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.It is becoming increasingly clear that regenerating the town centre isn’t a sprint.  It looks likely to be a marathon.    Has the town got the interest, the stamina, and the enthusiasm to keep up the campaign?  We need feedback and local views.  Post your comments on this website [below]!

Did we make progress over the town centre plan?  Not a lot…

There were lively discussions at NICE meetings and the Ward Forum early in the year about Tim Stott’s original town centre development brief.  Hopes were raised that the Council would be willing to take on board the ideas that came forward from the community.

For a while, the picture looked promising.  Serious professionals set to work to devise NICE’s own design proposals for a re-vamped town centre offering public amenity spaces, parking capacity, retail premises  and housing in a layout which also addressed the issues of A96 access, the future redevelopment of the bus station site, and the use of the Library site and car park.  Jeanne Tolmie and River CC offered their vision of a reflecting pool with monkey-puzzle trees and a model of the historic Nairn ‘Zulu’ boat.

Council officials listened.  Convener Sandy Park made encouraging noises.  We even had a “workshop”.  It appeared that there was a chance that the development brief would be revised to take account of the community’s views and ideas.

Well…. up to a point, your Honour.  In March, the Council’s revised interim development brief emerged.  On the plus side, the revised version included some provision for a civic amenity space (a town square) and redevelopment other than housing.  But if joined-up planning was the aim, it was a failure.  There was no linkage with the Library or bus station site, no proposals to Transport Scotland for the A96 junctions, and not much guidance to the Co-op on the future of their sites.

Nevertheless, the hope remained that the local authority had got the message, and that – as this was only an interim brief – it would shortly give way to a longer-term plan for the future of Nairn town centre which reflected the aspirations of the local community.

“We won’t get fooled again”

Perhaps the optimism was misplaced.  Not only did the development brief as eventually agreed by the Council ignore the wider context of the surrounding town centre area, but since then there has been a series of other events and decisions affecting the town centre.  Details and comment on these will follow in the coming days.

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