How Invicta PR failed Deveron Homes

May 13, 2009 · Filed Under Development, Nairn 

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Yesterday I felt slightly sorry for Invicta and Deveron – after all, business is business – Deveron want to build a development at Sandown that serves their business interests, and Invicta are hired to represent Deveron’s aims in this to the public.

I even felt like reaching out and providing an open letter, suggesting how Deveron could get back on track. After all, my day job is marketing and I deal with PR companies on a regular basis. And a development at Sandown remains a good idea – just not the huge scale that Deveron proposed.

And then I read the snide comments from Mark Cummings at Invicta in the Press and Journal today:

“If a modest expansion of an existing town is not acceptable to Highland Council, I don’t think other developments will be acceptable. Using the analogy of a stack of dominoes, once you push the first one over the rest will fall. What message does refusal send to developers in the corridor?”

What Mark failed to acknowledge is that other developers in the area actually objected to the proposal Invicta were trying to sell – Whiteness developers and Cawdor Estates also have major projects in the works, but also objected the scale proposed for Sandown.

This is not least because it was not a “modest expansion” being suggested for Nairn, but instead a new town in its own right with a new town centre, and aimed to increase the population of the second biggest town in the Highlands in the region of 10%-20%.

While Mark Cummings appears happy to try and spin the truth, the bottom line is that his company failed to do its job, which was to try and ensure the Deveron proposal was passed.

After all, on Invicta’s website they make the claim:

We build powerful political and public support for our clients to ensure exceptional chances of success in overcoming barriers to enterprise caused by regulatory systems as well as local and national government policy.

In other words, Invicta spent their time trying to woo councillors, and sent out leaflets to woo the general ambivalent resident population – and made little or no effort whatsoever to engage the people who might object, presuming they could steamroller over their protests.

I was able to gain an invite for one of their presentations intended to woo political and business leaders – but then was refused after I blogged that I planned to raise difficult questions.

If Invicta had put their thinking cap on, they might have realised that I run a company that has a major online publishing arm, not least in finance and property, while the core of my company does online marketing for one of the UK’s biggest and most successful high street banks, as well as other major brands. You’d think as a local business leader I’d be one of the people whom they should have been trying to impress.

Instead, as I was told I was unwelcome, and unable to raise queries directly with Deveron as part of the normal procedure, then how on earth am I going to be able to be in any position to warm to the project?

Obviously I don’t represent the interest’s of Nairn’s population, and there are organised groups that Invicta should have been especially active in working with – the community councils, Action for Planning Transparency, the Concerned Residents Association, Visit Nairn Tourist Association, Cawdor Estates, Whiteness, etc – yet because Invicta intentionally restricted their target audience, refusing to address the interests of a wide range of parties, thinking they could just talk down at the wider Nairn population, then the wonder is that their policy ever succeeds elsewhere.

Additionally, even if the plans had been approved by the Highland Council, it would then have probably escalated to national politicians because of the claim of contravening the Local Plan – the development would have been bounced back to Scottish Ministers for approval, and MP’s traditionally are far more sensitive to public objections.

Invicta have stepped into Nairn during a time of rising public concern and action, which means that if they really want public support – then they are really going to have to engage the public, and not selectively either.

In the meantime, we await the amended submission, and if Invicta are going to do their job right, they’ll make a point of taking on some of the points above and work with the people of Nairn, instead of trying to patronise us.


12 Responses to “How Invicta PR failed Deveron Homes”

  1. Iain on May 13th, 2009 10:29 am

    Well said Brian. An excellent overview. We can’t expect to preserve Nairn as it is, but at least developers now know that we will only move forward on the basis of partnership. Yesterday was a refreshing reminder of what a well-organised group of residents can achieve – and hats off to them. It was also refreshing to realise that our Councillors can be persuaded by reasoned argument. This was not a done deal as many of us feared. So let’s all be inspired to work together for the good of the town. Somerfield, Regal and bus station next! A visitor has just described Nairn as “The Brixton of the North” We need to work towards changing that perception.

  2. bill on May 13th, 2009 11:25 am

    ‘my company does online marketing for one of the UK’s biggest and most successful high street banks’

    I didn’t know there was still such a thing Brian, tell us who it is so we can move our money there :)


  3. Gurnmeister on May 13th, 2009 12:06 pm

    Spot on. Nairn is not against new development, we want to see new homes and jobs for local tradesmen building them but as Doctor Joan Noble said we don’t have to prostitute our community to do it.

    Last night there was a meeting of Nairn Suburban Community Council, Community Councillors and members of the public at that meeting were saying loud and clear that they do not want to be seen as stopping development, just development that is totally inappropriate. Developers, talk, consult and respect the community and the community will respect you!

    ‘not acceptable to Highland Council’, Mr Cummings doesn’t get it does he? The game has changed it is about what is not acceptable to the Community.

  4. Brian Turner on May 13th, 2009 12:12 pm

    I noticed the BBC report appeared much more balanced, and underlined the most important points:

    Highland councillors have unanimously rejected plans to build more than 500 new houses on the east side of Nairn.

    The proposed £100m development by Huntly-based Deveron Homes on land formerly owned by Highland Council attracted more than 200 objections.

    Nairn Suburban Community Council lodged a formal objection against the project last August.

    While not opposed to development of the area, it said the council had “missed a wonderful opportunity”.

    The community council listed several reasons for its objection, including a claim that the number of houses contravened Highland Council’s local plan.

  5. Samantha Bacon on May 13th, 2009 7:31 pm

    John Holden a Highland Councillor, succinctly summed up the problem with the proposed development at Sandown. He asked Deveron, at the hearing yesterday, if what they proposed was to build a town the size of Kingussie, population 1500, in Nairn. boom boom!!

  6. Cathy on May 15th, 2009 5:41 am

    “In Scotland, great importance has always been attached to public involvement in the planning system. We believe that it is important to ensure that every person regardless of their background can have their say in the decisions which affect them.” Scottish Government

    Why not take them at their word?

    Brian – having ploughed through a few planning applications for developments in the corridor they plan to be self sustaining mixed use “new towns in their own right”

  7. donald on May 16th, 2009 12:30 am

    Hey Brian

    you are not telling the whole truth are you?

  8. Brian Turner on May 16th, 2009 11:48 am

    Whole truth? I’m providing an opinion – this is a blog, not a philosophy class. :)

  9. Mark Cummings on April 7th, 2012 5:23 pm


    I have just got round to reading this blog. Not topmof my list i have to say. Can you illuminate me as to your expertise in the marketing and promotional sectors please as I am at a loss to find any relevant information about you and your business pedigree in the public domain. I am always happy to take on board constructive criticism however it is helpful if it comes from those with a background that would substantiate the comments made.

    Best wishes

  10. Brian Turner on April 10th, 2012 10:25 pm

    If you’re looking for constructive criticism, I can only recommend you talk to your lawyer, as you originally suggested you were going to do in this thread: Invicta PR’s Mark Cummings in sectarian abuse allegations.

    Your lawyer should have all the expertise required to explain to you the various legal responsibilities of publishers and commentors online.

    With regards to the piece above – it is entirely your right to consider or not any of these to be of use to you.

    However, your new friends around Craighouse appear to have taken a particular interest in this blog. You may therefore want to reconsider your tone in your comments.

  11. Graham Cameron on April 11th, 2012 10:53 am

    Yes, the friends around Craighouse are very interested as you would expect !

  12. Mark Cummings on April 11th, 2012 1:08 pm

    Dear Brian

    Thanks for your reply. I appreciate it. It helps me come to a more informed view on your blog.