The Nairn Charrette – a NICE perspective

After two days of presentations, discussion, workshops and drawings with representatives from Highland Council, local business and residents, was it all worth it? There was an underlying feeling that, “we’ve been here before” – and it also became clear that some of the pre-charrette research by the team was inaccurate. But it has to be said that it was a very worthwhile exercise with lots of ideas coming forward, from a group of people still optimistic about the possibilities.

We were initially disappointed that the organisers of the Charrette made little note of the survey we recently undertook. But on reflection the NICE survey responses, if presented, might have coloured the thinking of those in attendance. What we see as being crucially significant is the fact that despite four different interest groups, including a group of our elected representatives, each working on their vision for the town centre, the general outcomes were remarkably similar. The Charrette conclusions fully underpin and validate what we in the community and in NICE have long believed to be true. We all agree in principle about what needs to be done!

Dealing with the state of the High St was top of the agenda. This chimes 100% with the statement recently issued by the newly formed New Nairn Initiative (NICE, VisitNairn, Assoc of Nairn Businesses, Nairn Access Panel) that stressed the need to address the state of our High St. Four individual, yet remarkably similar, plans were brought forward for the town centre around the Old Social Work Building (OSWB). All agreed on the need for a new town square; reconfigured parking; a civic hub; open space for events and markets, etc. It is re-assuring that these conclusions fit within what NICE outlined as a direction of travel some months ago. We can happily take on-board the many other ideas and they will fit easily within our broad vision and may enhance aspects of it.

The plans envisaged a day when the bypass was delivered (2025?) and all agreed that King St would be reconfigured as a tree-lined, shared-space to give Nairn a “green” feel much more in keeping with its reputed better climate.

There was an acceptance that the Council has to be more enabling, in fact, clear statements were made to that effect. They titled their vision “Shaped by the Community; Valued by all”. Isn’t this what we have all been arguing for? Sheena Baker of the ANB was quite vocal as she sought to gain assurances from Council officials. Lines of communication have, we believe, been opened for accessing the funding that is already there to enable some “quick fixes”.

Finally, the NICE survey gave local people a voice and following the Charrette few can disagree that, whether Highland Council, elected members, residents or businesses, we are all singing off the same hymn sheet. There may the odd discordant note but the direction of travel is most definitely agreed. Overall, NICE as a community group is on the right tracks. The Charrette proposals are very much in line with our current thinking and, largely, validate the ideas and concerns arising from the community. No one in authority countered the statement that NICE would pursue its proposals for the OSWB. Time now to work together and make it happen!
*We now await the final report and proposals from Halcrow (CH2MHill) for the community to consider. Meantime you can see the interim Action Plans for Nairn here.

**We had expected Ryden’s to make a presentation but some of their material was included in the overview presented by CH2MHill in their introduction. We have received a copy of that presentation which does include some of the NICE survey material, especially page 9 and you can see it here (Powerpoint file – 2.26Mb). Bear in mind that these are supporting visuals for a presentation that was never given.