The derelict bus station – another design-award contender?

The latest news – hot off the press – is that after many years of inaction while the seagulls nested and the bus station slowly rotted, the developer who owns the abandoned building has just submitted a planning application.  The new building is listed as a supermarket with 12 flats above it, in a four storey building.  Others have described it as “a tower block with a corner store at ground level”.  The plans can be viewed at .

Is this the right sort of building for such a key location in the town centre?  Will it improve the view, attract tourists and visitors, and help to revive the town centre?  Please give NICE your comments below.

Shock! Horror! The Carbuncle nomination: threat or opportunity?

….Once upon a time there was a little boy who stood up and bravely pointed out that the Emperor had no clothes….

Last month Nairn was scandalised when a local resident going under the pseudonym of “nairnbairn” nominated the town for consideration in the Urban Realm architectural magazine’s “Carbuncle Awards”.  Those who agreed with the criticisms seemed to be outnumbered by the vigilantes who called for “nairnbairn” to be named, shamed and run out of town.  Some argued that any publicity was good publicity, while others feared this nomination would be bad for the image of Nairn.

But surprisingly few people have spotted that the nomination provides an opportunity to focus the spotlight on local planning, design and architecture, and to encourage those responsible to deliver new buildings of which the town can be proud.

Councillor and Convener Sandy Park claimed, “…the residents of Nairn are too proud to care about it [the carbuncle nomination]”.

It is indeed all about pride.  It is precisely because Nairn residents are proud of their town that they DO care what it looks like.

How can Nairn take advantage of the carbuncle nomination to get better development and design? Add your comments below!

The Council-owned sites – restoration or demolition?

To no-one’s great surprise, the Highland Council has put the land and buildings it owns in the town centre up for sale.  But the idea of selling the plots, buildings and car parks off separately has rightly caused concern.   Some serious questions remain to be answered:

  • Despite all the assurances given to NICE back in spring, will the town end up with piecemeal, unconnected development?
  • Will any developer buy land just to create an amenity space which offers no profit?
  •  Will there be a reduction or removal of town centre parking spaces?  The choice of words by Tim Stott of the Council quoted in the press was very revealing:  “no significant net loss of parking”.  How many lost spaces would be “significant”?
  • Are the old but historic and sound Social Work Department buildings bound to be bulldozed?  It was noticeable how our Councillors wriggled and equivocated when challenged about this at the Ward Forum.

NICE was formed to campaign for a well-planned, attractive and sensible regeneration of the town centre.  Do we need to go in to battle again?  If you think so, say so!

Meanwhile, back in the town centre…something stirs at the Regal

Rosemary Young’s one-woman campaign succeeded this summer where several years of fine words and assurances from our elected Councillors had failed.  At last the paintbrushes came out and the Regal got a quick coat of whitewash.

So far so good.  But then up went the “For Sale” signs on both the cinema and the abandoned filling station.  Any chance of agreeing a joint redevelopment plan, or a deal, with the Council?  It seems the Co-op wasn’t inclined to co-operate.  One more missed opportunity to do some joined-up planning?

What do you suggest the Co-op, or a buyer of the sites, should do with the Regal and the filling station?  Let us know what you think.

The Farmers Showfield – here we go again?

Among the responses to the Council’s “Call for Sites” to be allocated for development under the new Inner Moray Firth plan, the Nairnshire Telegraph and others spotted that the Farmers’ Showfield had been put forward for redevelopment.

Those with long memories will remember the strength of local feeling when this green space was previously earmarked for building.  NICE, which sympathises with the Farming Society’s needs, has already made some contribution to the debate, at

The Showfield was important to the residents of Nairn.  Does it still matter?  Does anyone care if it is sold off for development?   Let us have your comments.

The Highland-wide Plan – is it the A96 Corridor Framework reinvented?

The Council received over 300 responses to their consultations about the new region-wide draft development plan.  Developers and landowners argued (what a surprise!) for even more generous allocations of land for building, to cope with the predicted massive increase in the Highlands’ population.  Many local residents in the so-called A96 Corridor between Nairn and Inverness raised doubts about the Council’s forecasts for unprecedentedly high population growth.  Joan Noble and others challenged the Council’s inaccurate calculations of housing demand.  But at the hearings by Scottish Government Reporters reviewing the draft plan it became clear that Highland Council was resolutely determined to pursue their policy of promoting extensive building and development eastward from Inverness, and around Nairn.

So the new plans for Nairn still provide for three large new developments – Sandown, Delnies,  and Nairn South – raising the prospect of a doubling in the town’s size and population within the next two or three decades.  Where will these people all come from?  Where will they find jobs?  How will they manage to get to or around the town if there is no bypass?  Answers on a postcard, please, to the Highland Council’s Director of Planning.  Or put your comments below.

The traffic lights mystery – wrong problem, wrong solutions

Residents had long complained about traffic congestion along the A96.  Amid the general rejoicing over the summer  that the Sainsburys’ development was going ahead, few folk noticed that the conditions in the small print included a requirement from Transport Scotland not for any replanning of junctions in the centre (as the NICE proposals had suggested), but for the installation of four additional sets of traffic lights through the town.

These were not, however, for the hordes of Sainsburys’ customers.  It emerged that – without any local consultation or publicity – the lights had been introduced because Highland Council and Transport Scotland had requested consultants to make plans to cope with the expected extra traffic on the assumption that a major housing development at Sandown would be agreed.   Despite the refusal of the Sandown application, the traffic lights still appeared – although strangely, not at the key Waverley Road turning to the hospital and Cawdor;  and with no improvement to the hazardous Sandown Lane junction.  Funny how Transport Scotland seem to think they know better than the locals….

What do residents think about the extra lights?  Please let NICE have your comments.


A lot has happened since the energetic burst of local action on the town centre earlier in the year.  Things were quieter over the summer, but in recent weeks there have been a number of significant events which have far-reaching implications for the town.

It is time to take stock.  Over the next few days, the NICE think-tank will be posting a series of observations and questions.  The future direction and activity of NICE will depend on the level of response. Continue reading