NICE – by the Community for the Community

The Vision for Nairn presentation will take place at the Community & Arts Centre on 12th October at 7.30pm

Background: Around two years ago a group of residents concerned about town centre development met together to see if they could bring forward imaginative new ideas for the town centre – to make it more attractive, more welcoming and offer more facilities and amenities for local people. Lots of ideas came forward and the group adopted the title of Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise. The outcome of several meetings was a proposed new plan for the town centre. Discussions took place with Highland Council and a public meeting was held in which the NICE proposal was debated alongside that of the Highland Council plans.

It became clear that in order to progress these community generated ideas it was going to be necessary for NICE to have a different legal basis; one that gave it actual powers within a Scottish Government framework that supported the concept of local communities taking responsibility for the planning and management of a range of services, ie. locality planning. NICE is now recognised by Scottish Government as a “community body” with the “right to buy” for community use. NICE is also a recognised charity. As a “community body” NICE is owned by its members who together exercise ultimate control over NICE vision and direction.

With the right to buy, the NICE structure empowers the community to deliver town centre projects and numerous others so badly needed by Nairn – new amenities, better use of open spaces; additional jobs and affordable housing to name but a few. Informal discussions have taken place with a number of local organisations and individuals who have indicated their enthusiastic support.

To get the ball rolling, initial applications are being submitted for funding to get the first projects off-the-ground. It is the intention of the director’s to place the day-to-day management of the company into the hands of a professional team as soon as resources allow. Director’s either now or in the future are excluded by the new NICE Articles from receiving any benefit by virtue of their position.

The town centre and similar projects are just the start of what could be an exciting new future for Nairn. The ultimate ambition is for the community of Nairn, through this new community body to have the ability to run a whole range of its own community services. This is in line with current Scottish Government thinking, generally referred to as ‘locality planning’. The basis is that local communities know best what they need and how to deliver it, and there is funding to support these initiatives. We’ll also be able to draw down funds as part of Nairn’s “fair share” of resources.

The Directors of NICE recently commissioned Alan Jones Associates to produce “A Vision for Nairn” with a supporting business plan. The presentation will take place at the Community & Arts Centre on 12th October at 7.30pm. The Vision for Nairn is a framework for developing and delivering community projects. We invite you to join us.  It contains examples of what has been achieved elsewhere and these will be presented in order to stimulate our own thinking and direction. It is finally down to the community to decide the town’s future and how it is delivered within the framework that the NICE structure offers.

To get the ball rolling, initial applications are being submitted for funding to get the first projects off-the-ground. At this stage we have identified the Bus Station, the Old Social Work Buildings and the Regal Bar as immediate priorities in our thinking. With community input and support it becomes possible to develop a range of projects that will benefit the whole community.

We are aware that we have a long way to go but with your contribution we know we can make a difference. NICE has the support of Scottish Government and a legal framework to deliver local services and projects – by the community for the people.

Would you like to have a part in this strategic development for Nairn? Consider signing up as a member – and even more important, bring your ideas, your concerns, your hopes – and a belief that you have the ability to make things better for all in our community. Membership is freely open to everybody living in and around Nairn – juniors and adults. If you have particular skills to offer, you can join one of many working groups that will be established.

NICE is a company limited by guarantee, and the only financial obligation of members is to pay £1 if the company become insolvent.

 To find out more, join us the Community & Arts Centre on the 12th Oct at 7.30pm. With your support, we can do this.

One thought on “NICE – by the Community for the Community

  1. Very relevant to your presentation, Nairn River Community Council have been debating the question of regeneration in the town and at its meeting on Tuesday approved a statement for publication. I have reproduced it here. The Council would be very pleased if you post it on your site.

    “Nairn River Community Council represents more than 53% of the population of the community of Nairn. (Nairn West represents 12%, Surburban,35%). We are concerned for the future development of the town and thus the people and businesses which form the pillars on which this will be built. We are clear that the needs of Nairn’s people are yet to be fully addressed. Too many are without work or have to travel or move to get work. Too many need the support, however temporarily, of Highland food boxes. Too many are struggling to find the permanent home they seek.

    Having looked into the current legislation and the key principles of community development we are convinced that significant opportunities exist for the people and businesses of the town to take the initiative for action aimed at safeguarding and growing the town’s future.

    A key tool in this is the community right to buy enacted in legislation introduced by the Scottish Government. With a total population of less than 10,000, Nairn is very well placed to take advantage of this. Further legislation anticipated in the next few years could prove even more advantageous.

    However, this right to buy is only a means to an end. Our first priority is the development of Nairn’s economy. We want to create the opportunity for local businesses and business start-ups to benefit from committed local support to help us build a reputation for prosperity which attracts other businesses, draws investment and brings visitors to the town. This way we can grow long-term employment and permanent housing for the inhabitants of the town.

    We firmly believe in the skills, experience and enthusiasm of local people and we are confident we can call on the expertise of local businesses large and small and locally represented national business such as Sainsbury’s and the Co-op. We think there are lessons to be learned from other small Scottish communities who have already taken such steps. Seaside towns like West Kilbride in North Ayrshire, where a crumbling high street has been transformed into a thriving themed economy rewarding local businesses and drawing visitors not just for the benefits of the sea air but for its own sake.

    At a special meeting of the Community Council on 24th September we had the benefit of a presentation from representatives of NICE, newly constituted as a Community Development Trust, which outlined the plans this company has developed for acquiring land and property in and around Nairn. As we have said, we believe that the community right to buy is an important tool for enabling the development of Nairn. However, we think it crucial that this is a tool which is used by and for the people and businesses of Nairn.

    We understand that the Board of NICE is made up of concerned individuals who have taken considerable trouble to develop their ideas. We believe that the time is right for NICE to expand its vision and embrace the empowerment of the community and its businesses. NICE has approached individuals in the Community Council inviting them to join. We feel the issues at stake and the requirements of the legislation demand a clearer commitment to local representation, so invite NICE to formally appoint to their Board a proportional number of Directors from each of the Community Councils – three from NRCC, two from Suburban and one from West.

    We believe that the Board would benefit from the inclusion, or co-option, of a representative of Highland Council’s executive team as well as nominees from Sainsbury’s or the Co-op, major local businesses such as Gordon’s or Ashers and enthusiastic small businesses. We believe it is vital that NICE convincingly step aside from its historic antipathy to the local council and develop a sound working relationship with Highland Council’s officers. Plans for regeneration of the town will lack substance and longevity without the contribution of expertise from the business sector.

    Without such a rejuvenated Board we fear that NICE will not enjoy the support of the local community that is crucial. It is clear that the current Board’s membership cannot.

    Nairn River Community Council
    9th October 2012”

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