Nairn needs development
The community council and A96 presentation meeting was very interesting and very well attended – it brought together the existing planned developments by the Highland Council and criticisms from the floor. Graisg provides excellent detailed coverage here.
The blunt perception is that many people vocally oppose development because they refuse to accept change – it’s a dynamic I’ve commented on before, a struggle of interests between those who come to Nairn to retire and die, and those who come to Nairn to start their lives with young families.
And caught in the crossfire are the people who were born in Nairn and have lived here for decades, who tend to either resist change because it is change, or else are clear that change should be conditional on the grounds that any development work within the town’s existing character, not against it.
The latter is the better argument and one I think there is broadest agreement on.
The core problem is that no matter Inverness’s city status, no matter the tourist influx to the Highlands, the Highlands of Scotland are fighting population decline – young people leaving to go down south for to fulfil education and career needs, yet the region needs to support an increasing aged population (more than 40% of the people in Nairn are aged over 60!).
None of the developments shown in the A96 masterplan are anything new – expansion of East Inverness, business park at the airport, development at Whiteness, new town at Tornagrain, expansion of Cawdor…plus Delnies, Sandown, and south Nairn developments all on the table.
And there really is nothing shocking about developing these areas – the Highlands needs more amenities to retain and expand the population – and an expanding population brings more money to the table in terms of employment, expanded economy, and extra cash for Highland Council to keep and expand those very services the older folk need to keep running.
The big question is really about the character of these developments, and ensuring that infrastructure is in place to support inevitable expansion. (The issue of Nairn’s sewer treatment – and summer overspill – is a very salient point.)
Plus, of course, we want to avoid the sort of high-density housing that leads to cramped small homes and high rise flats – the latter especially as unwelcome in a tourism area.
Sandown, for all its flaws, offered a new leisure centre and a much needed business park. It was the developer’s insistence on fighting the original residential limits imposed by Highland Council – and supported by the community – that has seen that development rightly stalled.
The fact that most people in Nairn commute to Inverness has long been flagged as a problem, and something that was raised for addressing in the original Local Plan we’re currently working from – and yet there remains very limited opportunity to expand a business in Nairn, without being forced to Inverness for commercial space.
The shocker is that despite this need, the Highland Council are already thinking that if the Coop don’t expand in Nairn, the buildings that would otherwise formed a part of this plan would be turned into flats!
Those are prime business locations, in Nairn’s Central Business District (CBD), and the more focus is given over to turning central properties into residential property is just insane!
Instead of thinking about how to preserve the High Street and business along it, I think we should actually be thinking of *expanding* the High Street, and the business opportunities around it.
After all, compare to Inverness – the retail sector there is collapsing, not least because landlords are fighting to maintain over-priced lease terms – and yet in this economic downturn, this financial crisis, there is only one shop on the High Street that remains empty – and that’s because it’s not advertised on the open market!
There is a real demand for more retail and office space in Nairn’s centre, and a whole string of derelict buildings that could easily be used for commercial purposes – increasing employment within Nairn and bringing extra strength to its economy – but so far the HC’s fawning to the Coop based on an outdated local plan is proving a complete albatross around the neck of Nairn.
It’s understandable but genuinely sad to see objections to development on the grounds that it is change – we should be more focused on embracing development under our own conditions – in other words, ensure the character and desirability of the town is expanded upon, and developer push for profit is not left unchecked.
It is said that Nairn is the second largest town in the Highlands, yet we are dependent on the largest still for much of our retail, business, employment, and leisure needs.
Nairn does not become a stronger place resisting inevitable change – that’s why we should seek to harness change for our own betterment, as a town and people, instead of letting ourselves be led by the opposing forces of fear and greed who would otherwise see the town decline.
Nairn needs development – but we can still ensure it is on our terms.