HOUSING, WORKING, SHOPPING, DRIVING….. IT WILL ALL BE IN THE LOCAL PLAN!
Members of NICE met on Thursday 10 March for an update on current activity.
- The Town Centre – decision imminent on interim development brief
Highland Council officials will be submitting their revised draft Development Brief for the Nairn Town Centre site to the Planning Environment and Development (PED) Committee on Wednesday 16 March. (For those interested, the PED committee meeting will be recorded and broadcast via webcam on the Highland Council’s website).
A copy of the official Report submitting the draft brief had been made available to NICE. The document reflects most of the points that NICE (and other local residents) have fed into the extended consultation process. It usefully lists the objectives on which NICE and the Council are broadly agreed – including urban regeneration, improved access, respect for existing style and buildings, adequate parking, the need to influence the Co-op, etc. It accepts that the centre should be developed for diverse “mixed use” rather than predominantly housing, and also that there should be a designated civic space. The Report sets out in detail the various “new ideas”, almost all of which have emerged from the NICE discussions and the survey and comments of local residents, and recommends various changes to the original draft brief. There is also an explicit linkage with the forthcoming Inner Moray Firth Plan (the new town plan), and a commitment to make sure any interim or short-term proposals should not prevent or prejudice longer-term improvements.
NICE has acknowledged the co-operation of Council officials and has also briefed local Councillors in advance of the PED meeting.
- Dialogue with other landowners
Since public comments – and the NICE design work – had also addressed adjacent sites, notably the bus station and the Library, it was agreed that representatives of NICE would seek to make contact with the owners of these properties as well as the Co-op property managers, with a view to clarifying their intentions regarding any future development of these sites. One local enterprise had reportedly expressed an interest recently in the bus station site.
- Preparing responses to the Local Plan
Some work has begun on how NICE might respond to the “Call for Sites” which is the first step in the Council’s preparation of the new Local (Inner Moray Firth) Plan. The general approach will be to highlight those areas or sites in and around Nairn which might be developed, and for what purposes; and also to identify areas which should be preserved or protected from new development. With several major new housing development already under way or in prospect at Lochloy, South Nairn, Sandown and Delnies, the Housing group would look – in collaboration with other local groups – at how much more land, if any, might be required for housing, and where.
No update was available on Industry/Employment/Enterprise issues, but there was discussion in particular of how the current and future operations of the local sawmill, a long-established local enterprise and important local employer, could be safeguarded if the proposed new housing schemes for Nairn South were to be approved.
NICE would look to VisitNairn for advice and possible input on Tourism-related development including, for example any future development around the harbour, and the protection of the beach, riverside and other natural assets. This would overlap with the work of the Recreation and Amenity group who were proposing to identify important “green” areas of town which needed to be preserved. In that context the meeting noted recent comment online about the possible fate of the Farmers’ Showfield, which had been hotly debated in the past. NICE believes that the new Local Plan must take account of the interests of the Farmers’ Society, whose members include many town residents as well as the local farming community.
- The challenge of transport
Preliminary work by the Transport & Infrastructure group had resulted in a long list of problems related to the management of traffic in and around through Nairn, where changes (including four more sets of traffic lights along the A96!) are already being planned by the Council as part of the Sainsburys development. Other serious difficulties have been identified for South Nairn, especially because of the bottleneck of the railway bridge on Cawdor Road. It was clear that future development in Nairn – whether for housing or other purposes – would depend on careful transport-planning for access during the period before the eventual construction of a bypass. NICE will be represented in a joint meeting on A96 issues with the Highland Council and Transport Scotland officials on 11 April.
- Next meeting
The next meeting is provisionally scheduled for the last week of March; the time and date will be confirmed as soon as possible.
10 March 2011