Think-Tank, Talking Shop… Or Practical Planning Group?

The NICE meeting on 25 February discussed tasks and priorities, and debated how the group could most effectively influence the plans for the future of Nairn.

  • Priorities – Town Centre versus  Local Plan

Some people argued that NICE had been formed in order to challenge and influence the Highland Council over the design and development proposals for the Town Centre.  Why worry about the Local Plan?

All agreed that the town centre remained the short-term priority.  But public comments had underlined the importance of connecting the town centre with the planning for the surrounding area (High Street, bus station site, etc).  Council officials had accepted that the interim development brief for the town centre should be compatible with the wider plan for the town, and had encouraged NICE to offer input into the new Local Plan.  NICE should take the opportunity to put forward input on other aspects of the town’s development.

As an immediate action point, the NICE design and planning group will send the latest version of their town centre plan to Highland Council, and three representatives (Shane Rodgers, Graham Vine and Brian Stewart) will attend the forthcoming meeting with Highland Council and Transport Scotland officials about A96 issues.

  • Diversity – reflecting everyone’s interests

Although people had joined NICE as individuals, some people warned that unless it reflected the full range of local opinion, there was a risk that the group would become no more than a “talking shop for busybodies”.  For NICE to comment effectively and credibly on all the wider planning issues affecting Nairn, it needed to engage with other local interest-groups, including farmers, local businesses, environmental groups, the tourism sector and others.

  • Getting involved – the task of the working groups

Prompted by that thought, it was agreed that working sub-groups should be formed, on the lines of the existing Design & Planning Group, to tackle the various subject areas that might be covered in the draft Local Plan.  The following members volunteered to co-ordinate discussion, recruit others with interest or expertise, and produce ideas and recommendations on specific topics:

–          Housing:                                               Matthew Hilton/Vivien Munro

–          Industry/Employment/Enterprise:            Graham Vine

–          Retail and Tourism:                                John Oliver

–          Recreation/ amenity/green spaces:          Iain Bruce

–          Transport and other infrastructure:          Shane Rodgers/Brian Stewart

The output of these sub-groups would then be edited into a NICE submission to the Council by the 29 April deadline.

  • Project possibilities?

The Chairman reminded everyone that if any project-ideas emerged from these discussions, there was scope to put them forward as proposals for funding and implementation under the LEADER programme, which could provide up to 90% of the required funding.

The next NICE meeting is provisionally fixed for Thursday 10 March at [5.00pm] in the Community Centre. Do come!

10 thoughts on “Think-Tank, Talking Shop… Or Practical Planning Group?

  1. I applaud the broadening of scope that NICE proposes. One issue that this will enable NICE to address is the future of the Farmers Showfield site. In the current Nairn Local Development Plan it is stated that an area of the Farmers Showfield has been allocated for housing development. With the Farmers Show for 2011 once again moving out of town, might it be assumed that the Society no longer has a use for the town centre location and does this open up the prospect for development of the Showfield in the very near future? What would NICE consider to be an appropriate use, how does the site fit in with the broader planning for Nairn, and, given the revisions to local plans etc that are in the pipeline, could we please ensure that the future of the Showfield is being closely followed?

  2. The farmers may not appear to want to use the showfield any more, but certainly was the preferred venue for the stunt show and circus that came last year.

    Perhaps it could therefore be donated to the Nairn Common Good fund to be managed by local people as a site for tourism events.

  3. I agree with Brian, but can’t see the farmers donating the site, sell it yes, but not donate, even if they are a charity. Is there enough money in the common good fund to buy it?

    What will happen to the St Ninnian’s Football team, who use the field?

  4. The Showfield is one of the big green open spaces that help define Nairn and make our community the attractive place that it is. It would be a disaster if it were ever to be built on and any planning application would probably attract hundreds of objections in the manner that a previous application for Viewfield did. Brian makes a good suggestion.
    The Farming Society would obviously have to be compensated if the town were to take the field over, that is only fair, but how does one go about this in the current financial climate?

  5. An alternative to change of owner could be for a single organisation within Nairn – possibly the common good fund administrator or a Royal Burgh of Nairn community council – to lease the field and arrange tourism events throughout the year.

    Done well, it could provide profits for spending on local projects, while maintaining the green space, to the benefit of everyone involved.

    It just needs some good business management, but I’m sure there are people within Nairn’s tourism industry who could easily build a list of ideas to work through.

    Otherwise I fear without suitable arrangements, it is inevitable that eventually it would be sold for development for one reason or another.

  6. I doubt that this could be true but one or two folk in Nairn seem to think that the site doesn’t actually belong to the farmers.
    It seems unnlikely, but has anyone ever checked?

  7. I thought it didn’t belong to the Farmers as they had to pay for it’s use.
    Hence the reason the Farmers Show moved to Auldearn as they got use of a free field.
    Do St Ninian pay anything for it?

  8. In conversation with some of the older residents of Nairn, so this is hearsay:

    It seems that popular belief is that the Nairn Show Field was gifted to the people of Nairn by a Viscount (Lindsay?) who used to own the Newton Hotel.

    Some years ago the farmers tried to sell it to a Supermarket chain. The Nairn folk were up in arms about this and apparently, this is when it was found out that the farmers don’t own it.
    It seems that there is still a ‘given’ opportunity for the field to be used for housing (up to 12)

    Looking on the web, the Farmers seem to claim ownership in their documentation. Reading through their reports, it seems that the move out of town was because the town site was too small, not because of cost. There is no mention of them paying to use the field, but is mention of income from the use of the field by others.

    Does anyone out there know anything more about the so called ‘gifting’ of this site?

    If it does belong to the people of Nairn, I think the people of Nairn need to know about it so that they can have a say in how it is used and to whom any income from usage should go to.

  9. NICE can confirm that the Showfield is wholly owned by the Farming Society. They did indeed move out through lack of space.

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