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Council officials quizzed by residents at Newton Hotel in Nairn for Inner Moray Firth local development plan review

By Donald Wilson

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Malcolm MacLeod.
Malcolm MacLeod.

SENIOR Highland Council planners and officials witnessed the frustration and anger felt by the people of Nairn that their voices are not being heard.

There was a large attendance at a meeting at the Newton Hotel to discuss a review of the Inner Moray Firth local development plan.

The planning debacle of Lochloy, the controversy of Sandown and the re-emergence of Nairn East as a potential development site for large-scale future housing figured prominently in the debate.

The council’s executive chief officer for infrastructure and environment, Malcolm MacLeod, said: “We have a proposed plan and tonight is about taking on board views which will be presented to members.”

He urged the public to continue to take the opportunity to engage in the consultation process, which ends on June 17.

Alan Calder, of the Nairn East Action Group, challenged the officials over the decision to change the area to a ‘preferred’ site for future housing and its potential impact on businesses at the Grigorhill Industrial Estate. Caroline Gordon, managing director of Tulloch Timber, said the housing would seriously impact future development plans and there had been no consultation prior to the notification by developer Springfield.

The site had previously been ruled out because of deficiencies in infrastructure, then the Nairn Area Committee in December 2021 supported a change to ‘preferred’ status after plans for large-scale housing at Nairn South were rejected by planners and development of Common Good land at Sandown hit the buffers amid strong local opposition.

Mr Calder asked what had changed which allowed Nairn East to become a preferred site after all previous reviews had ruled it out with serious concerns about lack of infrastructure and further potential flooding in the Balmakeith area by new development.

Mr MacLeod assured the meeting there had been no engagement between the council and Springfield prior to them lodging their plans for Nairn East.

“That’s their prerogative,” he said. “I can’t speak for Springfield. But I can speak for the council and we have had no engagement [with Springfield] and I want that to be clear.”

Members of the public at the meeting told officials they had little faith in the system after all the issues which continue to surface at Lochloy.

Questions were also raised about the need for a second survey regarding Sandown when an earlier survey showed overwhelming opposition to large-scale housing on the site.

One member of the public said it was ‘insulting’ to the people of Nairn and that the second survey was conducted because the council did not get the answer it wanted to in the first.

Discussing the proposed new Nairn Academy, Mr MacLeod said if there was to be any move to try and change the plans from building on the existing school site there was a real risk of losing funding.

Mark Gunn, chairman of the Academy Parent Council, said the plans of the new school would be available in June when the public would have the opportunity to fully discuss the proposals.

Concerns about proposals to build 20 houses on green space at the showfield were raised by local resident Jim Somerville.

Nairn West and Suburban Community Council chairman Alastair Noble said: “We must learn from the past and the meeting was a very positive start with wide public support and interest which showed the benefit of open meetings and honest and sensible discussion.

“This gives us an ideal opportunity with our new councillors to develop a local place plan and more importantly a prioritised and costed local delivery plan.”

READ: Highland Council officials to discuss Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan with public

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