping’ work at Ardersier already approved in principle by Highland Council) and the increase in cruise liner traffic in the Firth. We welcome more ‘green jobs’ from the renewable energy industry but they must also be ‘clean’.
We will post on this page useful information and links for anyone interested in protecting Nairn’s environment or having their say in relevant public consultations.
The Scottish Air Quality monitoring map shows only three regular monitoring sites in Highland, in Inverness, Dingwall and Fort William.
The last report to Highland Council we have found regarding Air Quality in Nairn is here from 2019. By that time Nairn had been experiencing traffic gridlock on a daily basis on the A96 through town( past Rosebank Primary on Academy St) . This report tells us that
5.4 Active monitoring is ongoing by the Council in Inverness, Fort William and Dingwall.
National monitoring is also carried out at 3 sites in the Highlands: Inverness, Fort
William and Strath Vaich in Ross-shire. Daily reporting from the sites is available on
5.5 The Environmental Health team has recently made a successful bid for a number of
portable air quality monitors that can provide rapid assessment of local air quality.
These will be used to support work related to the AQMA and can also be used for
education projects with schools.
6.1 In terms of schools, in 2016 the Council undertook monitoring at Nairn Rosebank
Primary School investigating the impact of A96 traffic pollution at the school. The
monitoring found that Nitrogen dioxide concentrations were significantly below the UK
Air Quality Objectives within the school grounds.
We know that the traffic situation has got worse since 2016 in Nairn with vehicles sometimes queueing all the way through town from Tradespark, through Academy St, King St , St Ninian’s Road, Merryton, to the Sainsbury Roundabout on Forres Road, plus vehicle bottlenecks on adjoining roads like Leopold St, Harbour St and Lochloy Road.
This means that pedestrians in these areas, especially children, those in wheelchairs and cyclists are being routinely exposed to emissions from queuing cars. This is a particular concern, in Leopold Street, where people are working all day in shops with open doors due to COVID, and for Rosebank School playground and surrounding approaches from A96.
Nairn River CC and our colleagues at Nairn West and Suburban CC have written to Highland Council to ask for more air quality testing in these ‘traffic jam’ areas, to evidence the urgent need for a bypass to reduce risks to public health for local residents.
You can visit the SEPA flood map to see detail of floodrisk where you live and read latest SEPA flood risk reports(2016) for Nairn Central (350 homes at risk) Auldearn and East Nairn (80 homes at risk) and Nairn West and Ardersier (30 homes at risk) These are due to be updated in 2022, when we expect local risk to have increased due to climate change.
Nairn has the second highest flood risk in Highland after Inverness, with Fishertown and areas around the Riverside, Auldearn Burn and Alton Burn particularly vulnerable.
The two Nairn community councils wrote in 2020 and again in 2021 to Highland Council to chase up a delayed flood assessment study which is required before there can be public investment in the flood defences we need for Nairn to protect our community and local tourist economy. At present rate of progress it is not likely that these would be in place before 2030
The main advice for sea bathers is clear : ‘Bathing is not advised during or 1-2 days
after heavy rainfall. This is due to the risk to bathers’ health from water pollution.’
The principal risks and source of the above ‘wet weather’ pollution come from
‘surface water urban drainage, agricultural run-off, combined sewer overflows and treated sewage effluent’. A particular problem is the ancient ‘combined’ sewerage and drainage systems in older parts of Nairn (Fishertown/Town Centre) which need to be upgraded.
Nairn is blessed with many wonderful green spaces which provide habitats for wildlife Check out the Links, Riverside, Maggot and East Beach area,(you can follow the all abilities public footpath through the Caravan Site into the RSPB Culbin Sands Nature Reserve), Viewfield in the town centre, and Sandown Lands on the western edge of town. All are Nairn Common Good Assets given to the former ‘Royal Burgh of Nairn’ for local citizens to enjoy. We want to keep it that way for future generations.
See our page on Nairn Common Good Assets for more information.
Local organisations with an environmental focus
Keeping Nairnshire Colourful those lovely flower displays don’t plant themselves!
Nairn Allotment Society allotments and orchard at Sandown Farm Road and Mill Road
RSPB Culbin Sands Nature Reserve wildlife on our doorstep
Electric Car Charging Points – see map for nearest ones. In Nairn there is one at the Community and Arts Centre and another by the Golf View Hotel on Seabank Road
Green Hive helping Nairn’s community and environment
Nairn Eco working towards a plastic free Nairn
Nairn Literary Institute has several talks coming up on environmental topics this year
Nairn Community Spa Lido is a local project in development to offer water based leisure opportunities in Nairn using renewable energy
And in the wider area
Highland Environment Forum – volunteering opportunities
Trees for Life – rewild the Scottish Highlands by helping plant trees
Go Blue – by rewilding your garden, school, or grass verge. See above some examples already established in Nairn including grass verges on the A96 in East Nairn near Balmakeith with agreement from BEAR Scotland, with Nature Scot already recording increase in biodiversity in the location as result.
Dolphin conservation Moray Firth is home to around 200 bottlenose dolphins
Badgers a familiar but endangered species particularly in the East of Nairn after 20 years of intensive housebuilding at Lochloy has destroyed their natural habitat
National Trust for Scotland Brodie Castle, and Culloden only a bus trip or cycle ride away
Historic Environment Scotland Ardclach Bell Tower, Fort George, Clava Cairns also nearby
Nature Scot (Scottish Natural Heritage) Moray and Nairn Landscape Assessment