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‘Appalling’ eviction for car wash stalwart in Nairn sparks call for Highland Council to think again

By Donald Wilson

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Steve Stewart at the car wash at Nairn Harbour. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Steve Stewart at the car wash at Nairn Harbour. Picture: James Mackenzie.

HIGHLAND Council have served notice on an 85-year-old Nairn businessman to quit a car wash he has run at Nairn harbour for nearly 40 years.

David Stewart has been a familiar figure at the harbour front in Nairn and was the last person to run a fish curing shed on the quayside.

In the 1980's he received a Royal Humane Society Award for rescuing a baby trapped in its wheelchair when it fell into the River Nairn at high tide.

Mr Stewart's son Steve who runs a pet crematorium on the Grigorhill Industrial Estate is looking after his father's affairs due to his failing health.

"It's absolutely appalling what the council are doing.

"My father closed the business due to COVID because he was told to.

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"Over the years he has had several approaches from other car wash operators to take over the business which is on Common Good Land.

"He rejected these overtures and continued to operate the facility until told to stop by the government.

"We have approached the council for options to operate the facility but after months of negotiations right out of the blue notice to quit was served.

"Highland Council for whatever reason are trying to force him out without any compensation for what remains a viable business.

"We accept it's now a bit of eyesore but it would not take much to get it up and running again and that was our intention."

Steve said he put forward several options to Highland Council on his father's behalf.

"We asked to be allowed to sub-let it; we could get it up and running again; or we clear the site but get compensated.

"He has been leasing the site since 1986. But the council say they cannot find a lease, which given the track record on the Nairn Common Good Fund is no surprise."

Highland Council were forced to pay over a six figure sum in compensation to a local farmer when the council wanted to develop the land then found an agricultural tenancy had been granted.

"They say there's a feasibility study being carried out on the harbour. So what's the rush? A car wash might be desirable and included in the study.

"The situation is causing terrible stress on my father who has spent his life in business in Nairn.

"As well as curing fish at the harbour he ran a fishmonger's business on the High St Brae and the Peerie shop at the harbour.

"The car wash was a bit of speculation at the time but there was a wash bay lying unused from the days of the harbour as an industrial site and fishing port.

"He never reopened after the pandemic and we accept it's now a bit of eyesore. But it would not take much to get it up and running again.

"Given the fact he has leased this site for so long my father rightly feels entitled to be compensated if he's going to be pushed off."

Mr Stewart said his father was given a previous 40-day notice to quit by August 30, 2022.

"That was withdrawn then I came up with a figure for compensation which verbally I was told was likely to be acceptable. The next thing was we got another notice to quit and that expires on December 22.

"We want answers. But the key question is what is the reason for eviction? If it remains unused why evict because they will lose money. If they have no plans for the site what's the point?"

A Highland Council spokesperson said:“The Council cannot publicly comment on individual arrangements with their tenants."

The spokesperson added a feasibility study brief will be presented to Nairnshire Area Committee to consider the future use of the former public toilet site at Harbour Street, Nairn.

"However, the brief does not cover or extend to the area of land where the jet wash facilities are located."

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