A possible future for the Old Social Work Building

The following is, in effect, the conclusion of a longer document that charts the twists and turns that have brought us to this point. See the complete paper for full details and background. We welcome your response to these proposals.


We believe that the optimum solution for the Community of Nairn is to put the building to a combination of uses which together meet the following criteria:

The building meets the immediate needs of visitors and acts as a “Gateway”;
There is a large Social Enterprise component;
The building costs are under-pinned by a commercial tenant whose business contributes to the Community;
The proposed use of the building optimises the prospects of obtaining grant funding for the development costs.

Whilst commercial use of the whole of the western half of the building is attractive from the financial perspective and would enhance the attractiveness of the building to visitors, we believe that it would make sourcing grant funding challenging. Informal reaction from the Big Lottery, for example, to our Feasibility Study Report which referred to café/bistro/retail use, suggests this might be the case.

We believe instead that the better way forward is to explore with the entrepeneur and two charities mentioned whether we can in collaboration find a solution that suits us all. We have in mind in particular that the building could be configured in the following way:

The Eastern Half of the Building at Ground Floor Level

Retain the Old Police Cells as a visitor attraction – a “mini” museum.
Demolish the existing toilet block and provide high quality public toilets which are supervised during the building’s opening hours.
Provide a fully staffed visitor reception desk to (a) deal with the simplest queries; (b) direct tourist visitors to a high tech visitor orientation facility adjacent to the reception area; (c) direct visitors requiring specialist help to such facilities (located on the first floor of the western half).
Ideally the reception area could be expanded into the western half of the building to enable space for a small internet café selling teas & coffees.

The Eastern Half of the Building at First Floor Level

Office space for at least one local voluntary organisation including NICE itself

The Western Half of the Building at Ground Floor Level including the Rear Courtyard Area

A long lease for the provision of a high quality wrap-around child care facility by a local entrepeneur. Depending on the mutual requirements the sharing of the total (east and west) ground floor space might have to be negotiated. If, as suggested in our Feasibility Report, the rear extension is best demolished and replaced, then the facility could enjoy a state-of-the art designed extension that would make the space really exciting.
The lease would include the existing courtyard as the basis for a secure outdoor play area, with the option of extending this on to the footprint of the demolished toilet block.

The Western Half of the Building at First Floor Level

Specialist facilities provided by the other local voluntary organisation. We deliberately avoid going into detail because this would risk their identity being discerned.


Each occupier would bear their share of direct costs (eg heat, light, I.T. & telephones).

One or both of the local voluntary organisations would undertake supervision of the building for at least 6 days a week – responsibility for opening and closing and dealing with day-to-day running issues. In return they would pay below market rate rent.

The childcare facility would pay a full market rent, which would underpin the overall budget model enabling NICE to fund its own costs and building maintenance. These costs would include staff costs for “out-of-hours” opening – a “must” particularly in the main tourist season.

NICE would seek to generate as many small income streams as possible – eg from local businesses, B&Bs and hotels for the visitor information service; the profits from selling teas & coffees and other visitor requisites (eg maps); running a Nairn visitor website.


NICE met with Chief Executive and other executives of Highland Council on 4 November to discuss “partnership working” and the immediate way forward in the light of the proposals described in this Report.

The Highland Council executives confirmed that subject to formal Council approval they supported the “Gateway” concept of use for the building, and that they would recommend to the Council that NICE could buy the building from Highland Council if NICE paid the agreed open market value for the property. If NICE wants to buy the property at a discount to that value, then the Asset Management Project Board has to confirm the requirements of the relevant statute are met, and it would be for that committee to make a recommendation or otherwise to the Council.

It was agreed that NICE and Highland Council would jointly instruct the District Valuer with the aim of achieving an agreed market value, and NICE would then consider its position as regards purchase of the building. The meeting was constructive, and in particular the property will not be put back on the market while NICE progresses the valuation discussions.

Having put this supplemental report in the public domain, NICE invites the Community through its elected representatives to approve the basic approach. NICE will progress the District Valuer valuation and negotiations with Highland Council and will also begin discussions with the parties identified with a view to working up detailed proposals for use of the building. NICE confirms it is committed to further public consultation before any final decisions are made.

12 November 2013

NICE returned to its roots for a brainstorming session

NICE grew out of public meetings held originally in the Sailing Club. It returned to that venue once more last night (11th Nov) to meet with members of the Kayak Club, the Sailing Club, harbour representatives and two Highland Councillors, Colin and Michael.

Much of the discussion focussed on the current poor state of the harbour and the problem of silting and rubble being washed down the river. Alistair Noble said: “If we don’t do something over the next 10 or 20 years the harbour will fall into the mouth of the River Nairn.”

The Kayak Club and the Sailing Club outlined the potential of their activities and they both see Nairn as playing a key role in being an Olympic pathway for these sports.

Full report here – http://www.gurnnurn.com/2013/11/nice-goes-back-to-its-roots-for.html


The following serves to explain and underscore why NICE was formed. Some question our motives but there is nothing sinister about it – it is Government policy to give communities more say and more local control.

The Minister for Local Government and Planning, Derek Mackay, today (6th Nov) launched a consultation on the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill.

The aim of the Bill is to make the most of the talents that exist in our communities; deliver high quality and improving public services; and support strong local democracy and local decision-making.

The Bill will include:

•       a new way for communities to take on public sector land and buildings

•       opportunities for communities to be more involved in shaping and delivering better outcomes locally

•       greater transparency in the management and disposal of the Common Good

•       improved powers for local authorities to recover the costs of dealing with dangerous and defective buildings

•       measures to streamline and extend the rural community right to buy

•       new duties to strengthen Community Planning, so that public sector agencies work as one to deliver better outcomes for communities

•       updated and simplified legislation on allotments

•       new powers for local authorities to create local business rate relief schemes.

We are also inviting views on other ways to reflect local democracy principles, and considering how communities might benefit from legislation to strengthen the national and local focus on improving outcomes, currently implemented through Scotland Performs.

The consultation  paper is available on the Scottish Government website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations/Current  If you would like a printed copy, please contact Community.Empowerment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk, or telephone 0131 244 0382.  The closing date for responses is 24 January 2014.

This consultation takes forward proposals that were supported in our previous, exploratory consultation, and other issues which have emerged from further discussion with stakeholders.  We are contacting people who responded to that earlier consultation, and others who have expressed an interest in the issues covered, to make sure you have the chance to comment on our detailed proposals.

Officials will be attending events and visiting groups with an interest in the Bill to help them understand the proposals.  Visit our website at

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/engage or follow us on Twitter, @CommEmpower, to keep up with what’s happening.

We look forward to hearing your views.

The Community Empowerment Bill Team